"Why now?"

Castle turns away from the window, meets her eyes as they wait at a red light. Something flashes in his blue depths, something she can't quite identify. It's not good though, she knows that much.

"Why now?" she repeats. "Why decide to come after me now when I haven't touched the case in months?"

"You haven't?" he asks, but it's not doubt, not even surprise in his voice. It sounds more like guilt. For what? He was right to ask her to set it aside. It would have swallowed her whole, would have taken everyone she loves down with her.

She shakes her head. "I promised you I wouldn't."

Her eyes drop to his throat muscles when they twitch as if he's swallowing back something. Maybe he is. His voice is raspy when he speaks. "Yeah, you did."

Out of the corner of her eye she see the light switch to green and she turns away from the shadows in the eyes of her part- no, he's not her partner, even if he's here now. He made that abundantly clear.

They travel the next two blocks in silence and she's grateful for a chance to mull things over a bit. They'd called Ryan and Esposito, of course, and a couple of CSU techs had accompanied the other detectives, dusting for prints and collecting evident. She'd bagged the knife and note herself, looked up from the task to find Castle watching her with raw fear in his eyes.

It was reassuring, somehow, though she feels terrible for taking comfort in his fear. Still, knowing that he cares enough to be afraid for her - it gives her some kind of hope.

"Beckett?" he says softly at her side and she glances over, sees the hesitation on his face. "We need to go to my apartment."

"Now?" she asks, raising a brow and trying to keep one eye on him while she also maintains her focus on the road.

He nods. "Now. Please. It's- there's something I need to show you."

"Can't it-" she begins, but waiting is what brought them here to this awkward tension, and hadn't she told herself she didn't want to wait anymore? Still. "Castle, we need to get back to the precinct. Or I do. I guess you don't have to come along if you don't want."

A warm hand lands on her thigh, squeezes briefly. "Please, Kate."

It's not his touch, not the pleading note in his voice. It's her name that decides her.

She takes the next turn and heads toward his loft, watches him in her peripheral vision as she drives. Watches his face turn ever more fearful as they draw nearer to his home. Whatever this is, it won't be good.

"This explains the why now question," she murmurs, closing her eyes, blocking out the faces that stare back at her, blocking out her own smile.

He says nothing, but she can hear his breathing, hear the way it's almost too steady, too quiet, as if he's trying to disappear, fade into the background.

"You've been looking into this all along?" the detective asks.

He sighs, and she places him to her right, perhaps leaning against his desk. He's within inches. She could reach out and touch him so easily. And yet his voice is distant when he answers with a single word. "Yes."


He sighs again, and she hears the swish of moving fabric, imagines him shrugging his shoulders or lifting one hand in a helpless gesture. "At first, it was because I couldn't bear the thought of losing you again. Watching you bleed out, knowing that your heart had stopped, that you had literally died - I couldn't let that happen again if I could do anything to prevent it."

"And then?" she asks softly.

"And then what?"

"You said 'at first.'"

He makes a noise, a strangled groan that sounds like it's come from the back of his throat. "And then it was my only connection to you."

Regret swirls in her gut and she opens her eyes to find him exactly where she'd thought he was. He's hunched over though, elbows balanced on his knees, the heels of his hands pressed into his eye sockets.

"Castle," she whispers, doesn't know what to say, doesn't know how to heal the hurt she inflicted upon him. Doesn't know if she can.

"But then you came back," he says after a moment, his voice rough and weary. "And little by little, I watched you heal and I watched you look happier, and I knew that I would do whatever it took to keep you on that path, even if I wasn't-"

His mouth shuts suddenly, mid-sentence, and his eyes dart to hers guiltily.

"Even if you weren't-" she prods, leaning toward him when he shakes his head. "Even if you weren't what, Castle?"

He takes a deep breath, broad shoulders tensing beneath his gray plaid shirt. "Even if I wasn't the one making you happy."

He wasn't-


"Castle," she begins, but he straightens then, stands up, strides across the room.

"Look, Beckett," he says firmly. "It's okay. I mean, you can't help the way you feel, and I really do just want you to be happy. I just wish my digging around hadn't dragged this up again."


He turns in his pacing, his eyes meeting hers briefly before he looks away again. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" the detective asks, thoroughly confused now.

He shrugs. "For not being more careful, I guess. For sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong. For somehow making them think that you were still looking into the case."

Reaching out a hand, she catches him on his next pass, tugs him to a stop. Her fingers curl around his forearm. She's not letting him go. Not until he makes himself clear.

"Rewind, Castle," she says quietly. "I want to go back."

His eyes drift from her hold on his arm to her face, his expression unreadable. It scares her. They've been in sync for ages, able to know what the other was thinking before the words were spoken, able to build theory seamlessly and hold entire conversations with their eyes. Until recently, when he's pulled away, shuttering his emotions entirely, his face going blank more often than she wants to admit.

"Back to what?" he asks.

She tightens her fingers for a moment, then lets them coast down to his wrist. She wants- she wants to wrap her hand around his. And there was a time when she might have let herself do just that. Just a couple of months ago, here in his apartment, she'd done just that - acted on her heart's wishes and reached for his hand.

But for now - at least until they get a few things cleared up - this will have to be enough.

"Back to me not being able to help the way I feel," she murmurs. "Back to you thinking you're not the one who makes me happy."

His eyes shut altogether then, and he tries to take a step back. But she doesn't let him pull away.

She follows.

Chasing him this time.

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