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

Author's note: This is my first story, though I've been reading fan fiction for a number of years now. There are a lot of stories here that portray Josh as an arrogant jerk, and maybe he is. And trust me, I want him gone as much as the rest of you. But as someone who has experienced international aid work and knows both the incredible dedication that it takes as well as the reward, I think he probably is a great guy...just not the right guy for Kate. I'm not sure if this will end up being a one-shot or if I'll continue it. I kinda like the open-endedness at the moment, but we'll see.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. -Mother Teresa

"You know, I was thinking maybe..." Castle paused and his eyes darted briefly over Beckett's shoulder as she looked hopefully at him. The sparkle in his eyes dimmed a bit and he spoke again. "I should...go home, get some rest. Long day."

Castle was still grinning at her, but it seemed forced somehow, Beckett thought to herself as he called out a "Goodnight" and turned away.

Her brows knitted as she responded in kind and looked after him. Was that really all he was going to say?

Her contemplations were interrupted by a hand at her back and the feel of someone leaning in to kiss her temple. She turned to greet Josh with a hug, but couldn't help allowing her eyes to follow her partner as he made his way to the elevator. Whatever it was would have to wait until later, she finally decided and lifted her face to smile at her boyfriend. She still couldn't believe he'd stayed.

"Grab some dinner with me?" The handsome doctor asked as he tucked a stray lock behind her ear and loosened his hold on her.

"Sure," she replied. "Just let me get my things and say goodnight to the boys." Josh released her then and she leaned back into the room where Esposito, Ryan, and the Captain still sat talking and nursing their drinks.

"I'm heading out, see you guys tomorrow," she said as she smiled at her coworkers and friends.

"No, stay home tomorrow," Montgomery told her. He quickly cut off the beginnings of her protest with a "Beckett, you and your shadow cheated death three times in the past two days. To be frank, I'm surprised you're doing as well as you are after the freezer incident. But the adrenaline will wear off soon enough" He paused and gave her a soft smile. "Take a day, get some rest. You just solved two murders and saved the entire city. You deserve it."

Nodding, she accepted his verdict with a quiet "Yes, sir," and made her way back to retrieve her bag and jacket. Josh was waiting for her there, sitting with his back to her in the chair beside her desk and drumming his fingers on the surface. Not playing with an iPhone or snooping or stringing together hundreds of paperclips, she thought, unlike that chair's usual occupant. Castle's face flashed briefly before her eyes and she wondered again what he'd been about to say before his abrupt departure.

Pushing her questions to the side, she leaned over to open the drawer where she kept her purse. As she stood, she saw that Josh was already holding her jacket open for her. She slid her arms into the sleeves and thanked him. He smiled, dropped a quick kiss on the top of her head, and with his hand on the small of her back, led her to the elevator and out of the precinct.

"So, what are you hungry for?" Josh asked as they stepped onto the sidewalk. "Italian? Chinese? Sushi?"

Kate thought for a moment and then decided. Pasta, cheese and breadsticks sounded like a deliciously warm and comforting meal, something she could use after the past two days.

"Italian," she announced. "Come on, there's this great little place around the corner. We can walk there."

Josh nodded and offered his hand to her. She took it and leaned into his side as they made their way toward the hole in the wall that she'd discovered during her second week at the 12th.

It was still early and they were able to get a table quickly. Kate slid into one side of the booth and Josh into the other. As they scanned their menus, he reached for hand again, intertwining his finger with hers.

"So what can you tell me about this case?" Josh asked. "You're not sworn to secrecy or anything, are you? I know there was an FBI agent or something around when I took care of you after your guys pulled you out of that freezer."

"Department of Homeland Security, actually," the detective replied. "And no, I'm not sworn to least not anymore."

She began to fill him in on what had happened, starting with how Amir's body had been found and their early suspicions about his activities, pausing to order lasagna and a salad, and then continuing her narrative. She told him how she and Castle had been kicked off the case but hadn't stopped investigating, how they'd found the bomb and been trapped in the freezer.

"I thought we would die in there," she admitted.

"You almost did," he said softly, and gripped her hand a little more tightly. "If your team hadn't found you when they did..."

Kate watched his eyes fill with tears as he trailed off and lifted his warm hand to her lips.

"Hey, hey...It's okay. I'm okay," she assured him.

"I know. It's just...I felt terrible for the way I'd left things with you. That's why I didn't leave for Haiti last night. I couldn't go knowing you were so upset with me."

"I'm glad you didn't. Especially since if you hadn't called they might not have found us in time."

He gave her a small smile then and released her hand when the server came to place their food in front of them. After they'd both taken a few bites, he prodded her to continue the story.

She told him about discovering that McCann wasn't really McCann, and the confrontation with Fallon during the interrogation. He said that the agent sounded like a real jerk and she told him about Ryan's discovery of the man's past, noticing that her boyfriend's eyes darkened a bit at this revelation.

She continued on about the co-conspirators and Amir's terrified wife, how they'd caught up to her but with only a minute and a half to spare.

"Is explosives training standard in the academy?" he asked.

She looked confused for a moment, then realized his implication.

"No, no, it's not, though maybe it should be. I had to call Fallon for help."

"Oh, well, good thing he knew what he was doing," he said, but as Kate's eyebrow quirked upward he wondered if there was more to the story.

"Actually, he didn't. He, uh, couldn't see the pictures I sent him. 30 seconds left and all he could tell me was how sorry he was."

"Then how..."

"Castle," she interrupted him, chuckling at his surprised look.

"What? Research for one of his books or something? This guy must be really thorough!" he exclaimed.

Kate's chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh then.

"No, just very, very, VERY lucky. He had no idea what he was doing. One moment he was looking at me with five seconds left on the clock. The next thing I knew he'd reached in and yanked ALL the wires."

"He did what? You can't be serious!"

"Yep, he pulled them all. Said he figured one of them must be the right one."

Her expression turned serious. "He saved my life, Josh. Hell, he saved the whole damn city."

Josh just shook his head incredulously. "Well, I can say this much: the man is either very brave or very stupid."

"It's a little of both, I think," Kate said. "Stupid enough to think he's invincible, brave enough to do things that should prove he's not. Fortunately, the 'universe,' as he would say, seems to have decided he needs to stick around for a little while longer, because no matter what he does, how many orders he disobeys, he never gets hurt. At least, not much more than a wounded ego."

"Well, I'm glad he's your partner then," Josh said sincerely and once again grasped her hand.

"Yeah, me too," Kate echoed, her voice hitching for a moment. She dropped her eyes to the table between them as she worked to regain her composure.

"He loves you, you know," Josh whispered as he gently squeezed her fingers.

"He what?" Kate's eyes shot up to meet her boyfriend's gaze, sad yet steady.

"He loves you. You can see it in the way he looks at you."

She tried to protest, but he cut her off.

"Kate, I know that look. It's how my dad looks at my mom, how my brother looks at his wife. It's how I used to look at Shannon."

"Who's Shannon?" she asked, temporarily distracted from the thought that Castle might love her by the sudden deep sadness in the doctor's eyes.

"Shannon...she was my first girlfriend. We grew up together, graduated first and second in our class (she beat me by two points on our history final exam). We went to the same college. She wanted to be a pediatrician. I wanted to become a surgeon. We were best friends who eventually became something more."

This time it was Kate who squeezed Josh's hand and urged him on.

"Our senior year of college we went on this trip to Honduras. They were still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch and needed medical volunteers. We weren't allowed to operate or anything, but they let us help where we could. It changed both our lives, Kate."

She saw the smile return to his face then and the passion that bloomed in his eyes.

"We had both decided - separately - that this was what we wanted to do with our lives. I remember looking for an opportunity to tell her, but before I had the chance, she pulled me aside one evening after dinner and said that we needed to talk."

"Never a good way to start a conversation," Kate said with a sympathetic grimace.

"I know, right?" Josh replied with a small laugh. "I was so nervous. I thought she was going to break up with me or something. But as it turned out, we'd both been thinking the same thing: that we wanted to be involved in this work full-time."

"So what did you do then?" Kate asked.

"We went back to school, graduated, and started med school. We were insanely busy, of course, but we took more trips as we could. A week in Bolivia during spring break. A month in Chad during the summer. After our second year, we went back to Honduras, back to where it all began. I was going to propose the last night of the trip. Had the ring and everything. I was going to pull her aside to the same spot where I'd thought she was going to break up with me and ask her to marry me so we could spend the rest of our lives working together to save the world."

He gave Kate a smile that quickly turned watery as his eyes filled with tears again. Kate took one of his hands in both of hers as he used the other to swipe at the moisture on his cheeks.

"The day before we were scheduled to head home, we packed up the site where we had been working so we could head back to our base camp. It was just a little ways away, maybe half an hour down this one-lane mountain road that never had any traffic. We were halfway down when I realized I was missing my stethoscope, the top-of-the-line one my dad had given me when I got into med school. The driver was kind enough to turn back so I could look for it. I searched high and low for it, retraced my steps from the entire day, before I finally found it next to a tree where Shannon and I had taken our lunch break. Took me about 15 minutes to track it down."

He gave a grim laugh and looked down at the table. "I should have just left the damn thing there. Dad would've understood."

"Josh, what happened?"

"There was normally no traffic on the road, like I said. But an abuelita in the village was celebrating her 90th birthday that day and her grandkids were coming up from the city. Like us, they didn't expect to meet anyone on the road. We came around a curve at the same time and they plowed into the front of the truck. All of us were tossed around a bit. We were sitting in the open back on these seats that were built out of steel tubing, a really common means of transportation in that area. Shannon and I were sitting in the very back, and I managed to grab the overhead bar to steady myself. But Shannon..."

He broke off, took a shuddering breath and met Kate's eyes again.

"Shannon...flipped over the back of the tailgate. I could tell from the moment I looked at her that she'd snapped her neck. It wasn't until I saw the blood seeping out that I realized she had also hit her head on a sharp rock when she fell."

"Oh, Josh," Kate sighed and held his hands a little tighter.

"There was nothing I could do, nothing any of us could do. With all our training, we didn't have the right supplies and we were too far from a hospital. I just had to hold her hand until she stopped breathing. She was gone in less than two minutes."

He pulled away from Kate then and scrubbed his hands over his face.

"God, it's been eight years and I still can't get that image out of my head."

Kate looked at the broken man in front of her. "I know," she whispered. "Trust me, I know."

He looked up at her words and reached out to her again.

"I know you do, Kate. I saw your mom's murder board this morning when I went by your place."

Kate blanched and stumbled over her words in her haste to explain. "Josh, I...I never told you because..."

"It's okay. I understand. Really. Some wounds are just too deep."

"I know, but I should have..."

"Shhh...Kate, it's alright. Does Castle know?"


"But I'm guessing you didn't tell him either, right? He's a nosy person. If he smells a story, he'll dig until he uncovers it," Josh said with a laugh.

"Yeah, pretty much. It almost cost us our partnership early on."

"I'm glad it didn't. Kate, he's good for you. He makes you laugh, and he makes you think. And I'm pretty sure he'd do just about anything for you. Knowing that you've got makes this a little easier."

"Makes what a little easier?" she asked, surprised.

"Kate, I'm leaving tomorrow for Haiti."

"You're doing what?" Kate's voice rose in pitch as she stared at him, completely flabbergasted. "But I thought that...I mean, you..."

"I canceled my flight last night because I realized that I couldn't do that to you. I couldn't leave you hanging and waiting around for me. I care about you too much."

"Then why..."

He cut her off again. "Because as much as I care about you, this is who I am. This is what I am meant to do. As much as you are meant to be a detective and give people closure and justice when they lose a loved one, I'm meant to give them hope by saving their loved ones."

She just nodded. A calling was something she could understand.

He reached up to stroke her cheek. "If there was any way I could do both - be with you and fulfill my calling - you have to believe that I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I think we both know we can't. If you came with me, you'd be miserable. If I stayed, something would be missing. I can't do that to you or to myself."

"So this is goodbye then," she said, much more a statement than a question.

"Yeah, it has to be. I just couldn't leave without telling you why. You needed to know the whole story."

"Thank you," she said quietly as he stood and left enough money on the table to cover the check and a nice tip.

"I owed you that much, Kate. You're an amazing woman, and you deserve someone who can be there for you all the time."

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her out of the restaurant, into the cool New York evening. She stood in his embrace for a moment, resting her cheek on his shoulder as he stroked her hair.

"I really thought we might have a chance," she murmured into his jacket.

"I know. I wish things were different."

He pressed a kiss to her forehead and lifted his arm to hail a cab. As one pulled up, he opened the door for her, and she stepped in, preparing to give the driver her address.

Before she had a chance, however, he stopped her with a hand on her arm and spoke again.

"He loves you, Kate. You know, the first words out of his mouth when he woke up from the freezer were asking where you were and if you were okay. That's when I knew I was doing the right thing."

She gave him a sad smile as he continued.

"And if you care about him half as much as he cares about you, then he's the luckiest man on earth. Go to him. I think he needs your company tonight."

She nodded once more, and smiled as he kissed her hand. "Goodbye, Josh. Be safe."

"Goodbye, Kate. Take care of yourself." He released her hand and shut the taxi door.

She leaned forward then and gave the cabbie Castle's address, waving goodbye one last time as the car pulled away from the curb.

Sighing, she closed her eyes and only opened them again when she felt the vehicle slide to a stop and heard the driver say, "We're here, ma'am."

She paid him and exited the taxi, nodding at the doorman who had long since come to recognize her. The detective entered the elevator and pressed the number for his floor. The elevator rose quickly, and when it let her out, she walked slowly down the hall, pausing a moment in front of his door to listen. She didn't hear any voices, so Martha and Alexis must not be home yet.

Finally, she knocked and waited only a moment before it opened and the writer stood before her with a blanket wrapped around his slumped shoulders. He looked tired, she thought, as she noticed the redness around his eyes.

"Kate!" he exclaimed, with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I didn't expect to see you again so soon. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, Castle," she told him, as a weight lifted from her shoulders. "Yeah, I think everything's good. Could I come in?"

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