When Raglan called and asked her to meet him to talk about her mother's murder, he told her to come alone. "No cops," he said. This was not the first time Ragland had called her to talk to her about her mother's case but it was the first time in the past five years. And he sounded different. He sounded like a man wishing to unload his burdens. Her hand shook as she hung up the phone. She couldn't face this alone. Castle, she thought to herself. She needed Castle. He would hold her hand. He would give her strength.

He said yes. The minute she asked him, he said yes. He didn't think, just jumped in. "Let me get my coat," he said and followed her out the door.

He had thought she had been shot but it was Raglan's blood on her shirt. She could see it in his eyes. She knew he cared about her but she had been burned before by this man. Nine months earlier, she had considered taking him up on his offer to accompany him to the Hamptons over the weekend. She had even broken up a promising relationship with Demming to be with Castle. But before she could say yes, he had made other plans. As she stood ready to pour her heart out to him, he strode off with Gina on his arm. She should have known better. In the short period she had known him, he had told her of his escapades with his decorator, ex-wives, models, mom's at the park, and he had slept with his ex-wife and an actress who wanted the part of Nikki Heat in the upcoming movie based on his book Heat Wave. Sure he made passes at her, but he was a playboy used to getting anything woman he wanted. But she didn't want to be just another conquest. She liked him, a lot. He was a loyal and generous friend, a good son and a great father. He had a heart of gold which he hid with his rapier wit and undeniable charm.

Kate knew she was beautiful. She had been told she was since she was a child. As a young woman, many boys had shown interest in her. She had dated musicians, athletes, and royalty but they had all been interested in her beauty. They saw her as a trophy. Castle made no mystery that he appreciated her beauty but he also saw thorough her outer shell. Within hours of knowing her he had guessed that she had lost someone close to her and had become a cop because of the loss she had suffered. He knew that the loss had not resulted in closure for her. This scared her. How could he know her so well without getting to know her first?

He stayed away so long last summer, her heart broke. Fall came and he had not come back to the precinct. Every time the phone rang she hoped to hear his voice on the other end. She was almost desperate. When he did return, he was still with Gina, and that hurt. But at least he was back in her life and she would take what she could get.

Josh was gorgeous and smart and kind. Somehow despite the fact that she felt he was also out of her league, she wasn't as afraid of being with him. He was always busy which suited her. He filled the emptiness that Castle had left in her heart when he went off to the Hamptons with Gina. But it wasn't enough. Even Natalie Rhodes had seen through their charade.

Kate couldn't help but feel elated when she heard him break up with Gina over the phone two weeks earlier. She took him out for macaroni and cheese, warm biscuits and hot chocolate. He had thanked her for not asking about the article and she pulled out a bouquet of silk flowers from her sleeve in an attempt to cheer him up. They didn't talk about their relationships. They simply spent the evening enjoying each other's company.

She hadn't thought about Josh when Raglan called. He wouldn't understand. She knew he cared but he just felt sorry for her. Castle understood. He knew without even saying a word how much her mother's murder affected her. She was glad Josh was in Africa. She could dive into her mother's with Castle and he would save her if she got into deep.

It wasn't until after Vulcan Simmons had pointed out to her that Castle was 'sweet on her' and the fact that Castle had stepped up to Simmons after she threatened him that she allowed herself to think of them as a couple, again. In that moment, she knew her relationship with Josh was over but before she was willing to take that emotional step, she knew she needed to feel that Castle would be as committed as she would be if they started a relationship.

Castle talked a lot but he did not wear his emotion on his sleeves. She knew she would have to push him to tell her is true feelings before she could risk her heart again. That moment came when she showed up hat her apartment the next day. They spend that morning going over her mother's case. Despite the fact that they were reliving one of the most painful moments in her life, she had been happy to share her obsession with him. She knew he desperately wanted to solve the case not only for her benefit but because he had a need to solve murders. She had yet to discover where this need originated. He avoided answering the question whenever she raised it. And here they were again.

"I don't hang around you just to annoy you. I don't ride out in the middle of the night just to satisfy some morbid curiosity. If that was all this was I would have quit a long time ago.

"So, why do you keep coming back, Rick?" she asked. She knew she had crossed the line. It was up to him now. He called it a game. God, this man was infuriating. "You should go Castle," she did not have the strength for this.

"Look at me, Kate," he said. She knew he would want her to spill her guts before he would put himself out there but she couldn't. Couldn't he see she needed him to step up and take the leap?

When he asked her what she saw when she looked at him, she blurted out her true feelings in that moment. "I see an arrogant, spoiled, man child," she said defiantly and rolled her eyes at him.

His eyes lost their shine and she could see that she had hurt him. Why couldn't he just make it easy and tell her how he felt? Had she pushed him too far? No. She refused to do all the heavy lifting. He would have to put himself out there for once. But then he gave up. Just like that, he had given up. "I'll call you when Montgomery lets me back into the precinct." But he said no and walked out.

She ran to him and stopped him on the street before he could run away. "Are you breaking up with me, Castle?" she asked not knowing what else to say.

He deflected again.

She wanted to light a fire within him, so she said, "I'm with Josh. I care about him." But deep inside she wanted to scream, "Fight for me, damn it." And for a moment, she thought he might tell her what she needed to hear. "I want you to answer my question honestly." He deflected again. He threw the ball in her court. If she answered that she was ready to hear what he had to say, he would have the answer he was seeking but she would not get her answer without exposing herself again.

And then he pulled out his last defense, and said, "Go home, Beckett. I've got to get back to my family and my writing. No hard feelings, but there's nothing for me here." Then, he was gone.

His words hurt.

After shedding her tears in the shower, she called Lanie and asked her to come by for a glass a wine. Her friend arrived a few hours after dinner and Kate gave her a bear hug at the door.

"That bad," Lanie said.

Kate shrugged and then nodded her head. "I think I just screwed things up with Castle."

"Castle, ugh. Not Josh?" Lanie asked. The women moved to the kitchen bar stools, and Kate poured them each a glass of Pinot Noir.

"It's over between Josh and I. He's calling me after he finishes his rounds at the clinic in Brazzaville," she said. "I pushed Castle to tell me how he feels about me," Kate told her friend.

"You do realize that you're the one with the boyfriend and he's the single one, right?" Lane said.

"I know but after last summer…" Kate knew she didn't need to say anything else. Her friend understood.

"You need to hear it from him," Lanie said. Lanie had been the only person she had turned to after Castle left for the Hamptons with Gina. "And he won't say it because he is too much of a gentleman."

"Yeah," Kate said. "I'm crazy about him Lanie but the thought of being a rebound or worst, a notch on his belt scares me," she confessed. "He's dated countless women and been divorced twice. The minute I turned my back last spring he hooked up with Gina."

"You know that was a rebound from you. I told you then to call him before things went too far with his ex-wife." Kate looked at her friend and cocked her head to one side. "I know, I know. That wouldn't have been very nice, but I promise you he would have dropped her the minute you told him how you felt," Lanie said.

"Seriously, Lanie. That would have been evil."

"Well, all is fair in love and war, girl. You don't think what you are doing to him now is evil?" Lanie asked.

"I know the timing is all wrong but it always is. I need him to step up, Lanie. He's got to hear himself say it or it won't work."

Lanie could see the desperation in Kate's eyes. "I hear you. Are you sure this is the best way to do this, Kate? Maybe you should give a little, too."

Both women turned when they heard the knock at the door. Kate took her service revolver and moved to the door. She looked through the peephole and sighed. Instinctively, Lanie took the glasses of wine and hid in Kate's bedroom. Then, Kate opened the door.

He asked if he could come in and she motioned him in. Her heart pounded in her ears. "What is it, Castle? Why are you here?" She knew Lanie was listening and she wanted nothing more than to push her out the door before they had this conversation, even if she intended to relay all the details to her later. Castle would not be happy knowing her friend was listening in on their intimate conversation. Kate looked over to the bedroom and then turned to Castle who had been trying to get her attention.

"Fine," he started. "I stick around because I think you're remarkable. You are usually kind," he paused for effect. "Compassionate, brave and fiercely intelligent. I get a rush I have never experienced before when we solve cases. I can't bare the thought of you doing this job without me because you can be so serious, too serious. You said you liked having me around and it made your job more fun. I feel the same way. You make my writing more fun. I may be a child but I care deeply about you and want to be with you, always."

At last, thought Kate.

"I know you are in a relationship and respect your choice. Just know that I am here for you no matter what..." Her heart melted but she was acutely aware that her friend was in her bedroom listening in and her boyfriend would be calling any minute. So, she let him walk out the door. Lanie ran in from the bedroom and the two women hugged.

"Girl, if you don't go after him, I will never speak to you again." Lanie and Kate ran to the door and peeked out to make sure Castle would not catch them. They ran down the steps behind him. He stood in front of the apartment a few minutes before he walked off. They waited until he was far enough away for Lanie to run out and hail a cab. But just as he reached the corner, Kate's phone rang.

"It's Josh."

"Go back upstairs and break up with the man," said Lanie. The women embraced and Kate answered the phone on her way back up to her apartment.

"Josh, Hi," she answered.

"Hi, Kate. What's going on? What was so important it couldn't wait til morning?" Josh asked.

"Josh, are you somewhere private?" Kate asked.

"Yeah, I'm in my quarters."

"You told me before you left that I needed to choose between you and Castle." She could hear him take a breath on the other end.

"I know what you're going to say, Kate. I'm not happy, but I've known since I met him. Good bye, Kate," and with that he hung up. As she expected, he hadn't put up a fight.

Kate raced back down the stairs and hailed a cab.

She arrived at Castle's minutes later and was surprised to find that he was not home.

"Detective Beckett, please come in," Alexis said. "I just got a text from my Dad. He should be home soon." The red head showed her into the loft and politely asked, "Can I get you something to drink or eat?"

Eying the coffee pot, Kate said, "I'll have a cup of that coffee if that's okay?"

Alexis smiled back and turned to pour her a cup. Kate took the cup and thanked her.

"Is everything okay, Detective Beckett?"

"Alexis, please call me Kate," she said. "Everything is fine, Alexis. I love your father."

"I know," said Alexis. "He loves you too. I thought he had gone over to your apartment to tell you."

"He sort of did," Kate explained.

"Oh, no. Did he mess up again?" asked Alexis.

Kate chuckled, "No. I did. Promise me you will not tell him this but while we were talking Doctor Parish was hiding in my bedroom. She had come over right before your father arrived. I had hoped he would come back here and I could catch him before he left my sorry self and ran off with another woman."

"What about your boyfriend?" Alexis asked.

"He had given me an ultimatum to choose between him and your father before he left for Africa. I chose your father."

"I'm glad, Kate," Alexis said. "He's a little rough around the edges but my Dad is a great guy."

"I know," Kate said. "I've known since Spring but we haven't had the greatest timing."

"You mean Gina?" Alexis asked. Kate nodded. "Grams said you were a fool not to snatch him up before she got her talons in him."

"Well, Martha was right." Then, Kate asked, "Are you okay with me and your father?"

"Of course," Alexis answered warmly.

The two women spent the next half hour talking about Castle as they waited for his return home.

"Listen, Kate. I know you and Dad probably have tons to talk about. I would stay up waiting with you but I need to get some sleep before my Lit test tomorrow. You can wait for him in the study if you like," Alexis said.

"Thanks, Alexis," Kate said. Alexis showed Kate into the study and gave her a hug before she bounded back up to her room.

Kate walked around his office and took the time to look through his books and belongings. She sat in his desk chair and stretched her legs out. Then, she moved to the far corner of the office to look out his window and wait for him.

xxxxxxxxx

She heard him walk into the loft and hung his coat in the closet. Through the breaks in the bookcase she watched him poured himself a glass of Scotch. As he entered the office, he jumped and let out a gasp.

"Sorry Castle. It's just me," she laughed. She tried to keep a straight face but it was just too funny.

He couldn't help but laugh with her. "How did you get in?"

"Alexis," she said. "She told me to wait for you in here. She stayed with me for the first half hour before she went up to bed. What took you so long?" She said a little impatiently.

"Oh. I don't know. I guess I just needed to think. I've had a rough day. How about you?"

"The roughest." She walked slowly towards him. This was it. This would be her last ever first kiss with Castle, and she wanted it to be memorable. "I got kicked off a very important case. Challenged my partner to open up to me. Broke up with my boyfriend, over the phone no less. And watched the man I love spill his guts out." She put her arms around his neck and gave him a long, passionate kiss.

When they pulled apart, she rested her forehead on his. Castle said, "Well, then, let's go to bed."

"Let's." And with that she pulled him toward his bedroom.