Richard Castle gleefully hurried to the answer the bell that sounded at the front door of his loft. He pulled the door open and there she stood – the lovely, intelligent, but tough Detective Kate Beckett, the woman he had been shadowing for over a year and who served as inspiration for his best-selling Nikki Heat series of murder-mystery novels – grinning faintly and holding a case file and bag of Chinese food. After exchanging greetings, he ushered her in the door and took her coat as she sat the Chinese food on the counter in his kitchen. He had invited her over to discuss the latest case they had been having trouble solving.
"Where are Alexis and Martha?" she asked casually, referring to Castle's intelligent and responsible teenage daughter and his flighty ex-Broadway diva mother.
"Alexis is at a study group at a friend's house and Mother is out on a date"
"Really? So who's the lucky man this week?" Beckett asked teasingly.
"You know I don't know," Castle replied thinking. "They come and go with such rapidity. I stopped trying to keep track at some point in college."
Beckett chuckled as Castle laid out the small food containers on a tray then turned to the refrigerator for two bottles of Sam Adams. He held them up questioningly and Beckett nodded.
"Really? You trust me not to ply you with alcohol, here, just the two of us in my apartment?" he flirted, raising his eyebrows and flashing his trademark devilish smile.
"Castle, remind me again what belt I am in karate?" she teased back and raised a single eyebrow.
"Point taken," he relented sheepishly and picked up the tray with the food and beers and made his way toward his office with Beckett following triumphantly behind. So they could concentrate, and so Castle could hear when the other Castles return home, Beckett left the door open only a crack.
No sooner had they both disappeared into his office, than Martha snuck quietly down the stairs from her bedroom. She was dressed to the nines, but her hair was slightly and incriminatingly tussled and her lipstick slightly smeared. She tip-toed through the kitchen to the wine fridge, and after pulling a few bottles out halfway only to replace them, found the one she wanted. She smiled a quick, excited smile and shut the fridge door a little harder than she wanted to, causing the bottles to clang. She froze momentarily, afraid that she'd be discovered. When she thought the coast was clear, she pulled a corkscrew from a drawer, and began tip-toeing back towards the stairs. Only her son's re-emergence from his office stopped her in her tracks.
"Mother!" he said, surprised. "When did you…"
There was nothing she could do but adopt a cat-that-ate-the-canary look and stand there in all her embarrassed glory holding the wine bottle in one hand and the corkscrew in the other.
"Oh, I get it," Castle finally said, the realization of what was going on finally dawning on him. "The date isn't over yet, huh? Don't worry. Mum's the word," he said and made a zipper motion over his mouth. "But then again, you and your Mystery Man knew that, didn't you?" He said, unable to resist a final playful dig. He trotted happily to the kitchen, located a bottle opener for his and Beckett's beers, and returned to his office.
Whew, Martha thought. That was close. She slunk to the stairs, relieved that she didn't have to tip toe anymore. She just prayed that Castle didn't discover the identity of her date, who she now found herself nose-to-nose with at the bottom of the stairs.
"What kept you?" he asked.
"Shh!" Martha urged, placing her index finger against his mouth. "My son knows we're here, so keep it down. And the last thing we want is for the person he's in his office with right now to find out that it's you I brought home."
Initially her date nodded in assent, but then his face changed. "What's the matter?" he whispered in a slightly seductive tone. "Are you ashamed of me, Dame Martha?"
"No, dear, it's just…"
"Gotcha!" Castle yelled from across the room and he hopped out from behind the office door where he had apparently been eavesdropping. But all the joy of his discovery quickly left his face when he recognized the identity of his mother's beau, the man who she had been out with every week for the last few months, the man who had obviously mussed her hair and smeared her lipstick.
Martha cleared her throat. "Darling, may I introduce Jim Beckett?"
Castle was speechless. My mother has been dating Beckett's father? Of all the things he had seen in his life, of all the freaky murder scenes he had worked with Beckett, of all the frightening and macabre stories had written, for some reason he could not bring his mind to process what he was looking at. When he had returned to his office after retrieving the bottle opener, he shushed an increasingly impatient Beckett, and plastered his ear to the door in hopes of sneakily discovering the identity of the man his mother was obviously determined to hide from him. He was a mystery writer, and this was one mystery he could not resist trying to solve. Plus, it would provide at least a few weeks' worth of ammunition he could readily draw on whenever he needed to knock his mother's ego down a peg. But the last person he had expected to see was Beckett's widowed father, standing in his apartment, tie loosened, faint traces of lipstick on his face, forehead to forehead with his mother.
"Mother!? What on earth are you doing!?" he demanded.
"Richard, where are your manners?" she chastised, trying to deflect the awkwardness of the moment. "This man is a guest in our home."
"I'm sorry, Mother." Castle answered sternly and stepped toward Jim, extending his hand. "Mr. Beckett, Jim, it's a great pleasure to meet you finally. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about you from Kate." They shook and Castle continued, much to Martha's chagrin. She could tell it was taking all of his charm and willpower to be as polite as possible. She could also tell that his veneer of cordiality was quickly wearing thin. "I've looked forward to meeting you ever since Kate and I began working together but, I must say, I didn't ever in my wildest imagination, and I'm sure Mother has told you how wild that can get, think we'd meet under these circumstances."
"Richard…" Martha began to explain, but Castle cut her off. His dam of tolerance had broken.
"Mother, just tell me…"
"Castle, what the hell is going…" To everyone's shock Beckett had finally lost her patience and emerged from the office. Her eyes flew open when she saw not only her Dad in Castle's apartment, but her Dad's face besmirched with lipstick, Martha's hair mussed, and the angry look on Castle's face. It took only a second for her detective instincts to kick in and for her to put two-and-two together. "Dad?! OK, someone explain to me what is going on right now!" she demanded sounding just as she did when several months ago she caught Castle collecting bets as to whether or not he and she could solve one of their murder cases before her two squad members, Detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito, could solve theirs. She knew exactly what was going on, but wanted to hear it for herself.
"I believe mother was just getting to that."Castle growled and walked to Beckett's side.
"Alright you two. You have a right to know what's going on," Martha relented.
"Damn straight!" Castle and Beckett said simultaneously, their synchronicity going right over their heads.
"Kate, dear, your father and I met 3 months ago when I was doing that play about Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. He waited for me outside the stage door after the show, introduced himself as your father and asked if I'd care to join him for coffee. I said I would like it very much and the rest, as they say, is history." Martha finished.
"Katie, please don't be mad," Jim Beckett added. "I admit when I introduced myself I wasn't interested in Martha romantically, at least not initially." Castle bristled at Jim's referring to Martha by her first name.
"Then what are you doing with her lipstick all over your mouth? Have you all of sudden become a dentist and you're checking her for cavities?" Castle guessed with biting sarcasm. Meanwhile, it looked like the mental image was making Kate nauseous.
"If you insist on making it your business," he attempted only to have his daughter interrupt him.
"Which it is, Dad." Kate said angrily emphasizing the word Dad.
"We'll discuss that later," Jim said trying to gain the upper hand. "I wanted not only to compliment Martha on her talent, but to have her compliment you on yours," he finished indicating Castle, whose expression softened a bit.
"But, Dad," Kate insisted, her detective skills now in overdrive. "Why didn't you just stop by the precinct? Castle's there every day. You could have just told him yourself instead of … going through his mother."
"Ugh, you couldn't think of another way to put that other than using the words 'going through'?" Castle sickeningly asked Kate.
"Oh, you're right. That does leave a bad taste in the mouth," Kate said back, her nausea worsening. She quickly shook her head and recovered her focus. "Castle, this isn't about you or me or choosing the right words to describe what's happened here. This is about your Mom…and my Dad…" she stammered, not wanting to go any further.
"Dating would be the word you're looking for," Jim finished. "And excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing how funny and warm and smart this lady is as we were talking that first night. Now I see what you're talking about, Katie." He hugged Martha closer to him as he spoke.
"Dad!" Kate said, her face tensing. But the cat was out of the bag.
"You talk to your Dad about me?" Castle asked, his playfulness having returned to Kate's great aggravation.
"Only about what an incredible annoyance you can be," Kate shot back. She again attempted to refocus the conversation on the matter of her father's and Martha's newly discovered relationship. "Can we get back to the present here, please, everyone! We still have to deal with the fact that your mother's lipstick is currently smudged all over my father's face!"
"Right, so why didn't you just come talk to me at the precinct?" Castle said, still eyeing Kate with his peripheral vision.
"Because I didn't want to embarrass Katie when I asked Mr. Castle here to ease up on the detail he puts in his love scenes." Jim said seriously. "Really, this is my daughter you've based a character on. How would you feel if I wrote a steamy love scene about your daughter in my own book?"
"I see your point," Castle relented. "But that doesn't mean either of us have to like this."
"Richard, Kate, I'm sorry, but it's not a question of whether or not either of you like this," Martha said. "Jim and I are single, consenting adults who enjoy each others company and we will continue to see each other as long as we please, won't we, dear?"
Jim nodded in agreement.
"Dear?! Mother!" Castle exclaimed as if he was a little boy whose mother had denied him ice cream. Kate looked equally uncomfortable at the mention of the term of endearment.
"Look, Jim," Martha began again, emphasizing her use of Mr. Beckett's first name. "I think we've given these two enough to digest. Let's just get your things together and call it a night." And she led him upstairs to her bedroom where his coat had been hidden.
"Just make sure that's all you do up there!" Castle called after them.
Kate rolled her eyes and stewed, hands on her hips, obviously not mollified by her father's efforts at defending her honor. "Now do you see why I didn't think your shadowing me was a good idea? Now do you get it?" Kate questioned.
"I thought you liked having me around? You said I make your job more fun, remember?"
"That was until your mother started boinking my father! What should I expect next, my apartment to be blown up by some crazed fan of yours?" Kate seethed half serious, half sarcastic.
"Don't turn this around on me," Castle defended himself. "I didn't force them to go out with each other and do the … other stuff. And besides it takes two to boink, or has it been so long that you've forgotten how that works?"
Kate blushed slightly then recovered. "Castle focus! We're not talking about my sex life here! We're talking about your mother seducing my father!" Kate spat out, at the end of her patience. As soon as she said it a little part of her wanted to take it back, but she also wanted to make the point that Martha's man-chasing may need to be curbed for the sake of others.
"My mother seducing your father!?" Castle asked chuckling angrily and incredulously. "How do we know it wasn't the other way around?"
"Well she does have a reputation…"
"Oh, I get it. You think my mother's a slut, don't you?" Castle asked clearly incensed.
"I'm just saying that she might want to tone it down a little when it comes to men." Kate answered trying to diffuse things a little.
"Where do you get off judging my mother? Besides, can't your Dad handle himself? He doesn't always need his big, bad cop daughter covering his ass all the time does he? Yeah, he looks man enough to stand on his own two feet. But then again, appearances can be deceiving. After all, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam were two of his best friends for a time weren't they?" Castle finished. He knew he'd touched a nerve with her, but he was so angry at her having insulted his mother that he no longer cared. He wanted to wound her like she had just wounded him and his family, and for all the times she had embarrassed him, made fun of him, or teased him.
"YOU SAY ONE MORE WORD…" Kate bellowed apoplectic with anger.
"Tell me something, did he always need you or your Mom propping him up or did that start when your Mom was killed?"
Kate took a step back in shock. She couldn't believe that Castle, who she had trusted enough to share some of her deepest fears and darkest memories, had just unearthed them like a dog digs up a bone. She was speechless. Her heart pounded in her chest and for a split second she wanted to pull her gun and pistol whip him. This man who she had come to respect, trust, and even admire had ripped away all the armor she had worn for so long and left her naked and vulnerable. She didn't know whether or scream at him or to burst into tears. Instead she took a step back towards him, looked him in the eye and smacked him across the face with the sweet spot of her palm.
"You bastard!" was all she could muster.
Castle felt his cheek where Kate's hand had made contact. It stung slightly and he could feel the skin turning red as the blood rushed to the affected area. He'd been hit, and even threatened by women before, but never by Kate Beckett. She seemed to be experienced at controlling her anger, bitterness, and aggressiveness and channeling it into catching the bad guys. But this time, she had directed a decade's worth of that pent up rage onto rage onto him. Much like Kate earlier in their argument, as soon as the words left his mouth he wanted to take them back, but knew he couldn't. His irritation at her consistent needling and teasing him both at the precinct and in his own home in front of his family had begun eating away at him and he was tired of it. So he lashed out. Now the results were standing in front of him with a clenched jaw and hurt eyes that looked to be welling up with tears.
Just as Castle thought the evening couldn't get much worse, he heard his daughter's key turning in the front door lock and saw the door swing open. His daughter entered with her book bag slung over her shoulder, completely unaware of anything that had happened. Martha, her hair tidied up and makeup corrected, and Jim, wearing his overcoat and sans lipstick, had also descended the stairs and had obviously heard the thwack that had echoed through the loft when Kate's hand flew to Castle's face.
"Did I miss something?" Alexis said seriously, after perceptively sizing up the situation.
"I'll explain later dear." Martha answered. Alexis put her books down and tried to blend into the background.
"Dad, are you ready?" Kate said through a still-clenched jaw. Jim nodded and turned to kiss Martha on the cheek, thought better of it and winked instead. Martha smiled back briefly.
"Alexis," Kate nodded in the teenager's direction then took her Dad by the arm and led him out of the apartment. When they were in the hallway, she shot Castle a murderous look then slammed the door on him and his family.
The next afternoon, Kate and Castle stood in the office of Beckett's Captain, Roy Montgomery, in the headquarters of the 12th precinct. The seasoned cop had noticed the two arguing all morning and had called them both in his office for an explanation or, at least, to find a way to keep the peace.
"Look, guys, I got enough to worry about without having to play referee between you two," he began. "Besides the fact that budget cuts will come down on us if we don't improve our case closure rate, Karpowski moved on to another division, which means I'm down one person until the city grants me a hiring freeze exemption, and now I've gotta find someone to sit on a task force to help the FBI solve a series of little old lady kidnappings that's been going on under our noses in Manhattan, which will leave me another person down. So whatever's going on, it's none of my business, but you need to find a way either to work it out yourselves or leave it at home."
When both Kate and Castle did nothing but exchange more harsh looks, Montgomery sat down in his office chair, clearly frustrated. "Alright, I know you two haven't always seen eye to eye before, but you've been able to work out your differences. What makes time different?"
"She called my mother a whore," Castle spat out.
"So he called my Dad a weak-boned lush!" Kate shot back.
"Are both you serious?" Montgomery asked incredulous. "What the hell happened that got you both so riled up because I know neither of you would go there unless you were peeved at the other one plenty?"
Both struggled to describe what had happened, but neither could find the right words. They both felt a combination of embarrassment that their dirty laundry would be aired in public, shame that they'd brought their personal lives to the precinct, and anger at the other person – all of which they did not want to take out on the Captain.
"You know what? I take it back. I don't wanna know," Montgomery caught himself. "But I think it's obvious that you two need a few days to cool off. So Beckett, as of now, you are our rep on that task force I mentioned. Castle, you'll work with Ryan and Esposito to clear your outstanding cases. Now, are we all happy?"
They both nodded and exited Montgomery's office. Beckett headed to her desk to collect her things and head to Manhattan to meet up with the task force. She also wanted to drop by the morgue to let Lanie know to call Ryan and Esposito instead of her if she found anything on the victims in their unsolved cases.
As she was passing Esposito's desk, on the end of which Castle was now perched, Castle said with as much sarcasm as he could muster "Have a good day, Detective."
She turned on her heel with the perfect comeback: "Only if I never hear your voice again." She then headed for the elevator and left.
"Dude, is she ever pissed," Ryan observed.
"Yeah, what'd you do to her anyway?" Esposito asked in a big-brotherly way.
"It's a private matter guys," Castle said and flashed the detectives a look that told them not to go there.
"You know you really should apologize even if you don't think it was your fault. I do that all the time with Jenny, and then a couple days later she comes to me and says I didn't have to apologize that she was wrong too, and then she puts her…"
"Ryan! No offense, Jenny is a sweet girl, but I'm really not in the mood for The Continuing Adventures of Honeymilk and Jenny."
"Alright, fine," he relented "But you'll save yourself a lot of grief." He stood up and headed off to collect the evidence for one of their cases from the precinct's evidence storage area.
Castle watched him leave, then turned and found Esposito looking at him seriously. "Look, bro I don't wanna get all up your business," Esposito said. "So save the story of what happened. But let me tell you this, if you do whatever you did again, I will make you regret it." The detective's eyes bored into Castle until he nodded his understanding. Esposito then stood up and left to catch up with Ryan, leaving Castle sitting on the desk thinking "I already do."
And so it went for a week: Castle worked with Ryan and Esposito and on the cases they normally would have worked with Kate. Surprisingly enough, they caught a break on several of them, made arrests, and did more than their part to help get the precinct's case closure rate up. The three only saw Kate intermittently since the task force was keeping her busy with witness interviews, crime scene walks, and meetings at the FBI headquarters. The few times they had spied each other resulted in much of the same: the exchange of angry looks and no words.
One night in the midst of what Ryan and Esposito were calling outside of Castle and Kate's presence "The New Ice Age," Castle sat in his loft with Martha and Alexis.
"Dear, you know you have to tell her you're sorry. That was an awful thing for you to say to her," Martha said.
"Did you not hear me when I said she implied that you were loose or … I can't say it with Alexis here," Castle pleaded.
"Dad, I appreciate what you're doing, but you don't have to protect me," Alexis reassured. "I'm in high school with hormonal girls and testosterone-filled boys. Sometimes I learn more about sex ed just listening to my classmates' weekends."
"Please tell me these would not be the same classmates you go study with?" Castle asked.
"No, they would not and stop trying to change the subject," Alexis answered. "Have you noticed how you do that? You seem to run away whenever talk comes around to Gram's love life. She's an adult, she's single, she has a mind of her own, so what's wrong with her dating Detective Beckett's dad? Or anyone's Dad for that matter?"
Martha put an arm around Alexis's shoulders and hugged her, just as Jim Beckett did to his daughter miles away in her own apartment. The two had just returned from having dinner.
"You know, honey, there was a time when I did need your protection," Jim consoled. "From myself. From the demons that drove me to drink. But, I'm fine now. I'm past that I promise you. That doesn't mean I don't still love and miss your mother. It just means that I want to move forward. That's why you put that case file in storage, remember? You needed to move forward too."
"I know, Dad, but I can't help it. Maybe it's the training or all the people in relationships I've seen who take advantage of the weaknesses in others."
"Katie, being open to a new relationship isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of confidence. It means that you're not afraid to get out there, to trust others, and to trust yourself."
"In my experience it leaves you vulnerable to getting hurt."
"Well, given your history, I can understand why you feel that way. But let me make a suggestion to you - that you try putting all the energy you spend fighting into just living."
"That's why I enjoy being with Jim, dear," Martha explained to Castle back at the loft. "He's been down as dark a path as one can go down, so he's not afraid to live. To enjoy himself. To have fun. But he also knows how far is too far. Believe it or not, he's actually been a moderating influence on me."
"See Dad," Alexis continued. "It's like I said, Gram knows what she's doing. And like me with the talk about my classmates' weekends, she may not need you to protect her as much anymore."
"Well, gee, isn't it nice to know that I'm not needed around here," Castle complained. "It's finally happened – what every writer dreads – I've become irrelevant."
"Dad, you're my best friend. There's no way I'd ever consider you irrelevant," Alexis disagreed.
"Well, said darling. And might I add you are still my son and I will always be proud of you even if everyone on the planet considers you irrelevant," Martha said as she kissed Castle on the forehead. "Now that mushy time is over, what do we do about you apologizing to Beckett?"
"I don't know, Dad," Kate said to Jim after he said that she should tell Castle she was sorry. "It's become so automatic putting up those walls. I don't know if I can even begin to take them down, even for Castle."
"Katie, you respect him and Martha tells me he respects you. Of course he does, he wouldn't have created a character based on you, if he didn't."
Kate gave her Dad a dubious look and cleared her throat at her father's allusion to Castle's newest best-selling series of books surrounding the character Nikki Heat.
"Listen, I know he makes your job easier. He makes you happy. I've seen it on your face since you've been working together. And frankly, I figure what more do you need than someone who makes you a better person?"
"Maybe someone with a little discretion and respect for my boundaries," Kate answered a little more curtly than she wanted.
"You both were angry. Anger makes people do things they'd never imagine they could do under normal circumstances, you know that."
"Listen, Katie, remember what I said about spending all your energy living life?"
"It's a lot easier than spending it being angry at someone."
"You're right, Dad. Sometimes I wonder if I'd be out of a job if more people would just come clean and apologize to each other. I'll talk to Castle next time I see him. Promise."
"You're right, Mother, Alexis. It is easier," Castle said and for the first time in a week, his face and body looked relaxed. "I'll talk to Beckett first chance I get. Promise."
"That's my son," Martha beamed as Alexis kissed her Dad on the cheek and put her arms around his neck in a warm hug.
"Now don't go feeling irrelevant, but I'm late for a date with Jim."
"And I have a study group again."
"Just make sure it's calculus or history or something boring that doesn't involve hormones or testosterone."
"Of course, Dad. Good night." Alexis said cheerily and she picked up her book bag and walked out.
"Tell Jim I said hello," Castle said sincerely as Martha followed Alexis out the door smiling from ear to ear.
Hours later, a buzzing woke Castle from a deep nap he had fallen into on the couch of his living room. He rubbed his eyes, closed his laptop which he had left open on his lap, and registered that the buzzing was his cell phone vibrating where he had left it on the coffee table. He picked it up and his nerves caused his heart to skip a beat initially. It was Beckett. Could she be calling to apologize? It didn't matter. Even if that wasn't her intention, it was his now and he would set things right. He hit the send button just as Alexis came in the door with a strange, panicked look on her face.
"Hello Kate," Castle began.
"Is that Detective Beckett?" Alexis asked visibly shaken by something. Castle nodded in response and made a motion for her to hold on a second.
"Hi Castle. I'm sorry to call you so late, but…"
"No let me go first," Castle began then took a deep breath. "I wanted to say I'm profoundly sorry for what happened last week. I was angry, and hurt and said some things that were awful and very hurtful to both you and your Dad. And I know I can't take it back, but I'd like to try to make it up to you or at least start over from where we were before I caught Mother in the kitchen with your Dad. What I'm saying is I'm very, very sorry."
Alexis smiled, but still looked strangely worried.
There was a pause on the other end and when Kate finally spoke, her voice shook momentarily then steadied. "Castle, that's very sweet of you and I appreciate it, really I do. But unfortunately that's not why I called."
"It's not?" Castle replied, his face changing from pleased expectation to disappointed surprise.
Alexis shook her head and mouthed the words "It's Gram."
Instantaneously, Castle's face changed to reflect shock and fear.
"What's going on?" he asked Kate.
"Martha was attacked tonight, we think by whoever is responsible for the series of kidnappings I've been working with that task force on. I hope you don't mind, but I called Alexis and told her to meet me at your loft so we can all go to the hospital together. I'm pulling up to your place right now."
"No I don't mind at all. We'll be down in a second." With that, he hung up, grabbed his coat and ran out the door with Alexis following in his wake.
When they arrived at the hospital, Jim, Captain Montgomery, and a few other members of the task force Kate had been assigned to met them outside Martha's room in the intensive care unit. The doctor arrived and explained that Martha had fallen into hypovolemic shock resulting from a severe loss of blood and was unconscious. She had been cut with a knife in the femoral artery and would have bled to death had a bystander not witnessed the attack and called 911. Kate and the other task force members explained that from what they had pieced together, Martha was headed to the subway on her way home from meeting Jim when she was attacked. She was able to break free of her attacker and was running away when her leg was slashed. Fortunately, the witness who had called 911 was so reliable that his information led to an arrest.
After being told all this, Alexis fell into Castle's arms crying. Jim looked visibly shaken and Kate rubbed his shoulder in an effort to comfort him. She broke away when she got a phone call on her cell and Castle took the opportunity to approach Jim.
"I suppose Kate told you about our argument," he said somewhat sheepishly.
"She did," was all he said. Castle couldn't tell if his tone was understanding or something much worse.
"I've already said it to her, but you deserve to know too, so, I'm sorry," Castle apologized. "Very sorry. I was angry, very wrong and what I said hurt you and Kate a great deal. Nobody deserves to be treated as I treated the both of you and I hope you both can forgive me."
"Castle, I forgive you," Jim said, emphasizing the I. "I know it was a shock to see Martha and I together and I can't blame you for being upset. As for what you said about me and my drinking, it's honestly nothing I haven't heard before. Just like Martha's been called every name in the book for dating so many men. So, again, I forgive you, but on two conditions."
"Anything," Castle said, waiting expectantly.
"First, it's your Mother's and my business who we date, and second, watch yourself on those Nikki Heat sex scenes."
Castle smiled widely and extended his hand to Jim. "Deal."
Later that night, after Captain Montgomery had driven Alexis to a friend's to spend the night so Castle could stay at the hospital, Castle sat in a recliner in Martha's room in the ICU. She was stable, thanks to several pints of blood donated by various personnel from the 12th. Even someone from the Mayor's office had called to inquire for the Mayor, a friend of Castle's, as to what blood type was needed. When it was determined that the Mayor had the necessary blood type, he hurried over and gladly donated as did Esposito, Ryan's girlfriend Jenny, and Jim Beckett. For the first time since before his argument with Kate, Castle felt quite relaxed. He was drifting off to sleep when the sound of the room's door opening roused him.
It was Kate. She grinned briefly then spoke. "Oh, I'm sorry. I can come back later if you want," she offered. Castle refused, stretched, and adjusted the recliner so he was sitting more upright. She stood there, looking at Martha, and exhaled heavily. Castle got the distinct impression that there was something on her mind that she wanted to say, but she didn't know how to begin.
"Something on your mind, Detective?" Castle prompted standing up from the recliner.
"Yes, uh, about what you said earlier, your apology," she began tentatively. "I accept, Castle. I appreciate everything you said very, very much. And while we're on the subject, I owe you an apology. I was surprised, frustrated that we hadn't gotten any work done, and upset at Dad, and I took it all out on you by saying some things that were uncalled for, very inappropriate and wrong. How your mother lives her life and who she dates is her business, not mine. So, I'm sorry. All that really matters is that she and Dad enjoy each other's company. Life's too short," she added, and cast a quick glance at Martha lying in the hospital bed.
"You're right. It is. Apology accepted, Detective," Castle said smiling. He was relieved to see Kate smiling back him, her eyes the happiest he'd seen them in a long time.
"How's she doing?" she asked indicating Martha.
"The doctor, and our favorite Medical Examiner, one Dr. Parrish, both think she'll be fine once she wakes up," he answered. "She's lucky though. But she'll need lots of rest, which, as you know, will be our biggest problem."
Kate chuckled briefly then sat gently on the end of the hospital bed and looked seriously at Martha.
"You OK?" he asked.
"She's not the only one who's lucky. You are too, you know. That you were here, you got to see her. To say goodbye if things took a turn for the worse."
Castle now knew what Kate was getting at. He slowly sat back down on the edge of the recliner's cushion.
"You never had that opportunity did you? With your mother?"
"No. We didn't," she said as a pained look took over her face. Castle thought he saw tears welling in her eyes too. "As you know, she was already dead by the time we got home. Even with the funeral, the visits to the cemetery, and all the therapy, it never seemed like enough to me. I've always felt like so much was unresolved."
"Well, it's natural to feel that way, I guess. Especially since we still don't know who ordered the hit," Castle tried to reassure her.
"It's more than that though," she said still looking at Martha. "I wish I could have spoken to her when there there was a possibility that she could hear me. There's so much I wish I could have told her," Kate said, her voice faltering. A tear began to track its way down her cheek as she fingered Johanna Beckett's wedding ring that Kate wore on a chain around her neck. She quickly wiped away the tear and attempted to compose herself.
Castle wished there was a way he could help her, but, having never having lost a close family member, he couldn't emotionally relate to her pain. He reached out and touched her hand. Initially, she looked surprised and Castle was afraid that he had angered her. But, she smiled and kept her hand where it was, letting him massage it gently with his thumb. Just then, an idea struck him.
"I have an idea," he said and scooted close to edge of the recliner's cushion. "Why don't you tell what you wanted to say to your Mom to her?"
Kate looked bewildered. She made a couple attempts to speak, but failed. Then Castle saw her rational, investigative mind taking over, and she began shaking her head. "Castle, that's unbelievably sweet and thoughtful of you, but it just wouldn't be the same."
"I know it won't be exactly the same, but it could be the next best thing. C'mon, she's out cold, so she won't remember anything you say to her. And I'll step outside and give you your privacy."
Kate still looked doubtful, but seemed to be warming to the idea.
"Kate, my mother likes you a lot. She'd be glad to do this even if she was conscious. What's the matter, you afraid of a little role play?" he asked playfully raising both eyebrows.
"Are you serious?" Kate asked unable to believe that she'd finally been given the opportunity for which she had longed for so many years. More tears were forming in her eyes.
"Yes, I am," Castle answered sincerely and rose from the recliner. As he stepped in front of Kate sitting on the end of Martha's bed to head for the door, Kate stood up, put her arms around his neck and hugged him warmly. Castle hugged her back and felt her tremble as her emotions finally got the better of her. They held each other just like that for over a minute, no talking, no worries, without a care in the world. When they finally broke apart, Castle held her forearms until he was sure she had composed herself. In the crook of one her arms, he felt a small lump.
"What's that?" he asked, though he thought he already knew.
"Oh, it turns out I had the right blood type so I donated earlier too."
Castle beamed back at her and, unable to hold himself back, leaned in and kissed her on her cheek.
"You've earned this, Kate," he said still smiling and released his hold on her. He stepped around her and continued towards the door to the room. As he reached the doorway, he turned back to see Kate now sitting in the recliner, looking lovingly at Martha. She looked back at him, flashed one of her grins that Castle had come to love seeing and mouthed the words "Thank you." He nodded, then stepped through the doorway and shut the door behind him.