The words eat at her for the next two days, swirling constantly in her thoughts. He'd have been trying a little harder to lie low.

She thinks about them through the interview with the priest who tells them he doesn't know where Akins might have obtained fifty thousand dollars in cash and who claims that the former commissioner seemed troubled in confession but had given no real clue to what might have gotten him killed.

She thinks about them while they sit at a table in one of the conference rooms, combing through Akins' finances and call records, looking for something - anything - that might point them in the right direction.

She thinks about them as she listens to Ryan read off an address where half an hour later they stand horrified outside of the home of a potential witness, watching the house burn, leaving them with another body and more questions.

She thinks about them when Castle pushes a container of orange chicken in front of her, sticking his face in her field of vision when she doesn't start eating, chopsticks tucked under his lips like walrus tusks, trying his hardest to pull a smile from her.

And she thinks about them as she lies awake at night, turned on her side, facing away from him, his palm warm against her spine as he sleeps.

Castle has barely let her out of his sight since they found the knife, much less since they listened to Mrs. Akins ominous remembrance of her husband's words.

They went back to the detective's apartment briefly that first night, stayed long enough for her to gather clothes and other necessities for a few days. And then he took her home with him. No begging, no pleading, no convincing. She could see in his eyes that he needed her close, needed to be able to see and touch her, needed to know that she was okay.

And so she hasn't been back to her place since.

They've worked each day, running themselves ragged late into the night, stopping briefly to eat from time to time. And then they've gone back to the loft, collapsed into his large bed, and slept. Or in her case, tried to sleep.

She feels his fingers move, holds back a shiver when he starts tracing along one of her ribs. She tries to keep her breathing even, isn't sure if she can face his concern yet again. But he knows.

"We'll figure it out," he whispers into the darkness, his hand sliding over her side to palm her stomach. He pulls her back into the cocoon of his body, his lips pressing gently against her shoulder.

"We've got nothing," she sighs, hating the despondency in her own voice. "We have nothing but dead ends.

His voice is quiet and determined when he speaks again. "I don't like that term."

"What term?"

She feels his forehead press against the back of her skull, his fingers tightening their grip on the front of her baggy tee shirt. "Dead ends. They're rarely what they seem. There's almost always a fence to climb or a window to go through, or a door to break down. There's almost always a way out. You just have to find it."

She leans into him, desperate for hope. "And if I can't find it?"

"We find it together," he murmurs. "And if there's no way out, then we face it together."

She turns in his arms then, presses her body to his, every long line of him meeting her. Tipping his head, he steals her breath, his lips warm and supple, reassuring and insistent. She groans into his mouth as his fingers delve beneath her shirt, blazing trails over her skin.

Hooking her knee over his hip, she pushes against him, forces him to his back. He gasps as she settles over him, and she feels the hitch in her own breathing too, every point of contact between them electrifying.

"Castle, I-"

The ringing phone cuts her off and she collapses against his chest. He nudges her after a moment, and when she looks up, he's holding her phone. '12th Precinct' flashes on the screen, and she reaches out to take the device, scrambling off her partner as she does.

"Beckett," she answers, still working to calm her racing heart.

"Detective, I need you and Mr. Castle to come to the precinct right away," the no-nonsense voice of Victoria Gates greets her.

She glances at the glowing alarm clock next to his bed. 6:37.

"Yes, sir," she says. "Is there-"

Gates doesn't wait for the end of the question. "We've received new information."

It occurs to her while they're on the elevator that she hasn't had any coffee. Castle had offered to make some, of course, but something in the captain's tone had told her to hurry, to forgo any unnecessary delay.

Now though, as the doors open and she and her partner step onto the homicide floor, she wishes for a hot mug in her hands, wishes for the liquid comfort to soothe her jitters.

And then the whole floor goes silent.

Every eye turns toward the duo. Kate glances over at Castle, finds his face a mask of puzzled wariness.

"Detective, Mr. Castle," she hears and turns toward the voice of the captain, standing with crossed arms in the doorway to her office. "In here, if you please."

No one speaks as they traverse the bullpen. The room isn't full by any means; it's only half past seven, and most of her fellow detectives won't arrive until at least eight o' clock. But those who are present remain silent, looking away as they pass.

Castle hangs back when they reach the doorway, allowing her to step through first. He's right behind her though, his body warm at her back. Whatever happens, she can handle it with him there. He's right: dead end or not, they face it together.

Inside the room, Esposito leans against the back wall, his pose casual, though she can sense - as always with him - the restrained power, the instant readiness. Ryan is there too, his face drawn, blue eyes worried as he shifts from foot to foot. Neither of her teammates meet her gaze for more than the briefest moment.

Gates sits at the desk, fingers steepled in front of her, glasses pulled halfway down her nose. A tall man with slicked-back hair stands a few feet away, the shiny edge of a badge barely visible beneath his suit jacket.

"Captain?" Kate says, unease pooling in her gut.

Nodding at the chairs in front of the desk, Gate speaks quietly. "Take a seat please, both of you."

She turns her head, watches as Castle stands woodenly next to the chair, hands behind his back.

His eyes cut to hers, pleading, but she's done everything she can, everything she knows how to do. None of it worked. She shrugs and feels the cold metal cut into her wrists, feels Ryan's slim fingers on her forearm, halting her movement as his soft voice tonelessly speaks.

"You have the right to remain silent..."

She blocks out the rest, keeps her eyes on her partner's face, tries to communicate wordlessly with him. But she's got nothing.

The evidence is damning. And no matter how much she tried to refute it, tried to tell them that she'd never seen the information on her homemade murderboard pointing to Akins as the mastermind behind her mother's death, it remains that it's her handwriting on the cards - hers and Castle's.

It remains that his fingerprints are on the shell casings a beat cop found last night near a pool of blood and other materials that match the former police commissioner, her prints on the gun unearthed in a dumpster a block away.

It remains that neither of them have alibis for the time of the shooting, nor for the hour before they arrived to find the house of the witness going up in smoke. They'd been together, but there's no external proof of their innocence.

And it remains that if she'd had the chance to kill her mother's murderer, she's not so sure she wouldn't have done it.

She's not sure Castle wouldn't do the same.

The door slams shut.

Shuffling forward, she drops heavily onto the bench, leans down, lets her head fall into her hands.

This isn't how it was supposed to go.

Oh, Castle.

If he-

She'll never forgive herself.

The click of dress shoes fades away as the officer on duty goes back to his post, and then she hears her name.

Lifting her head, she meets his eyes, takes in the way he leans against the bars that enclose the other holding cell.

"Castle," she gasps, the bile rising in her stomach.

He shakes his head, fingers flexing around the metal, straining as if he's trying to reach her. "Shh, it's gonna be fine, you'll see."

"How?" she wonders aloud, grief choking her words. "How?"

"Easy," he scoffs. "We'll make bail, and we'll get out of here, and then we'll figure out who set us up."

"And if we can't-" she begins, then cuts herself off as horror overtakes her. "Oh god, Castle. What about Alexis?"

Some of the light leaves his eyes then, but he shrugs anyway. "She'll be fine."

Kate stands, stumbles over to the edge of the cell, mirroring his pose. "If we can't figure out who set us up, what then?"

Tilting his head, he gives her a hint of his trademark smirk. "I'm rich, Beckett. I've got excellent lawyers. Or we could just leave the country."

"But what if-" she starts, not even acknowledging his suggestion of a life on the run. "Castle, you shouldn't even be dealing with this. Neither of us should, but you-"

"I said 'always' and I meant it," he murmurs, his fingers unfurling toward her. "And I know we're not quite there yet, but I'm pretty sure this would fall into the 'for better or worse' category."

She lets out a startled laugh that might be half sob.

"Kate," he whispers, his shoulders and chest pressing into the bars. "If worst comes to worst, I trust you."

"You trust me?" she asks, canting toward him, wishing she could touch him, wishing she could just wake up from this nightmare made reality.

He nods. "I asked you once what you'd do if I went to prison for a crime I didn't commit."

She shuts her eyes as the memory washes over her - love conquering all. "I remember."

"Kate," he reminds her, his voice certain and unafraid. "You said you'd get me out."

the end

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