The door handle is cool under her her hand as she twists it, letting herself into the loft. There's a shout and the sound of something breakable and expensive being knocked over from the study before Castle and Alexis emerge. "You forgot to call!" Alexis exclaims, running up to her.

"Oh, Alexis, I'm sorry," Kate replies. "During break Espo and Ryan showed up to cheer me on and then it was time to go back in. It didn't even occur to me."

"It's okay," Alexis promises. "So? And?" She looks at her expectantly, poised to jump up and down upon the reception of good news.

Kate can’t stop the smile from spreading across her face as she pulls her badge out to flash at big anxious Castle and little red-headed excitable Castle. "I passed!"

"That's great!" Alexis shrieks, springing into the air and engulfing Kate. As soon as she releases, tall, muscular, familiar-smelling Castle's arms embrace her. His breath tickles her ear.

“I’m so proud of you.”

“Thanks,” Kate whispers back. “I love you. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

He pulls away and winks at her. “And don’t you forget it.”

She falls into his hug again. “Never.”

“So, when do you start again?” Alexis asks, chipper and breaking their moment. Perhaps that was her plan.

“Desk duty tomorrow through Monday to get back into it, and then I’m waiting for a body call,” Kate answers with a grin.

Over Alexis’s head, Castle mouths, “Booty call,” and snickers. She rolls her eyes at him.

“Is my dad being inappropriate again behind me?” Alexis asks without turning around.

“No,” Beckett replies at the same time as Castle says truthfully, “Yes.”

“Okay, I’ll take that as my cue to leave,” Alexis smiles. At Kate’s look, she adds, “Senior year’s coming up fast and all my college-destined classmates have started writing their submission essays already. I promised Paige I’d help her with hers since I already got into Stanford.” She nods at Kate as if confirming something to herself. “We’ll make it a sleepover to give you two some alone time. Congratulations again, Kate.” She gives Castle a kiss on the cheek, scoops up her purse and phone, and exits the loft.

“Sometimes I worry that she knows all too much of what goes on around here,” Kate muses, staring after her.

“Well, in all the years she’s lived here, between me and Mother if she’s not scarred already she never will be,” Castle says. Kate swats him on the arm with the back of her hand.

“Some parent you are, Castle.”

“I’ll remember you said that when we’ve got a little one of our own that won’t stop crying all hours of the night.” He stuck his tongue out at her. “So, dinner: in or out?”

“Something quiet in, I think,” she replies. “Besides, that makes it easy if we get...distracted.”

He cocks his head, pulling his “Dad knows best...but no one listens!” apron--a Father’s Day gift from Alexis--off the shelf and donning it. “Detective Beckett, I like the way you think.”

They’re lying in his bed together, leaning up against the headboard in various states of undress. She’s reading a magazine by flashlight; he’s typing away on his computer. Or at least, he’s pretending to. Every so often he sneaks a glance her way, but she seems utterly absorbed in the article she’s reading. Something about celebrity-what’s-her-face’s perfect wedding. He returns his attention to the final draft of Heat Rises.

"I gave up, Castle." Kate's voice is hollow. She's no longer looking at her magazine but staring off into space. The sudden change in her demeanor is starling.

"What do you mean?"

"In the hospital. I gave up on you. On us."

"Kate...having moments of doubt isn't the same as giving up."

"Yeah, I did. I tried so hard to shut you out, but I couldn't." She leans into him, wet tears soaking into his pajamas as she sets the magazine down on the nightstand. "I'm so sorry I gave up on us, Castle, I'm so sorry."

"Hey, it's okay," he hugs her to him, shutting his computer lid screen and discarding it to the side. "It's okay. You came back to me, you let me in, and that's what matters. Look at me." She does, watery eyes locked with his. "I will never, ever give up on you."

"I won't on you either," she promises. "I love you, Castle." His heart flutters in his chest at the words.

"I love you too, Kate. What...what brought this on?"

She laughs quietly at herself. “That stupid magazine. Looking at that wedding dress, made me think about all the things I nearly missed by being my usual, closed-off self in the hospital. If you weren’t so doggedly persistent...” She snuggles into him, cuddling up against him in the darkness, and for a while they are silent. He breaks it.

"Do you ever wonder what would've happened to you if it wasn't for your mom’s murder?"

"Only every day, Castle." Kate pulls away from him slightly.

"But I mean, who you would be. Would you be the same person you are now? How would you be different? How would your life be different?"

"This is too deep of thinking for this late of night."

"Oh, right. Sorry." He doesn't sound all that apologetic. They lie there on their backs next to one another for a while, listening to each other's breathing while lost in their own thoughts.

"I wouldn't carry this weight on my shoulders," she says finally. He's quiet; she wonders if he's asleep. She feels the need to keep going, whether he's listening or not. "I would be...freer, I guess. Freer with my emotions, my love... I wouldn't be a cop. I would have gone to Stanford, become a lawyer like my mom. I think I still would've ended up with you, though."

"How so?" He is awake after all.

"The power of the universe," she says simply, flipping onto her side to face him. They're both smiling. "I would have gone to so many of your book signings; we were bound to meet over and over again. Maybe one of those times we got to talking or maybe you liked what you saw as you were signing my chest with that little black pen."

Castle sits bolt upright in bed. "I've signed your chest?"

Kate twirls a piece of hair over her mouth, eyes dancing mischievously. "Yeah."

"Tell me there are pictures!” he exclaims.

She grins in spite of herself, teasing him. “Several.”

“Can I see them?”

She appears to ponder that for a moment, hand sliding not-so-innocently across his chest as she leans closer to him. “In the morning. I have...other plans for us right now.”

“Okay,” Castle says, and his sudden intake of air almost chokes him. “Okay. But...but before we begin, can I have that in writing?”

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