I started this before I wrote the last chapter and had decided not to finish it but the story started eating at me earlier today and I had to get it out. This is a stand alone exploration of how Kate might handle the same situation and is completely unrelated to Castle's.

It doesn't hurt as much now.

Walking into the precinct without him. Without his coffee in her hand and the taste of his kiss on her lips. She can ride in the elevator and not wish he was there with her, the back of his hand brushing along her thigh and a smile dancing in his eyes. The empty spot next to her old desk where his chair used to sit doesn't make her stomach ache anymore, doesn't make her lungs deflate or her heart seize. She can listen to the boys talk about him and not want to turn away, pretend she never heard his name.

Girls' nights with Lanie don't devolve into conversations about him, a tight knot in her chest as she tries to makes sense of it all. She no longer drinks too much wine and stares at her phone, fingers itching to pick it up and scroll through her contacts until she finds his name, fantasies of a torrid reunion playing across her mind. She doesn't wake up crying anymore, the echo of his hands skimming over her body, making her shiver.

Missing him has become second nature, something she can push away and ignore. A dull ache somewhere in the bottom of her chest that she can numb with too much work and not enough sleep. Her thoughts are no longer consumed by him.

She wishes the same was true for her heart.

His words still echo in her ears all these years later. It wasn't enough. The physical distance had been erased by his move to DC but the emotional chasm only continued to grow. He couldn't continue to put himself through it, couldn't just be the warm body in her bed when she dragged herself home after three weeks on a case. Couldn't be an afterthought. He had to go. Had to allow himself the opportunity to be happy again and he couldn't do that with her. Not anymore.

He refused to take the ring back.

She remembers that last time he said he loved her. Remembers the tears in his eyes and the quiver in his voice. He held her while she cried, his lips pressed to her temple as he rocked her back and forth on the bed that was no longer theirs. She kissed him, tried to show him with her body how she felt, how she wanted and needed him. Gently, so very gently, he pried her away and stood, pain that she wishes she could forget written into the lines of his face. She didn't hear the click of the front door over the sound of her heart breaking.

Four days later, she'd come home and found it all gone. His books and his clothes, his computer and his toys. He took the photos of his family from his office, left the one of them. It was her favorite, a candid shot taken by Ryan late one night at the Haunt. They weren't even together yet but it was all there, written on both of their faces as he smiled at her around the top of his tumbler. The desire, the joy, the love. She sat on the couch for an hour, tracing her fingers along the glossy image of his smile, trying to remember the last time she saw it. The last time he looked at her like she was everything he'd ever wanted. The last time he'd been happy. The tears came when she realized that she couldn't.

She moved back to New York a year later. The federal job had been an amazing experience, something she would always be proud of, but it wasn't for her. It wasn't her passion, it wasn't where she was supposed to be. In her heart, she always knew; she's a cop, not a special agent. She needed to come home, even if home wasn't with him anymore.

They don't speak. She hasn't heard his voice in almost two years. Not since the night she showed up on his doorstep, alcohol on her breath and his book in her hands. Wordlessly, she'd handed him her copy and walked away. His quiet apology was almost lost to the chime of the elevator.

He gave Nikki and Rook everything they'd never have; a partnership, a marriage, a future. She wishes she could hate him for it. Wishes she could have clung to the anger she'd felt when she'd finished the last chapter of their story. But she doesn't hate him. She can't. Not for this. He let it go, let them go, the only way he knew how. And she'll never admit it but there's a part of her that is grateful to him for it.

Grateful that she can close her eyes and pretend it's them.

She sent a note when his first James Bond novel was published.

He sent flowers when she made lieutenant

She took vacation the week he got married. Spent eight days at the cabin, walking through the woods, trying to find her peace. Trying not to think. Not to think about how it should have been her, how she should be the one walking down an aisle toward him. Trying not to imagine how he would have looked at her, his eyes bright and misty as he took her hand from her father's and promised her forever.

She finally let herself cry on the last night, her body curled into a tight ball on the bare mattress as she sobbed. For her. For them. For everything she wanted but would never have.

It doesn't hurt as much now.

She wishes it didn't hurt at all.

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.