Disclaimer: All Castle characters are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC.

"What do you mean my stories brought her back to life?" the writer asked, regaining his composure.

Jim sighed, and plopped back into his chair at Kate's side, lifting her hand and ensconcing it in his own.

"She'd probably be mortified if she knew I was telling you this, but maybe it's time you knew."

"Knew what?"

"After my Johanna was murdered, Katie and I were both in a very bad place," he began. "She took a semester off from school. I took a year off from life."

Castle took in the man's shadowed face, the shame he clearly still felt at emotionally abandoning his little girl during the darkest period of her life.

"I started drinking heavily, and Katie had to drag me out of a bar and drape me over the toilet more than once. Not to mention all the times she came home and found me sprawled on the couch with an empty fifth on the floor next to me."

He shook his head, a far-off look in his eyes.

"I still haven't forgiven myself for doing that to her. She'd just lost her mother. She didn't need to lose me too."

Castle watched the man grimace in remembered pain before seeming to push it back.

"Anyway," Jim continued. "In some of my rare sober moments, I noticed that she always seemed to have a book with her. Katie had always been a reader, but what caught my attention was that they were all by the same author: you."

The writer was taken aback. He had known Kate was a fan and that she'd read some of his lesser-known works. But she had never told him this much.

"Katie was always one for the classics. She didn't read much that was very modern, and she'd never really been into murder mysteries. So I'd never heard of you, no offense."

"None taken," Castle said quietly.

"One day when she was back at school, I picked up one of your books from where she'd left it on the coffee table. I think it was 'Gathering Storm.' I was surprised to see what kind of book it was. I couldn't fathom how she could voluntarily read about murder after what had happened."

"I can see how you would wonder," Castle nodded.

"But I asked her about the books one day. Do you know what she told me?"

"What?" the author asked.

"She said that even though the stories were tragic, they were also beautiful."

Castle lifted his eyebrows.


"Beautiful," Jim affirmed. "Because your victims were treated with respect and honor. Because your investigators were sincere and driven. Because they always found justice for the dead."

The blue-eyed man felt goosebumps erupt on his arms. He thought his writing had never been paid a higher compliment.

"She said that?" he asked.

"She did. And as the months passed, I watched as her desperation was replaced by hope and the fear in her eyes gave way to a kind of passion I'd never seen in her. Your books did that, Rick."

Castle leaned back in his chair but didn't let go of her hand. Jim Beckett turned his eyes away from the other man and toward his daughter once more, reaching up to straighten the blankets across her torso.

Silence reigned after that for a long while. An hour passed, and then two, each man absorbed in his own thoughts. Finally, Castle spoke.

"I'm surprised no one's come in to try to kick us out yet."

"They won't," Jim answered. "I stopped by the nurse's station on my way back from the restroom earlier. They said Dr. Davidson—that's Josh, right?—had asked them to let one or both of us stay as long as we liked."

"Ahh, that explains it then," Castle said.

"He seems to be a good man," her father observed, glancing at Castle who was staring at his partner's too white hand, tucked neatly into his own.

"He really is," Castle confirmed. "He cares about her."

"But she doesn't love him."

Castle looked up slowly, meeting the older man's eyes with a carefully neutral expression.

"What makes you say that?" he questioned.

Jim waved his free hand dismissively.

"This and that," he said. "Mostly that I'd never met him before today and only heard his name once or twice last summer."

"Well, like I said, he travels a lot."

"Maybe so, but if she was that serious about him, I'd have met him."

He paused and looked at his daughter, perhaps to make certain that she hadn't woken up in the midst of their discussion of her love life.

"I met all of her boyfriends in high school. She lived at home, so it was unavoidable. When she went to college, I met one or two, the ones she really liked. But after that, once she got through the academy and started her career, she only introduced me to one."

"Who?" Castle asked.

"That FBI agent, Will or something."

"Will Sorenson," the writer supplied.

"That's the one. They were serious. She told me once that she could see herself marrying him."

"Oh," Castle said. "I didn't know that."

"But when he left, he broke her heart," Jim sighed. "Since then, I haven't met any of them. It's not like I live far away, and we meet regularly for dinner, so she could have brought someone along. But she hasn't. That's how I know."

He ran his hand through his gray hair and turned back to look at the younger man across the bed.

"You have a daughter, you know what it's like," he said. "We know things about our little girls that no one else does. We know when they're hurt, when they're happy...when they're in love."

He paused and seemed to debate the wisdom of his next words.

"When Katie talks about you, her eyes light up. Even at the start, when she found you so irritating—"

Castle winced.

"Even then, I could see it."

"See what?" Castle asked, finding himself longing to know what Jim Beckett had seen in his daughter.

"I could see that she was fighting a smile, fighting off genuine affection. Eventually, after you proved yourself, she stopped fighting it so much."

"I know she cares about me," Castle said softly. "We're friends, after all."

"Yes, but you see, it's different when she talks about Javier or Kevin," he said, leaning in as if he was imparting the secret of life. "She sees them as brothers, sometimes as the older brothers who protect her and tease her, sometimes as younger brothers who she has to keep in line. But with you it's different."

"Different how?" the writer asked.

"I'm not sure I can explain it, son," he said. "It's the tone of her voice and the sparkle in her eyes when she talks about how you came up with some crazy theory that turned out to be right or how you pulled the wires out of a dirty bomb to diffuse it."

"She told you about that?" Castle asked incredulously.

"She did," Jim answered. "She came to visit me the next day and had every blanket in the house wrapped around her within a few minutes. I think she just needed the comfort, even though everything had turned out okay."

Castle nodded, remembering his own hours in front of the fire with steaming bowls of soup and cups of hot chocolate, feeling like he'd never be warm again.

"My point is," her father began, looking the writer straight in the eye. "My point is that you make her smile, you challenge her, but you also support her. You are her partner in the truest sense of the word. And whether you know it or not, you and your words have always given her hope, helped her see light in the darkest of times."

Castle was humbled, and felt himself choking up.

"I promise you, sir, I'll always be there for her."

"I know you will, Rick," he said. "Because that's what we do for the people we love. And you love my daughter."

Castle felt the same way he had after his conversation with his mother a few evenings prior. He couldn't deny it.

"I do."

"Then you need to tell her, son."

"I did," he said, in a strangled voice. "After she was shot. I'm not sure she heard me."

Jim looked at him with an unreadable expression for a moment. Then he reached across Kate's middle to pat the younger man on the arm.

"In that case, you'll just have to tell her again."

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