She's grateful to Martha for patching her up. She's more grateful when the older woman leaves her to her thoughts, perilous as they may be.

Castle hasn't yet returned to his position outside the door, and the detective considers just making a run for it, but she's not...that is, she can't...she can't leave him like this.

Because as upset as she may be with him, she loves him too. And Martha's parting words before she stepped out of the confining walls of the guest bathroom still echo in her ears, still eat away at her fury.

That's enough to keep her there.

So she closes the door, sits back on the lid of the toilet, and waits. He'll come to her. He always comes to her. And she's thankful for that, because she honestly doesn't know how to approach him right now.

She's angry, and hurt, and altogether bewildered. And she's not sure how much of the rage part of it is directed at him for hiding this from her and how much of it is directed at herself for making him feel he had to do so.

She knows there's something Martha wasn't telling her, some additional secret beyond the fact that Castle has continued the investigation. She just can't figure out what it might be.

He looked so shaken when she turned away from his murderboard to find him standing behind her. It had to be more than just the possibility of her anger that put that terrified look on his face.

It's not like she's never been upset with him. Hell, had she left, it wouldn't have been the first time she'd forced distance between them over her mother's case. But somehow they've always gravitated back together, like a pair of magnets.

And this time wouldn't have been any different. She's resigned herself to the fact that she's stuck with him. Well, not stuck. She's in love with the man. And he has to know that if she could forgive Captain Montgomery, she will surely forgive him.

So it must be something else.

But what?

There's a noise at the door, a scratching, and then a plaintive mew. Minnie has a thing about closed doors. She wants to be on the other side of them. Even bathroom doors. Especially bathroom doors. Really, she has no sense of propriety.

Kate thinks about ignoring her. It would serve the little thing right for shredding the hands that feed her, so to speak. But then the detective remembers that she is the one with higher brain function.

And really, would it hurt to have a little company, even of the feline variety, while she tries to figure out how to handle the situation with Castle and the investigation? Actually, it might even help. Holding Minnie (when the kitten isn't desperate to escape) is soothing, and goodness knows she could use a little peace right now.

She stands from her seat and takes the half-step to reach the door, turning the knob.

But Minnie isn't the only one waiting for her.

She hadn't heard him come back, but there's Castle, cradling the kitten in his arms, the little creature much calmer now than she was a bit ago. And really, what is she supposed to do with both of them staring at her with wide repentant eyes?

Yeah, not much she can do.

"Minnie wanted to apologize for hurting you," he says softly, his voice hitching as he speaks. "And so do I. I think both of us just got...scared."

Kate leans forward, close enough to lift her hand and drag her fingernails lightly across the kitten's exposed belly. Minnie gives her a long, slow blink.

"She didn't want to leave," the detective says, her gaze remaining fixed on the small, gray form. "She likes it here."

His breath quickens, and when she looks up to find his eyes intently focused on her face, she's never been so glad that he has a tendency to read between the lines.

"I like having her here," he whispers.

There's a moment's pause in which writer and detective just watch each other, and then he lurches unsteadily forward, hooking his elbow around her neck and pulling her into his chest, his other hand slowly dropping to allow Minnie to slide down his leg onto the floor.

"Kate..." he sighs into her ear, a ragged puff against her skin.

Her hands rise automatically to wrap around him, to bunch his shirt into her fists at his back. She presses herself into him, unable to stay away, even in her anger, even in her hurt.

"I'm sorry," he's chanting breathlessly. "I'm so sorry."

Hot tears burn in her eyes, but she chokes them back.

She holds onto him, her anchor in this tide of shared grief and sorrow. They've both made mistakes and they'll both have to bear the consequences.

"I had to stand here," he growls. "I had to stand here and listen to you sobbing on the other side of that door. I had to stand here and know that I was the reason you were crying. I had to stand here and know that there was nothing I could do to fix this."

The anguish in his voice pulls something free within her and then his shirt is damp beneath her cheek, moistened by her salty tears.

His arms tighten around her as he stumbles backward into the wall, tugging her with him. He needs the brace, she knows - the flat surface the only thing that can hold him up in this moment.

"Tell me, Castle," she grinds out. "Tell me why my mother's case, why my case is on your story board."

She has to know. Has to hear him say that he's been investigating it and why. She needs to understand.

His grip on her softens but he doesn't let go, and she's grateful for that. This is progress, for both of them. She didn't walk out (though a small animal and a formidable woman had something to do with that as well), and he's not letting her go without a fight.

"I've been investigating," he says quietly, his words muffled in her hair. "After I asked you to back off, I kept looking into it."

She sighs. She already knew, but somehow this makes it real. Before he said the words, maybe she could have believed that the pictures and information on the board were mere remnants of the summer - the summer she abandoned him to his grief and his guilt - that he hasn't been at it this whole time. But he has.

"Why?" she asks. "Why did you try so hard to convince me to lay it aside, if you were going to keep working on it?"

His broad hands slide up from her back, one to her neck, one to her shoulder, and he pulls her out from his body until she stands in front of him, head tilted up to meet his eyes. Somewhere in the turmoil of the past half hour, her shoes have been discarded and she's a few inches shorter than he is.

"I love you," he murmurs, the hand at her neck sliding around to cup the back of her skull, thumb rubbing at the skin behind her ear. "Please tell me you know that."

She nods, her fingers loosening around the fabric of his shirt, flattening against his back. She's not sure if his declaration is an answer to her question of why or simply a prelude to what he needs to say, but she won't let it go unacknowledged.

"I do know that, Rick," she whispers, her voice breaking on his rarely used first name. "I'm just not sure if that makes it better or worse."

He closes his eyes, drops his forehead to rest against hers.

"Better, Kate," he sighs, and she can hear the burden in his answer. "Please, let it make this better."

He doesn't wait for her answer, just pushes off from the wall, hand dropping from her neck to reach for hers, to lace their fingers.

"Come with me."

She knows where he's taking her, can hear the resignation and determination and sheer purpose braided in his voice. He may have hidden this from her before, but now that she knows the barest of details, she knows he's going to tell her everything.

It's her own confession all over again. She admitted she'd heard him in the cemetery, told him she loves him too - and then couldn't stop telling him.

He tugs on her hand and doesn't release her, leads her to his office where the storyboard is still lit up, familiar faces still haunting the room.

The door shuts behind them with a click, giving them a modicum of privacy, though the open shelves really kind of make it a moot point. Of course, his mother and daughter seem to have disappeared anyway.

When they arrive at his desk, he draws her to stand in front of him, pulls her back against his chest. And she sinks into him, lets him surround her, lets him brace her for what's to come.

His voice is rich and deep and familiar in her ear as he begins to speak, but it's also different somehow, like something has shifted for him. He's telling her a story, but it's not with his usual intonation, not with the quantity and variety of words he uses to describe a scene or spin a theory.

He keeps this simple.

"A man called me, right after you came back to the precinct."

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