"I'll tell you everything," he says, pulling back from her. He's still touching her though, strong hands still grasping her arms.

She shakes her head.


His eyebrows shoot up.


She presses a finger against his lips, quieting him, if only for a moment.

"I can't do this without you. I can't let go unless you give me something else to hold onto."

"Kate..." he whispers breathlessly.

"I don't know who I am without this, Castle. Solving her case, finding justice for my's been my driving force for the past thirteen years. But I can't..."

He lifts a hand when she trails off, brushes his thumb across her cheek, under her eye, then moves up, smoothing the furrow in her brow.

"You can't?"

She takes a deep breath.

"I can't go on like this, living in the shadow of her death. Not when everyone I care about gets dragged down with me."

She shrugs.

"If it were just me..."

Something flashes in his eyes, a mix of anger and hurt. Too much of what she's seen already tonight.

"If it were just you, what?"

She lifts both hands to his chest, not to push him away, not this time. Just for steadiness. Just to feel his heartbeat under her palm.

"If it were just me, and my father wasn't still around...if it were just me and I was alone, I would chase this thing until the end. Until I ended it or it ended me."

The depth of sorrow in his eyes is nearly her undoing. But he needs to know what he does to her, what he gives to her.

"But my father is still here. And even if he weren't, I wouldn't be alone. I have the boys and Lanie. I have you. And that changes everything."

His hands slide up from her arms to cup either side of her neck, fingers delving into the curls at her nape, his warmth tingling along her nerves.

"Katherine Beckett," he says softly. "Regardless of who you have that cares about you - and there are plenty who do - the world would be a darker place without you in it."

She forgets sometimes that he's a writer. Mostly these days he's her partner or the man she loves or both. She forgets how he makes his living. But when it counts, he always has the words for her.

They've cut her to the bone in the past, pointing out hypocrisies and flaws. But they've also given her strength, pushing her forward. She still hasn't told him how his words touched her after her mother's death. How the justice in his books gave her hope.

But he's not just a writer or her partner or even the man she loves. He's a father, and a son. People depend on him. And if anything happens to him...

She knows herself. She told him before that she could fall down the rabbit hole, that she had to step away the way an alcoholic would from the bottle. She knows how easy it would be to dive back in, to spend hours, days, an entire lifetime here in front of this board or in front of the shutters in her own apartment.

She reaches up to cover his hands with hers, pulling them away from her neck. He starts to step back, to give her space, but she tightens her grip, lowering their joined hands in front of her, between them. Her gaze drops to a piece of lint on his shirt. She wants to pick it off, but she doesn't want to let go.

"I've been going to therapy," she confesses, looking back at his face. "I had to go this summer to get cleared before I could come back to the precinct. But after that first case, when I froze, I went back, and I've been going ever since."

The words came out in a rush, but she can see the understanding in his eyes, so she knows he caught it all. She watches the play of emotions, the questions he has, what he's holding back.

"It's not easy, but it...helps. I see things more clearly. Dr. Burke gives me an outside perspective. He cares, but he's not...he's not involved in what's going on."

Castle nods. His expression is serious, listening. He observes her, as he has from the beginning, perhaps sensing that his continued silence makes it easier for her to let him in.

"I have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder," she says quietly, but there's no surprise on his face this time. He probably recognized the signs. Book research or something. Or maybe he just knows her. "I'm doing...better. Talking to Dr. Burke is good. And Esposito helped me some, helped me see things a little differently."

One side of his mouth quirks up, something like gratitude and affection flicking briefly through his eyes.

"But I still have, I don't know...moments or flashbacks or something. And nightmares sometimes, though I've had those for years."

He just nods again, still quietly waiting, maybe for a sign from her, though she's not sure what it would be. She just knows that he has to know, that she needs him to be certain before they can move forward from here.

"I get jumpy sometimes," she offers. "You've probably noticed that."

He starts to open his mouth but then closes it again, as if he might not be allowed to speak. When has that stopped him before though? She doesn't want that. She narrows her eyes.

"Hypervigilance," he appeases. "That's a pretty common symptom. And yeah, I've noticed. You've almost spilled your coffee a few times when a door has slammed. And I know how carefully you guard your coffee."

She's grateful, so grateful for his humor. He's not even smiling, no twinkle in his eye. But she knows, she knows - that little jab is his way of telling her everything will be okay. That they'll be okay.

"You were right," she says, and now, of course, his eyebrows do lift in surprise. "Last May, when you told me I had been hiding in my mother's murder and in relationships with men I didn't love."

Though he says nothing, makes no movement, she can see the flinch in his eyes, the flash of regret for the way he must know he hurt her. But she's being honest, and he was right.

"I want to be more," she murmurs. "I want to be happy."

He squeezes her hands gently, warmth and strength flowing through his grip.

"We'll figure it out," he promises.

She squeezes back, looking for doubt in his eyes. There's none to be found. But he has to know. He has to know everything.

"Are you sure?" she asks, her voice tight, ragged. "I'm...I'm broken, Castle."

He doesn't refute her, doesn't tell her she's unblemished or perfect or whole. And somehow that gives her hope. He's going into this with eyes wide open.

"I don't know how, and I don't know what we'll have to battle on the way," he says, untangling one of his hands to lift it up, pressing his palm flat against her chest, over her shirt, over the little round scar between her breasts. "But we'll figure it out."

She shudders under his touch, awed and stunned by his unswerving faith in her. In them. He dips his head, drawing her attention away from his hand and back to his eyes before he speaks again, his voice firm and yet filled with compassion.

"You're scared. It's okay. I am too."

A nod answers him.

"I'm terrified. I don't know where to go from here."

She hesitates, and then long fingers rise to graze his neck, his jawbone, her hand sliding back so her thumb can rub against the soft skin of his earlobe

"But Castle?" she whispers. "I don't want to hide anymore."

No one needs to know
How scared we are tonight
Would you let me see the world behind your eyes?

-Jon Foreman, "Behind Your Eyes"

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