AN: My thanks to all that reviewed so far.

All the players were assembled, with the girl held hostage, and the Dealer emerging from the darkness, soon to return with one prize of the other. The symmetry floored Beckett for a moment. It was in this dark alley that all the good she knew in life ended. And now it would take from them again. Either she would have to give up her mother a second time, or destroy the lives of the only family she had left, now that her father had shown his colors.

Martha was staggering, barely upright. Castle was keeping her balanced. Joanna Beckett was clutching the porcelain pendant in one hand, edging around with Ryan and Esposito. The two police officers were circling for an angle, ready for this to turn to open war.

But they were merely dressing on the stage, and all involved knew it. There was nothing but Kate, standing at the halfway point between her mother and Alexis, with her father holding the prisoner, and the Dark Djinn waiting to close her deal.

Jim Beckett broke the stalemate. "Take her." He told Gold. "Take her now, and don't come back."

"I like the bold gesture, Dearie." Rumpelstiltskin grinned. "But the deal wasn't with you."

"That's right." Beckett said briskly, coming forward. "The deal was with me. It's my choice."

"I know." Jim said thickly... as he drew a gun, and yanked Alexis close.

Beckett, Ryan and Esposito all moved on instinct; weapons drawn and pointed at him instantly. "Dad, put it down."

Jim shook his head. "I can't do it again, Kate. And you know that. Make the smart choice. If I go to jail for that, I don't even care. Better your mother than neither."

"Jim..." Joanna said softly, holding out a hand. "This isn't you. This isn't you."

Jim Beckett pulled Alexis to him tightly. "Katie, make the choice. Make the right choice. I'll make it easy for you! You have to choose Alexis, because she isn't going to make it either way."

Beckett still had the gun aimed, an anguished look on her face. "Dad! Please don't make me do this!"

Castle's eyes flicked to Rumpelstiltskin, who was leaning against the wall, simply observing with a bland smile on his face.

"What are you going to do, Kate? You gonna shoot me? Or you gonna save your mother's life?" Jim shouted at his daughter. "You know how my hands used to shake when I was drunk. Decide fast before my hand twitches the wrong way, or this gun is gonna go off!"

The stalemate held for two seconds...

"...take her..." Kate whispered finally.

Rumpelstiltskin cupped a hand around his ear. "What was that, Detective?"

"Take Alexis." Kate said, her voice firming.

"KATE!" Castle screeched.

Things happened quickly then.

First, Jim Beckett shoved Alexis toward Rumpelstiltskin. The Imp caught her hand in his.

Second, Kate moved. Before anyone was sure what she was doing, she had yanked the Pendant from around her mother's neck quick enough to break the chain... and thrown it to Alexis, who caught it reflexively.

And at the same moment, Castle lunged for his daughter, not seeing Kate's throw until after he lunged.

Jim saw Castle lunge and swung his gun around to aim at Castle before he could foul up the deal...


Everything. Stopped.

Castle looked down at himself quickly, as if unsure whether or not he'd been hit. Jim's hand was shaking as he looked down at the gun in his hand, apparently surprised that he'd actually pulled the trigger. Ryan and Esposito lunged, one snatching the gun out of his hand, the other giving him a swift kick that put him down on his knees. Esposito produced a pair of handcuffs and quickly did his job.

Rumpelstiltskin was still holding Alexis' hand, but he couldn't seem to keep a grip on her. He squeezed his hand around hers tight, but his fingers slid off hers instantly, unable to hold on. The Imp's head tilted as he examined Alexis carefully, as if properly seeing her for the first time. "Well now." He said, unflappable. "That's interesting."

And then he saw the Pendant in her other hand, and his golden eyes froze. "Huh. Seems I'm going to be paying for that cup for a long time." He looked back to the girl and smirked, bowing graciously. "Miss Castle." With a grand flourish, he stepped away from her, holding his hands out, as though to show they were empty.

Alexis let out a breath like she'd been holding it for a hundred years and stepped away from Rumpelstiltskin. Her father's arms were waiting, wrapping her up in a tight hug.

With Alexis apparently safe, Castle turned to Joanna, half expecting her to vanish in a puff of smoke.

She wasn't that lucky. Joanna Beckett was on the ground... with a bullet in her stomach. Kate was working feverishly, trying to slow the bleeding.

Joanna groaned miserably. "Never could hold your hands straight when you've been drinking, Jim."

Jim Beckett let out an inarticulate scream of horror at what he'd done.

"Castle, call an ambulance!" Kate yelled.

"Castle, don't you dare." Joanna ground out. She reached up a hand to cup her daughter's face. "This was always a one day deal. In fact, I'm pretty sure I made you promise."

There was a tragic beat.

"I thought I was ready for this." Beckett whispered. "I'm not." She bit her lip. "Don't leave me again?"

Joanna smiled. "I love you, Katie. I'm not going anywhere. The best parts of me are in you, and your father." She pulled her daughter in close.

Jim went a little insane, pulling against his cuffs, and the two police officers holding him back. "Let me go! Let me go to her!"

Ryan and Esposito held him fast. Castle waved them off. "Let him do it!" He said urgently. "Let him kiss her!"

They let their prisoner go, and even with his hands cuffed behind his back, he threw himself down beside his wife. "I'm sorry Jo, I'm so sorry."

She reached up slowly and cupped his face with her hands. "We were good, weren't we?"

"We were great." Jim promised, and bent low to give her a deep soulful kiss.

As their lips met, Castle's eyes were riveted, and he suddenly realized he was holding his breath, waiting for something magical to happen.

And then Joanna's hand dropped lifelessly to the ground.

Rumpelstiltskin slid over beside Castle, both of them watching the tragic scene. "You thought that would work, didn't you?"

Castle nodded without looking at him. "Hey, you were the one that gave me the book. True Love's Kiss..."

"Can break any curse. But she wasn't shot by a curse, Dearie." The Imp retorted. "What a tender world that would be, if kisses and tears could heal bullet-wounds."

Castle still hadn't taken his eyes from the tragic family parting before him. Sparing a glance to make sure Alexis still had the Pendant, and that Martha was close to her granddaughter, Castle went over to join Kate.

Martha was still seeing stars, but she had one arm around Alexis, and could see Rumpelstiltskin clearly as he sidled over to her. "This is all very dramatic, Dearie... But make no mistake. You still owe me a grandchild. Nobody breaks a deal with me." He looked to Alexis, and his gaze slid down her face to the Pendant around her neck. "Miss Castle, a pleasure to meet you." He said kindly, bowing grandly to her like a regal gentleman. "It wouldn't have been so bad; you know. I'm a monster, but I'm never uncouth."

In a sudden cloud of purple smoke, he had vanished.

A heavy sob came from the left, and Alexis looked over to see Kate sobbing on her boyfriend's shoulder.

Kneeling over the body with them, hands cuffed behind his back, Jim blinked rapidly, as though suddenly sober, realizing what he'd done for the first time. He couldn't even look Castle in the eyes. "I don't know what to say."

Castle looked at him squarely. "Neither do I."

Jim chewed his lip and looked up at Alexis and Martha. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry."

Alexis gave him nothing.

Jim looked from Alexis to Kate, who was not particularly forgiving either. "Kate..."

She held up a hand and stepped behind him, unlocking the cuffs. "Don't even talk to me." She bit out. "Go home."

Jim nodded miserably, and headed for his car.

Kate sent Ryan and Esposito a look, and without a word they followed him.

It was over.

As the bells struck Midnight in New York City, Joanna Beckett was gone. In a sudden cloud of purple smoke, so was the body.

Nobody said anything on the way back. Ryan and Esposito escorted Jim Beckett to his home. Kate had told them to check his house for more weapons or booze.

Ryan had removed every blade, every sharp edge, anything that the broken man might use on himself or others.

Esposito had stopped by a liquor store and bought Jim a refill. It was against Kate's wishes, but with the state he was in already, Esposito had mercy enough to let Jim Beckett drink himself unconscious for one night.

The two police officers never left him alone, not even while he slept.

Beckett had gone with Castle. She was expecting to be kicked out of the car at any moment, maybe even while it was moving. But Martha was still dizzy, and Rick hadn't let go of his daughter. Whatever the two of them were saying, Kate couldn't hear it from the drivers seat, though she strained her ears to hear it.

Neither Rick, nor Martha said a word to her when they arrived back at his apartment. Alexis was exhausted by the night's events, and went to bed soon after. She had paused on her way out, and given Beckett a tight hug that never seemed to end. It was the first time Alexis had done so, and Kate returned it gratefully.

Castle tucked his daughter into bed, and the two of them spoke quietly for a while, while Kate waited in the hallway.

Castle came out of his daughters room and closed it behind him quietly, leaving the two of them alone for the first time.

Kate spoke first. "I know you hate me for choosing Alexis, but-"

He put a finger over her lips. "No. I get to talk now." He said seriously. "I saw what you did with the Pendant. You did exactly what we planned to do, with the roles of Alexis and your mother reversed. This was the plan, it just happened a lot faster, and a lot more chaotically than we expected. That wasn't your fault. That was your dad's fault. And frankly... I think this is going to screw up your relationship with your dad bad enough without me piling on."

"Probably." She conceded. "I don't know what's worse. The fact that he took Alexis, the fact that he shot mom... or the fact that he was aiming for you when he did."

"I would like to see your dad roasted over a low flame for what he tried to do to Alexis... But it's not like we can ever tell anyone what happened. It changes my feelings for you not at all, and I don't get to be pissed because I got Alexis back safe... and he didn't get anything. Not even a fond memory of tonight. After what he did... I think I owe it to you, to be the one hassle-free part of this whole disaster." Rick leaned in and gave her a sweet kiss. "Thank you for trying to save my daughter tonight. And I'm very sorry we couldn't have it both ways."

"It came with a price." Beckett said thickly. "We were warned it came with a price, and my mom paid it in full, just like she promised she would."

Castle was silent a moment, and pulled the tape out of his pocket. "We still got Alexis, and we still got this."

Kate took the tape, and hugged it close to her chest. "It's crazy. I've been chasing this like the Holy Grail for so many years, and the only thing I can think is..." She looked at up Castle miserably. "I got everything I've wanted since before I ever met you, we managed to save Alexis, and the only thing it cost me was something I've had to live without for a long time. Why does it feel like such a defeat?"

Castle gave her a crooked smile. "Because sometimes you gotta be careful what you wish for."

Beckett stood close, breathing him in. "Please don't hate my father for this."

"Ditto." Rick said kindly. "And just so you know? You were right before. My family is your family."

Kate fought down the instinct to rest a hand over her stomach as she pulled him gently toward the bedroom. "You have no idea."

The next morning, Beckett returned to the precinct, and made her report to Captain Gates.

"You look like you haven't slept in a week." Gates commented.

"Just two days."

"Why did you put out an APB on your own father last night?" Gates asked.

Beckett steeled herself. "When mom was murdered, my father fell apart. He started drinking, to a dangerous degree. When I told him about the hitman I shot in this building, he went a little dark again. When I told him someone had dug up mom... I lost track of him a few hours later, and I was worried for his safety. It was... a personal use of department resources, I'll admit."

"Protecting members of the public is what the police radios are there for." Gates waved that off. "Now. What the hell was in your mom's coffin that was so damn important?"

"It wasn't in my mom's coffin." Beckett reported. "My guess is that they didn't know where else to look. Some of her effects went to me and dad, some went to friends, some went to Goodwill... The rest went into storage. I already checked, and the storage space has been ripped apart."

"By who?"

"Not certain." Beckett lied. "The surveillance footage has all been altered." By me.

"Well, whatever they were looking for, it obviously wasn't your mom." Gates said shortly. "I've just been contacted by the cemetery groundsman again. Your mother's grave has been... restored to what it was two days ago."

"Bones and all." Kate sighed.

"Do you know what they were looking for?"

Beckett placed a cassette tape on the desk without a word.

Gates looked at it hard. "Have you heard it?"

"Yes Sir. Took Castle a while to find a cassette player that still worked." Kate nodded; and placed a tape player on the desk with it. "You sure you want to hear this?"

Gates put the tape in and hit play without hesitation.

"Hello." Joanna's voice said from the player. "My name is Joanna Beckett, and it's the eighth of January, 1999. I'm a Civil Rights Attorney in Manhattan. If you're listening to this tape, it means that I am almost certainly dead. I hope this tape will never be needed, but people involved in this case tend to end up getting killed. I want to take a few moments now and explain why..."

Jim Beckett looked around at the people seated around him, and then back at the door, where his two police escorts were waiting.

Jim rose to his feet when his turn came. "Hi. I'm Jim, and I'm an alcoholic."

"Hi, Jim." The room chorused.

Jim rubbed his face hard. "Yesterday morning, I had been sober for seven years, two months and nine days. As of this morning, I've been sober for six hours."

Gates had listened to the tape twice, and then demanded answers. Kate laid out all the information they had, including the things they couldn't tell. She kept Roy Montgomery out of it, but she presented the paper trail, the money...

Gates had asked questions, and received as many answers as Kate was willing to give. Gates had wanted to speak with the Department's Legal Team, and called a few of her old friends in Internal Affairs, promptly dismissing Beckett. Kate had taken the tape with her, unwilling to let it out of her hands.

Kate was nervous. She still had to confess her pregnancy to Castle, she had to face her father, and she was on the verge of ending her fifteen year crusade. It all added up, and Kate was nearly ready to pass out.

As she always did when she couldn't get a handle on her life, she went to her mom's grave.

The grave had been restored, as though nothing had happened. Kate stood before the headstone, head bowed. Every time she had weakened in her quest for justice, any time she had been offered an opportunity that would take her away from her job, any time she felt her absolute resolve weakening, she would come to this place. It was before her mother that she had decided she couldn't stay with a boyfriend when it started getting serious and taking up her time, couldn't take a different job, couldn't go on sabbatical. It was all for the mission. All for her quest.

"I can't tell him." Kate said quietly. "And I don't have to. I took the Pendant off you, but it was a spur of the moment thing. It wasn't a plan. Castle thought I intended to play it that way all along, but I didn't. When I told Gold to take Alexis instead of you... I meant it. I hate myself for it, but for those few seconds, I chose you over her. And then I saw the Pendant around your neck and I took a chance without stopping to think about it." She rubbed her face hard. "Castle thinks it was my plan all along. Even after everything, he had faith in me."

Castle was not the first man to be cast aside for the sake of her Crusade. He had held on this long by becoming an indispensable part of her Mission. It was all for the Mission. All for her Quest.

And if Iron Gates was willing, the Quest would be over.

"Now I know how Roy felt." Kate whispered. "When he realized he was in too deep? He broke free and he atoned. He put it all into the job. He was the best there ever was. And who cares if guilt drove him to be the best cop, most honest cop anyone had ever known?" Kate rested a hand over her stomach. "I'm going to make it right, Mom. You wanted me to. I can't ever tell Rick that I didn't plan what I did... But I'm going to be the best mother ever. I owe that to Alexis' baby brother or sister... and to her father."

Taking on a high profile figure, and charging him with masterminding an elaborate conspiracy was not something to be taken lightly. The entire case hinged on a recorded testimonial from a victim, and a photocopy of a taped together bank statement from over a decade before.

It was an abysmal long shot, to be taken against a Presidential Candidate. Gates had been a member of Internal Affairs for much of her career. She'd never told anyone, but part of her suspected she'd been sent to the 12th to make sure the place was clean. Roy Montgomery's murder had plenty of question marks, and his A-Team of Beckett, Ryan and Esposito had been remarkably silent on the issue of their fallen Captain. Even Castle, a professional storyteller, wasn't saying a word.

Beckett hadn't come out and said that Bracken was behind Montgomery's murder, but several of the facts were lining up that way.

Gates had dismissed Beckett, and called an old friend from IA, who specialized in difficult legal battles. She had shared none of the details, but given him enough to get a sense of the situation. He had swiftly given her his professional, expert opinion.

"You don't have a chance."

Gates gripped the phone tightly. "I've got a money trail, and a recorded testimony from the victim."

"Bracken has the support of half the government. I mean that literally. He's the Candidate."

"He's a candidate." Gates corrected. "He hasn't been nominated yet."

"That's the official story. Unofficially, the decision's been made. Read the papers: He's almost certainly going to be our next President. He'll have an army of lawyers, and he will own the NYPD before he's done. You can't run with this."

Gates rubbed her eyes. "I have enough facts to make a case. More than that..."

"You try to push this, and they will not only play dirty, they will punish you for playing at all. They will take apart your entire department with a fine tooth comb, and they will twist your every word into a damning condemnation. You try to push this and lose, it will be the first line of your obituary. For the rest of your career, which will be about three seconds, your name will be always mean 'the one who was wrong about President Bracken'."

"I knew that before I called you. The thing is... I'm absolutely positive he's guilty."

"You're former IA, I'm legal." The answer came. "You live in a world where the Guilty get punished, and I work in a business where they get away with it. There's no DA in the world that would place that call to the Feds, and..."

"I don't need to make this a Federal Case." Gates countered. "The majority of the murders took place in my jurisdiction... and Bracken is here. He's rolling out his campaign right here. I can do this in less than a day."

"If you can find a judge willing to sign a warrant."

"I can do that." Gates waved it off. "I was IA for enough years to know where to find leverage."

"You do this and lose... you'll never work again. Anywhere." Her old friend softened. "I know I'm being mean, but I'm trying to protect you."

"I know." Gates sighed. "I have to think about this for a while."

"Let me know what you decide."

"If I decide to do it, you won't need me to tell you." Gates commented, and hung up, leaning back in her chair.


"Ahh, heavy is the head that bears the crown."

Gates sat upright swiftly, startled. "You!"

"Why does everybody keep opening with that?" Gold sighed, feet up on her desk. "It's almost as though nobody remembers my name."

Gates shivered, glancing back at the door. "How did you get in here without my seeing it?"

"I get that question a lot too." Gold mused. "I've come to collect."

Gates blinked. "Now?"

Gold smirked like a shark. "This is a surprise? You've had everything you asked for, and you've had it for years."

Gates set her jaw. "What do you want?"

"Do your job." Gold said simply. "Pick up the phone and get your warrant. Let Beckett make the arrest."

Gates raised an eyebrow. "That's all?"

"You wanted to Captain your very own Precinct and you got one. You wanted to banish your crippling fear and be strong, and now you're the Terror of the Twelfth. You wanted the very best cops in the city working for you and hunting down bad guys, and your top team just landed you a whale."

Gates squared her jaw. "Ten years with IA, you'd think I would have known better than to trade favors."

Gold gave a single nod. "We had an agreement, as I recall, that I would never ask you for anything that would cause innocents to come to harm. And you said yourself, the man is guilty. Do your job, police."

Gates looked at him carefully. "I did want this job. I asked because... well, I never thought for a second that wishes could come true." She admitted. "But you never mentioned Roy Montgomery getting killed."

Gold rolled his eyes. "Every time something bad happens, someone tries to blame me. It bothers me a bit. Even when I am to blame, to just have people assume..." He shook it off. "All deals are confidential. This one is simple. You want Bracken? Go get him. I just made it easy for you."

"Then why?" Gates challenged. "As you say, it's my job. If you can ask me for anything, why waste it on something that I had already planned to do?"

"Because you were hedging." Gold grinned. "I can recognize a desperate soul, Dearie. You weren't sure you'd win, and despite appearances; these people mean the world to you. You knew that if you lost, the entire Precinct would be shut down for good."

"Yes it would." Gates nodded. "So which direction are you taking this? The end of the 12th... or the arrest of Bracken?"

Gold smiled innocently and held up a hand as though swearing an oath. "We had a deal. Nothing I asked of you would harm the innocent. This qualifies."

Gates' eyes flicked to the phone, unsure. "If you're in favor of it, I'm sure it will end in some kind of disaster."

Rumpelstiltskin shrugged. "You were the one that wanted to make a proverbial Deal With The Devil. And by 'Devil' of course, I mean me. And by 'Proverbial', I mean 'pay up now'."

Gates shivered and picked up the phone. "I'll do it. Not because you told me to, but because it's the right thing to do. You and me? As of now, our dealings are-" She looked up from the phone. Gold had vanished. "-done."

On the Front Steps of City Hall, William Bracken stood behind a podium, surrounded by flags, as a crowd stood before him. He had a broad smile on his face, as everyone cheered and applauded.

Bracken was finishing his speech when he saw her. He didn't react, still speaking. "...In years to come, you can tell your families that it started right here. This was the moment when history began!"

The crowd cheered. He looked again, and saw her. She was wearing a long red scarf, making her stand out.

He kept speaking. "Ever since I served as a humble District Attorney in this, the greatest city on earth, I have always sought to serve. And this city saw fit to thank me. And so it is with great humility, that I announce my intentions to run for President, of these United States!"

She was at the stage. She had closed in like a shark. His security was on her instantly, but she had half a dozen police with her, and they took position at all sides of the stage.

Beckett showed his security a piece of paper, and was let through. Bracken felt his heart stop, even as the crowd continued their wild applause.

Beckett hoisted herself up on stage eagerly, and the crowd fell silent at the unexpected arrival.

Once she was on stage, Beckett looked over her shoulder. Castle was standing in the crowd. She gave him a look. You coming?

Castle shook his head. It's your moment. Enjoy it.

The exchange took only a moment, and Beckett marched up to her target. She raised her badge, and her voice, loud enough to be picked up by the cameras, and the microphones. "Congressman William Bracken." She spoke with a voice of absolute doom. "You are under arrest for murder; conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, bribing city officials, accepting bribes, blackmail and extortion."

The crowd went nuts, but the reporters lapped it up. Bracken still hadn't moved from his place at the podium, his brain unable to process what his eyes were screaming at him.

Beckett produced her handcuffs with restrained glee. "You have the right to remain silent." She lead him toward the stage steps. "If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney..."

She read him his rights in full, cuffed him gently, doing it all exactly by the book, not giving him anything he could use to fight back with in court.

But as they went down the stairs, and her official work was finished, Kate took the opportunity to lean a little closer. "My mom said to give you a message." She hissed in his ear. "'Payback's a bitch, ain't it?'"

Neal Cassidy sat down at his kitchen table with his scrapbook on his right, and the morning paper on his left.

The Last Word! The headline read. New York Congressman arrested for murder, while announcing candidacy!

Below the headline was a photograph of William Bracken being led to a police car by Detective Beckett, with Richard Castle close on her heels. Neal calmly cut out the article, and pasted it into his scrapbook, next to a picture of Kate Beckett.

Once the press had discovered that Kate Beckett had made the arrest, more than a few of them had recognized her name. The movie-famous Nikki Heat inspiration had already been interviewed and photographed... And now she was getting requests from everyone from the 6 o'clock news to CNN to David Letterman.

She ignored most of it, because the more scrutiny she got, the more her father got, and she didn't need that right now. There had been a party for her at the Precinct, and a few clever detectives put together her mom's case with William Bracken.

After more than ten years, she had done it. She had finally found justice for her mother.

Gates was tired of the media circus too, and sent her home for a few days. Kate was grateful for it. For the first time, the overwhelming need to work was silent, and she could be at peace.

At peace, and in love.

She was watching the news coverage at Castle's place, curled up comfortably with him. Alexis was with her grandmother. Both of them had stayed close for a few days, just in case, but there had been no hint of black magic since the Alley, so they were off at a spa, being pampered.

"So, here's my thing." Castle said finally.

She gave him an affectionate smile. He was in 'Wild Speculation' mode again.

"Why did Gold come to me?" He asked her. "Because based on what we've seen, he could have just... Ended the Derrick Storm series on his own. He could have stopped my agent making the sale, could have stopped the publishers, could have given me permanent writer's block. Instead, he asked me to stop of my own free will. Why would he do it that way?"

Beckett paused, turning it over in her mind. "He... wanted you to owe him a favor."

"Killing off Derick storm was the favor." Castle shook his head. "He wanted..." He looked up in shock. "He wanted us to meet. That was the deal. I got a happy ending with you, and mother learns her lesson. He made two deals where he only needed one."

"Maybe he's a closet romantic." Beckett quipped, but it was clear her heart wasn't in it.

"No..." Castle shook his head. "No, he wanted... He wanted to get us together... and then he approached you with an offer."

"That's the part that doesn't make sense to me." Beckett pointed. "If he could read us all that easy, he had to know I wouldn't go for it. Not even for my mom."

"But he had to know that you'd be obsessed enough to think about it." Castle countered. "But... if he wanted to gain a favor from you, he could have just come to you without any of us being involved..."

"Bracken." Beckett said with certainty. "The only part of this whole story that is a direct result of our partnership. If we hadn't met and become partners, I never would have tracked mom's murder back to Bracken. His offer to me involved Bracken directly, and whether I took the deal or not, I was able to put him away."

Castle blinked in disbelief. "Rumpelstiltskin set us up to fall in love and put Bracken in jail? Why? What does having Bracken in jail give him? What does us being together give him?"

Beckett shivered. "I don't know. True Love and Justice for all doesn't really seem like the sort of thing he'd want. Why would he care?" She was resting one hand over her stomach.

Castle noticed the gesture. And his eyes widened.

Kate noticed his scrutiny and quickly dropped her hands to her sides. Too late.

"Why didn't you tell me?!" Castle hissed.

Kate chewed her lip. "Martha told me... Gold's price for her deal was her grandchild. Gold reminded her that there was... there was more than one way to get a grandchild out of your mother... and then he rooked us into meeting each other soon after." She looked down. "At first I thought that me getting pregnant was his plan. Martha's grandchild."

Castle's jaw dropped as all the pieces fell into place. "So when you saw me keeping Alexis away from you..."

"I asked if you'd be willing to let me into your family, because..." She laid a hand over her stomach. "Because both of our families are going to get bigger, and if you don't trust me with your first child, then you'll never trust me with the second."

Castle was floored, stunned into silence.

"But now Bracken's in jail, and I don't know what to think." Kate went on. "Gold strikes me as the type to get two birds with one stone. He collects a grandchild from Martha, and he puts Bracken away, and all of it because he put the two of us together."

Castle's eyes went cold and deadly. "Listen to me Katherine Beckett." He said tightly. "We dodged a Dragon this week. There hasn't been a story told, true or fiction, that could create an enemy so great he didn't have a weakness. We kept him away from Alexis. When the time is right... We'll slay as many Dragons as we have to."

Kate rested her hand over her stomach. "Damn straight we will."

"And when our baby is born." Castle reached into his pocket and drew out the pendant. "We'll be ready."

William Bracken was in solitary confinement. He'd been trying to get his lawyers, his friends, his staff; anyone to answer him.

But there had been no answer. More than a few inmates knew who he was, and the prospect of killing a Congressman had proved tempting. So he sat alone, in a bare cell too small to pace in, wondering where it had all gone wrong.

"Fickle is the friendship of the world." A spine-chilling voice giggled from the other end of the room.

Bracken looked up sharply. "Who's there?"

A figure slid out of the shadows with a cold grin. "You had it all, didn't you? Money you didn't have to work for. You had hands clean of the blood you spilled. You had all the power brokers of the city pushing you higher, hoping for you to succeed."

Bracken didn't answer.

"What if I told you... that I could give it all back?"

Bracken snorted. "They had a pretty good case if they arrested a Presidential Candidate. It won't be easy to beat."

"I'm not talking about beating it. I'm talking about making the whole thing go away. What if I could make the charges themselves vanish, along with the evidence, along with the bad press? What if I could give it all to you? Not just the nomination, but the victory? What would you give, to have the election sewn up completely? A landslide election win, and you'd be in the Oval Office without question. All those people dodging your calls and pretending they don't know you would be kissing your feet..."

Bracken snorted. "Why not wish for a fountain of youth and a winged horse while you're at it?"

"But if I could make it happen?" Gold pressed, with a cold smile on his face. "Would that be worth something to you... Mister President?"


AN: And thus concludes Devil's Due. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll review. (Preferably, in that order.)