“Any luck?” Castle asks, taking a seat on the couch beside her. She’s staring at her laptop intently, brow still scrunched in her adorable I’m thinking expression.

“No, not yet,” Kate replies, dragging her eyes away from the screen. “All the highly recommended psychologists live in big cities…nowhere around here. Even if we moved back to New York City, I don’t know how I’d choose. They’re all really expensive.”

“Don’t worry about the money,” he tells her. The look she gives him tells him exactly how much she likes that idea.

“My mind just keeps going back to the shrink I talked to before leaving the hospital,” she muses.

“What was his name? Do you remember?”

“I remember it started with ‘Doctor.’”

Castle laughs. “Well, I can always call the hospital; I’m sure it’s in your file.”

“I remember thinking his voice sounded like some actor’s I saw on TV, but I couldn’t place it,” she says ruefully. “Burke! That was it. I think.” Her fingers fly across the keyboard and she clicks a link. “Yes, that’s him.” Castle leans in to get a look at the picture. An African-American man with a kind expression under intense brown eyes.

“Does he have his own practice, or do you have to go through the hospital?” Castle asks.

Another few clicks and she answers, “His own, only twenty minutes away from my apartment.”

“But we don’t live at your apartment.”

“We could.”

“Kate…” he says it as a warning, softly.

She looks down at her lap. “I know, but we can’t avoid it forever. As soon as I’m cleared by my surgeon, I am going to go through evaluations and get my badge and my gun back. I want to be as ready as I can be for that.”

“I understand,” he nods. “But you do have a month at least until they’ll give you the thumbs up to return to work. It’s perfectly possible just to drive down to the city for your sessions, just like we do for the appointments at the hospital.”

She sighs. “We’re not going to be able to agree on this, are we?” Without waiting for a response, she continues. “There’s a number here to call his office and set up an appointment. We can drive in for the first one, and I’ll ask his opinion on the matter. Okay?”

“Okay,” he kisses her, reassuring her that the only reason he’s arguing is because he cares about her. His cell phone rings, and he reluctantly breaks their contact to pick it up from the table. “Alexis,” he says in explanation and exits the room to take the call. It isn’t Alexis.

“Castle,” he answers it in the privacy of the bedroom.

“It’s me.” The very distinguishable voice of the Fox reverberates through the phone into the membranes of his ear.

“What did you find?” Castle asks eagerly. He had mailed the changes to Gina the day after speaking with the Fox, with ‘For a friend’ as the entire explanation. “I did my part: Clark Mathis, just like you said. Blue-striped tie, gold watch, FF campaign pin. Just like your client, the politician, specified.”

“I won’t be working on your virus any more,” the Fox informs him curtly. “Don’t contact me again.”

“Wait, what?” Castle says. “Why? We had a deal!”

“Our deal was that I would examine the virus and get back to you. I have done so, and thus fulfilled the terms set.”

“Why?” Castle asks desperately. “Why would you back out like this? I’ll…I’ll remove Mathis from the book if you don’t tell me what you found out about the virus!”

“Do so if you wish, it does not matter anymore. My client has seen the proof of the changes you made to the manuscript through his own networks, and has signed on with me. I have need of you no longer, Mr. Castle. Do not contact me again.” The line clicks dead, leaving Castle just sitting on their bed, utterly lost.

“Dr. Burke’s office, how may I help you?” says the receptionist on the other end.

“Hello, I’d like to schedule a session with Dr. Burke?” Kate says into the phone.

“Of course. He’s pretty booked. Is there a date or time you prefer?”

“Just as soon as possible, please. My name is Kate Beckett.”

“Well, how soon could you get to our office? It looks like we have a two-hour opening today at 4:00 P.M. Another client of ours canceled last minute. Otherwise the next spot open is next Friday, nine days from now. That would be Friday, July first.”

“No, I think I can make it to the four o’clock one,” Kate says. “Thank you.”

“All right. Is this your first time visiting Dr. Burke?”

“At his office, yes, but I saw him once before. He did the pre-release consultation with me at the hospital.”

“Okay,” says the lady cheerily. “May I ask the nature of your session?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Oh, I just need to know if he’s going to have to sign any official papers, such as for a psych evaluation for a high-stress job or anything like that.” Oh.

“Not this time, no, but maybe eventually,” Kate replies.

“Okay, we’ll see you at four!” the woman says. Castle walks into the room with a slightly dazed expression on his face.

“Make an appointment?” he asks.

“Yeah,” she says, pressing her lips together slightly. “You okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” he smiles. “Are you nervous?”

“What’s there to be nervous about?” she says lightly.

“Nothing, I guess. I’m glad you’re not. It’s good.” He smiles that uncertain smile again.

“I was lying; I don’t know how to this,” Kate says quickly in the car. “How the hell do you just walk into that room and spill all your deepest darkest secrets to a man you’ve just met? It’s impossible.” Castle is silent, and she knows it’s because he doesn’t have an answer for her. Maybe it’s easy for some people to just go inside and pour their hearts out, but not for her. Never has been, and never will be. This whole prospect goes so deeply against her nature. Why did she want to do this again? Right, to get her life back.

It’s not that her job isn’t worth this momentary discomfort. If this is the price to get her badge back, she’ll pay it in a heartbeat, gladly. But it’s not a choice, not for her. It’s not as simple as just choosing to share or not. There’s a wall to be broken down, and nearly insurmountable fear to be gotten over. She’s spent ten years building that wall in silence, and all of a sudden she’s being asked to tear it down. It’s not that she refuses to, but she’s not sure she’s capable of it. What happens if she freezes up in there? If she runs out? Gets spooked by the man prying into her life? Does she run back to Castle with her tail tucked between her legs?

She knows that her ability to talk to a psychologist has no bearing on how Castle feels about her. But if she can’t share all of this with a man who is sworn to secrecy, who she knows for certain is only there to help her, who makes a living out of coaxing deep, dark secrets out of people and thus must be very good at it, then how can she hope to share any of it with Castle? Sure, he’s the one she loves, but that only puts the stakes higher. That only makes her more afraid to show too much, to scare him off. Somewhere deep inside, she knows that if she can’t talk to Dr. Burke, she won’t ever be able to share all the stuff she needs to with Castle. All the stuff she wants to.

The only thought running through her mind as they walk into the building together is that this Dr. Burke better be damn good at his job, or none of this is ever going to work out.

“Kate Beckett, I have an appointment,” she says to the receptionist. She knows from her voice that it’s the same woman she talked to on the phone. Her nametag reads Kassandra, and she looks to be around Kate’s own age with short brown hair with a tint of red and bright blue eyes.

“Just a couple papers for you to fill out before you go in,” Kassandra smiles, handing her a clipboard and a pen.

“Isn’t it cheating when he has you filling out a questionnaire first?” Castle whispers as they step away from the desk.

“They’re just medical and billing forms,” she replies, not in the mood for his antics. She studies them for a moment, but after all the forms she’d had to fill out or sign in the hospital, these are a piece of cake. She hands the completed clipboard back to the receptionist.

“He’s ready for you, Miss Beckett,” the receptionist says after checking that all the lines are filled out. Kassandra looks at Castle. “You can have a seat right over there, Mr. Castle, if you’re planning on waiting.” The woman—who must be a fan of his to recognize him on sight, though she acts perfectly professional—turns back to Kate. “This way, please.” After one last shared glance with Castle, who gives her a reassuring nod, Kate follows the receptionist into the hallway. “Right here,” Kassandra smiles, opening a door to her left. “Dr. Burke, Miss Beckett.”

“Thank you,” Kate murmurs, stepping inside. The room has a homey feel, with two large windows that let sunlight stream inside and give a view of the city outside. Dr. Burke is seated in one of two plush armchairs, looking as calm and relaxed as ever. He doesn’t seem to have any sort of note-taking device on him, and she reflects that might make it a tiny bit easier. Might.

“Kate, it’s nice to see you again,” Dr. Burke says, inviting her to sit on the chair opposite him with open arms. His watchful eyes keep careful track of her movements without making her feel self-conscious or scrutinized. “I have to say, I didn’t expect to see you again unless it was for your psych eval. You didn’t seem too into this last time, if I recall correctly.”

“No,” Kate replies slowly, and then feels the need to go on. “No, I wasn’t.”

“Then what brought you back here? What changed, Kate?”

“I…I want to get better. And I’m realizing now I might not be able to do it on my own…” The second it slips out of her mouth, she gives Burke the credit he deserves for sneaking down her barriers this far so quickly. “…in a timely fashion,” she adds, covering herself out of instinct.

“I see. Was there anything in particular that helped you reach this conclusion?” Dr. Burke cocks his head slightly, the very picture of focus and interest and concentration. Now she feels self-conscious.

“Well, when I last came to see you, you warned me about PTSD. It isn’t as easy to manage or as straightforward as I thought.”

The psychologist’s eyes narrow infinitesimally. Obviously he has picked up on the fact she didn’t quite answer the question. But he chooses not to comment, and rather move on. He’s shrewd, and she wonders what it would be like forcing information out of him in interrogation. That’s one suspect interview she’s not sure she’d win. The man radiates this calm, confident, in-charge persona that one can just feel when stepping into the room. “That it is not,” Dr. Burke agrees. “Would you like to tell me about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing?”

She swallows. “There are the nightmares.”

He stops her right there. “What do you dream about, Kate?”

“It changes. Sometimes my own shooting, sometimes the people I love dying. Death is always a factor.”

“I asked you last time what you remembered about your shooting. You declined to answer me then, but I wonder if your response will be different now.”

“I remember everything.” Kate pauses, hoping that will be enough for him, but apparently not. “I was…standing at the podium. Giving my speech about my former Captain. All my friends were in the audience, and Castle was standing off to the side. I got choked up in the middle and before I knew it Castle had tackled me to the ground. I heard the shot and felt the bullet, but I didn’t connect the two things until Castle was on top of me, staring at the bullet wound with this defeated, hopeless look in his eyes.”

“How did that make you feel?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“The way he looked at you. How does that make you feel?”

“Umm…I felt…sad. That he had to go through this. And scared, that I had to. I felt bad for having pulled him into all this.”

“All this?”

With an internal sigh, she remembers that Dr. Burke has no idea about anything in her life—not her abnormal partnership with Castle, not her mom’s murder and how it connects to her shooting. “Castle—Richard Castle—has been shadowing me around for three years doing research for his novels. They’re based on me; I’m not quite sure why. At the end of our first year, when I was finally starting to not hate him because he was actually helpful instead of an annoyance all the time, he opened up my mother’s case again and I kicked him out of my life.” Kate takes a deep breath and continues. “My mother was murdered when I was nineteen, and the killer was never caught. The cops who investigated it attributed it to random gang violence, but I knew there was more to it. That’s why I became a cop, to get justice for her like those cops were unable to.” Quiet tears are falling now, and she can’t stop them.

“Why did you kick him out?” Burke asks. Her tears don’t seem to faze him.

“Because he did the one thing I asked him not to. Because I had shut and shelved that case for a reason, and he didn’t respect that. That case absorbed my first two years as detective, and if I hadn’t put it away for the time being it would have killed me. He reopened old wounds that he had no business poking around in.”

“And I assume the relationship between the two of you was repaired at some point?”

“Yes. He apologized—really apologized, heartfelt—and I took him back.”

“How do you feel about Mr. Castle now?”

“I like him. We’re close.” Dr. Burke waits. “I’m in love with him. He told me he loved him while I was lying on the ground, shot, but it was a while in the hospital before I could accept that. Actually, I think it’s been staring at me in the face for two years, but I couldn’t accept it until now.”

“Why do you think you were finally able to accept it?”

She pauses. “I think I didn’t really have a choice. After his profession, when I first woke up in the hospital, it scared me. I lied and told him I didn’t remember the shooting, didn’t remember what he had said. But the look on his face when I told him that…I couldn’t bear to cause him so much pain. I had to accept it, for both of us. I had to come to terms with what I felt too.”

He gives her a moment to say anything else on the subject that’s on her mind before moving on. “You mentioned nightmares as one of your symptoms. Are there any others that you are experiencing?”

“Flashbacks. Noises startle me. And guns—I can’t stand the sight of them. I go back to that cemetery every time.” Her throat closes up on that last line.

Dr. Burke tilts his head. “It’s completely understandable that you would have an adverse reaction to firearms, Kate. Why is that so upsetting to you?”

“Because they’ve been an integral part of my life for the last ten years. I can’t be a cop if I can’t handle a gun, whether it’s me or the perp wielding it. Hell, you can’t even walk five feet into the precinct without catching a glimpse of one!” She’s upset now, all of this spilling out. “What can I do about it?”

“We’re just getting started, Kate,” Dr. Burke says in his calming voice. “For now, I believe the best thing to do is avoid them. Seeing, holding, and using guns is going to the hardest part of your PTSD recovery, because one was so central to your injury. If you must be around them, it would be best that they were held by people you know well and trust deeply, such as the rest of your team at the precinct.”

“Esposito and Ryan,” Kate nods.

“Yes. If someone you trust is the one holding or carrying the gun and you start to feel unsafe but don’t want to remove yourself from the situation, try to bring to mind all the reasons you trust this person. If you can convince yourself you are in no danger even in the presence of a firearm, you will have made great progress.”

Kate mulls this over. “It makes sense.”

“All right, Kate. I’m going to recommend you come for a visit once a week and we can continue on with your treatment slowly. We’ve gotten a solid foundation for your recovery today. Is there anything else on your mind for the moment?”

“Yes,” Kate remembers. “Right now Castle and I are living up north in relative isolation. I want to move back to the city and begin to re-assimilate myself to these surroundings, but Castle’s worried it’s not such a good idea. What do you think?”

“Only you are an adequate judge of what you can handle, Kate, no one else. If you can get used to city life again without it becoming too much, then yes: it will most likely speed up your recovery. But if you can’t, you shouldn’t push yourself too hard. This isn’t an obstacle that determination alone will be able to get you through.”

She digests this, accepting the non-answer because it puts her, not Castle, in the right. “Okay, thank you.” She stands to leave, two hours up.

“Until next time, Kate,” Dr. Burke shows her to the door. Outside in the small but comfortable lobby, Castle is waiting for her. He’s gauging her emotional state with his eyes, but for once she doesn’t care. She makes an appointment with the receptionist for next time, and then accompanies him out to the car.

“How’d it go?” Castle asks.

“Fine,” she replies. “He gave me some advice, and he was a really good listener. He also agreed with me—we should move back here, to the city.”

“He said that?” Castle questions, disbelief laced in his tone.

“Well, not exactly, but that was the point,” she answers.

“Kate, what did he actually say?”

“He said only I was an adequate judge of what I could handle.”

Castle sighs. “I respectfully disagree. No offense Kate, but I’ve seen you—you’re not a good judge of your capabilities or what’s good for you. You pull consecutive all-nighters when you’re working on your mom’s case, and when there’s a particularly stymieing development in the investigations at the precinct, you forget to eat.”

“I can handle this, Castle. I promise you I can.”

They argue about it all the way back to the cabin.

“I disagree,” Castle says forcefully. They’ve just gotten home, gone to the living room, but the disagreement hasn’t slowed one bit. “I don’t think we should move back to the city! It’s a bad idea, Kate. After the Old Haunt, after the mall, I just don’t see it working! I’m not saying we can never go back, not at all, but you need to give yourself a little more time.”

“I don’t want more time. I might screw up a little in the beginning—it’ll be hard, I know that—but I’ve lived there all my life, I’ll adjust. I need to learn to adjust.”

“No,” Castle shakes his head. “You’re not ready. I don’t think you’re ready for this. I don’t think we should move back to the city right now.”

“Then don’t,” she says, storming out of the room with a locked jaw. He follows at a slower pace just in time to see her snatch the keys off the counter and the door slam behind her. Alarmed, Castle scrambles after her, running out the door as his car is being backed out of the driveway. With a hand over hand spin of the wheel, half a glance backward at the cabin, and a determined expression on her face, Kate peels the car out onto the open road, gaining speed while Castle runs after her, a few feet behind. Luckily, the road takes an extra sharp turn ahead, forcing her to remain at a slower speed. Otherwise he’d have no hope of catching her. After about a hundred meters he puts on a burst of speed and manages to bang on the trunk with his fist. What else is he to do?

To his surprise, the car slows down and he cautiously approaches the window to meet Detective Beckett’s hard stare. “Okay,” Castle pants. “Okay, you win. We’ll move back to the city. But let’s go pack our stuff from the cabin, okay?”

She gives him a hard jerk of her hand towards the passenger side and he runs around the front of the car and pulls the handle. It’s locked—on purpose, he’s sure—and she vindictively waits a second before unlocking it for him. He climbs in the passenger seat and she pulls a hard U-ie, sending the car screaming back towards the driveway.

She’s won, and he’s lost. He’d forgotten just how stubborn Kate Beckett can be.

Back at the cabin, it doesn’t take them very long to gather up all their things and move them to the car. Castle does all the heavy items, including the suitcases, while Beckett checks for anything that could have slipped under the bed or been left in the cupboards. While she finishes up, Castle looks around the living room. He’s in there under the pretense of checking for things left behind like she is, but he’s bored with that and pretty sure knowing he might not see this place again for a while. Despite only having lived here for three weeks, it already has a very homely feel for him. They’ve made memories here, he and Kate. The joy he felt after she told him she remembered everything. Going through her box of photos and items from when she was a kid. Her crawling into his bed for the first time. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. Kate doing yoga in the living room. Castle watching her do yoga in the living room… Yeah, okay, time to go.

Kate is in a much better mood on the ride back to her apartment than on the ride to the cabin, even calling Lanie to tell her the good news. When Lanie suggests they get together for lunch, Kate puts it on speakerphone so Castle can weigh in as well. The M.E. says Esposito and Ryan can clear their schedules for lunch tomorrow and she’s able to as well.

“That sounds great, Lanie,” Kate tells her. “How about we pick up Mexican from that food truck I keep meaning to try and take it over to the Old Haunt for drinks?” She glances at Castle playfully. “It’s okay if we bring outside food into your establishment, right, Castle? It’s not going to hurt your profits too much?”

“As long as you buy drinks,” Castle quips back.

“Okay, it’s settled then,” Lanie says, voice crackly from the phone. “We’ll all meet at the precinct, okay? Javi says they have a confounding murder board all set up for you if you wanna take a quick peek as well.”

Kate smiles. “Sure. See you then, Lanie!”

“Tomorrow, girl!”

Castle turns to Kate once she’s stowed the phone back into her pocket. “You sure ‘bout this?”

“I can’t not go, not when they’ve all cleared their schedules.” She has a point. “Besides, if it becomes too much, I can always just say I’m going to the bathroom and go hide downstairs in the tunnels for a while.” She stops at Castle’s look. “I’m just kidding, Castle.”

“Not funny, Kate.” He’s as serious as can be, deep, penetrating blue eyes fixed on her.

“I know,” she apologizes, “sorry. But still. Doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan.” From the sly smirk on her face, she’s still teasing him. Castle rolls his eyes. He likes it when they get along.

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