"We still have a murder to solve, don't we?"

He laughs in response to her mostly rhetorical question. So much has happened since they left the precinct the night before. It's surreal. It seems like weeks ago, not mere hours. But then, she and Castle have always played by their own set of rules.

"We do, although you should probably call Esposito before we leave."

Esposito? She raises an eyebrow and he coughs, expression suddenly sheepish, a little wary.

"He, ah, called earlier."


How did she miss a call from the other detective? Unless...

"When you...when my mother was patching you up," he says quietly, gesturing to the bandages on her hands.

The rest of what he's thinking but won't vocalize is written all over his face anyway. When you were sobbing in the bathroom and I couldn't make it better.

"What did he say?"

He waves his hand, palm up, a little sign that he doesn't think it's too important.

"They found the kid. But he didn't have anything to do with it. Alibi checked out."

Oh, well. Back to square one then.

"Who was he, anyway? And how did they find him?"

Castle chuckles.

"He was trying to get a job at the flower shop. Apparently he'd been turned down but was hanging around to talk to Ramirez, hoping for a second chance. When he showed up again this morning, the shop owner that first saw him called Esposito and they brought him in."

Well, that would explain the nervousness. He was keeping an eye out for Ramirez, just not for the purpose they'd anticipated.

"Did he say anything about Restrepo?"

The writer shakes his head.

"Only that they still couldn't reach anyone at the number we had. He said to call him and he and Ryan would meet us there."

There's something in his posture, something tense, and she pauses in the buttoning of her coat to reach out to him, smooth a hand over his lapel.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

He looks down, eyes focused on her hand.

"I, uh, answered your phone."

That's what he's worried about? Answering the phone when Esposito called?


His head pops up, a look of disbelief on his face.

"You don't mind? That I picked it up? That he knew you were here?"

She shrugs nonchalantly.

"If it'd been Gates, maybe. But Espo or Ryan? Not really. Anyway, they knew I was coming over last night. What did you tell him about why you answered instead of me?"

Surprise and pleasure blend in his expression, and she's reminded once more that much of the self-confidence is an act. She'll need to work on that hesitance. She doesn't want him to be afraid of her, of her reactions. Well, no more than any woman wants her man to have a little healthy fear and respect.

"I told him the truth, or part of it," he confesses. "That Minnie had scratched you to pieces and my mother was taking care of you."

She nods, wonders again how much the other two detectives know about the case Castle has been working, if they're involved as well.

"I didn't tell him anything else, if that's what you're wondering. He and Ryan would kill me if they knew what I'd been doing."

Well, there's that question answered. But he's wrong, all the same. And he needs to know.

"They wouldn't kill you, Castle. They'd see it for what it was - you trying to keep me safe."

He lifts his hand to cover hers on his chest, dipping his head to press his lips to her fingers.

"Are we okay?" he asks, pleading and brokenness still echoing in his voice. "Really okay, I mean."

She steps forward, pulling his hand down between them to tangle their fingers at his side, and slides her other arm under his elbow, curling it around his back.

"We're okay, Rick," she says quietly, feels his arm come up to cradle her shoulders. "We're more than okay. And it's done now. It's out in the open, and it's done. No more agonizing."

He nods, cheek brushing against hers.

"Okay," he says in her ear, voice a little gruff with emotion. "Let's go then."

She returns Esposito's call on the way to Astoria. Well, rather, she has Castle dial the number and put the other detective on speaker.

"Hey Beckett," the familiar voice comes across the line. "Heard we might need to call animal control for ya."

She laughs, sees the corners of her partner's mouth turn up at the sound.

"Nah, she just wasn't very happy about leaving Castle's place is all. She's fine now. We both are."

His hand inches across the console and she lets him rest his fingers on the edge of her thigh, giving him a small smile of encouragement.

"Ooh, a little family drama," the Latino detective jokes. "Does this mean Castle's your kitty-daddy?"

Ouch. There's the ribbing she expected. And Esposito doesn't even know the half of it, doesn't even know that they spent the night wrapped in each other's arms.

The writer laughs at her side, and she looks up to find his eyes twinkling. This is right. She's made the right choice.

"Let's just say I'd be happy to pay kitten support if needed," he says.

Esposito's chuckle rings out through the connection.

"That right, bro? Sounds like she's got you pretty smitten."

Castle hums his acknowledgment.

"What can I say?" he asks, but his eyes are on Kate. "She's adorable. It'd be impossible not to fall in love with her."

She drops her hand from the wheel to squeeze his fingers where they sit on her leg. His smile widens further, tenderness and deep affection shining in his eyes.

"Alright, boys," she breaks in. "Back to the case at hand. We're on our way to Astoria. You and Ryan gonna meet us there?"

There's a shuffle in the background and then she hears Ryan's voice calling out that they'll leave right now.

"We'll see you soon," Esposito concludes, and then the line goes dead.

"Guess they haven't learned anything else yet," Castle says, and Kate nods.

"Any crazy theories you'd like to offer? On the possibility of Elena's mother being alive, and how it might relate to her husband being dead?"

The writer leans back in his seat, thoughtful expression on his face. She loves this. Loves watching his brilliant storyteller's mind at work.

They approach mysteries in completely different ways. She goes by the evidence, the timeline. She has to. But he looks for the story, the characters and their quirks. And they're stronger when they work together. Maybe in life too, not just at the precinct.

"I think Agustin knew."

She glances over at him.

"Knew what? That Elena's mother was alive?"

He shrugs.

"It would explain why he didn't just take his family and run when he started getting threats."

They stop at an intersection and she turns to face him.

"So do you think he knew all along? Or just found out recently? And how?"

He brings his right hand up to rub across his rough chin. He didn't shave this morning, she realizes. Did he even shower?

They woke up, declared their love for each other, made out, she showered, they ate breakfast with Alexis. And then everything happened with Minnie and the murder board. And then they made out some more, she told him she wanted to have his babies, they made out some more, made the bed, and then they left.

So yeah, probably no shower for him. Lots of kissing, but no shower. Oh, and his shower is so...that would be...and if he hasn't bathed, that would mean the coffee he spilled on himself yesterday-

"I think-" he says, breaking her out of her recollections and then stopping when he glances over at her. "You're blushing, Kate. Why are you blushing?"

Her eyes widen, and now she can feel the heat in her cheeks. She shakes her head.

"You had an idea?"

He leers across the small space.

"Oh, I have plenty of ideas."

His fingers squeeze around hers and she startles. She'd forgotten they were holding hands. Yeah, it might be harder to conceal this from their coworkers than she thought.

"About the case, Castle," she groans. "Ideas about the case."

He gives her a playful wink, but then his features straighten.

"What if Elena's mother was kidnapped, but wasn't murdered? What if her kidnappers brought her to the States instead? Maybe one fell in love with her or something."

She nods.

"Could be. But what if she went willingly in the first place? What if she was trying to escape something or someone back in Colombia? Maybe even Elena's father."

His jaw drops a little and then he smirks, eyes lighting with a spark of mischief and pleasure.

"Oh, shut up," she says, smacking his arm lightly. "Yes, you've rubbed off on me over the past three years."

He shakes his head, the smirk never fading.

"I didn't say a word, Detective Beckett, not a word."

She's been holding back on the eye-rolling the past few months, preferring instead to let him catch her with a small secretive smile. But this deserves an eye-roll. And she gives it to him. He beams.

"Anyway, what if part of the story was true and Ramirez really did run into trouble with this Restrepo guy, only to find out that the man's wife bore a striking resemblance to his own bride."

He picks easily up where she leaves off.

"Of course, he would be shocked. That's why she'd had to hide him in the first place - because her father was so angry about his wife's kidnapping and murder that he would have killed Agustin if he'd found out about him."

"Right," the detective continues. "So that would be enough to maybe make him investigate further, instead of moving his family out of danger."

She looks over at the writer, waiting for him to run with the story, to find the plot line and follow it to its conclusion. But he just has this puzzled look on his face.

"What, Castle?"

He shakes his head.

"I don't know," he begins. "I just...if you were a mother, wouldn't you do everything in your power to stay with your children? You wouldn't just leave them alone. You wouldn't let them think you'd been murdered."

He's right.

"So maybe this was a kidnapping. Maybe it still is. But thirty years? That's a long time to keep someone under lock and key."

Castle drums his fingers on his thigh.

"She wasn't under lock and key though. Not completely. She had a driver's license."

The detective pulls her fingers free (they were still holding hands? Really?), and runs them through her hair.

"Stockholm Syndrome?" she asks, and he shrugs.

"Only one way to find out."

She sighs as they turn onto the right street. A couple hundred yards down, she can already see Ryan and Esposito, leaning against the hood of their cruiser.

"Kate?" the writer calls quietly, and she glances over at him.


He slides his hand over to set it on her thigh, fingertips scratching lightly against the dark denim. Oh, he needs to stop that right now.

"The press is one thing, but I'm following your lead here, okay?"

It takes her a moment to catch his meaning, but when she does, she gives him a soft smile, dropping her hand over his as she pulls up alongside the curb.

"Do you remember how quickly we figured out about Espo and Lanie?"

He nods solemnly.

"Do you really think we could keep this from them, Castle? I just held your hand for at least fifteen minutes without realizing it. And they're our friends. They know us."

He grins, that little boy pride mixed with the full grown joy.

"So what you're saying is..."

She grips his hand tightly, leans over to press her lips briefly to his cheek, knowing they're still blocked from view by the cars in front of them.

"We're doomed."

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