A/N: A post ep for "Sucker Punch", one of my all-time favorite Castle episodes.My contribution to #CastleFanficMonday. It kind of got away from me, but I hope it still works. I hope you enjoy!

The Box

She was silent as she sat at the table, methodically going through the box. The television was on in the background, just white noise. Complete silence was just another reminder she was alone, so she always had something going, whether she paid it any real attention or not.

It had been a long time since she'd brought this box home. It usually lived in her locker at the precinct, mostly untouched except to move it to the side in order to make room for something else.

It served as a reminder whenever she saw it. A reminder of why she became a cop, and a reminder of why she let it go. On the face of it, she understood that keeping the box in her locker was like keeping a bottle of whiskey in her father's cupboard, i.e. a bad idea.

But as odd as it seemed, the box was also a lifeline. A way of saying to herself – and her mother – it's here, waiting. Waiting for more evidence to come along so justice could be served. A way of saying that what Kate does is important, but not at the sake of her sanity.

Until today.

Today she learned more about her mother's case than she'd ever learned going over the case umpteen times. Certainly more than Raglan had ever told her and her father.

She looked up, thinking. She needed to call her dad. Tell him that even though the man who hired Coonan was still at large, the man who actually done the physical deed – the man who had actually killed Johanna Beckett – was dead at Kate's hands.

Taking a deep breath, Kate held back the tears. Shooting Dick Coonan was the right thing to do and she'd do it again in a heartbeat. But who knew how far this had set things back?

Suddenly, the TV noise jumped out of the background and into Kate's consciousness.

"Look at me, when I come to this country I come with nothing. I come on boat, and now…I own a boat!"

Oh, no. Not happening. If that infomercial hadn't been annoying enough before, it wasn't even laughable now. She wondered if the NYPD could have it pulled from the airwaves, citing Johnny Vong's arrest for heroin smuggling.

She stood, stormed over to the television and snapped off the screen as though it had personally offended her and she thought maybe it had.

Looking around the darkened room, Kate thought she might as well go to bed. It wasn't late, but even with what little new information she'd gleaned from Coonan, she was going a little cross-eyed examining the contents of the box. How she wished something new would jump out at her.

Castle. She could call Castle. She knew he would jump at the chance to work the case.

But no. After the near destruction of their relationship last year, she absolutely didn't want him to know about the existence of her box. She did recognize now that he was just trying to help, but look at what had happened today. He'd nearly gotten killed and he hadn't been nosing into anything. She didn't want anything to happen to him working this case. She ignored the tiny voice in her ear saying she didn't want anything to happen to him period.

Kate had sent him home to celebrate his survival with his family. He'd protested – tried to get her to come home with him – "After all, Detective, you did save my life," he'd told her.

But she couldn't. Not this time. Kate knew she wouldn't be good company tonight. Her one chance at the answer to her mother's murder had been taken away by a bullet…shot from her gun.

All she could hope for was that there would be other chances in the future.

She'd tried to turn on the snark for him. Tried to make things a little lighter so he'd know she was okay.

"I just need some alone time to recharge," she had said. "You wear me out, Castle."

But the soft smile he gave her told her he saw right through her, but he allowed her the out anyway.

And it wasn't really a lie anyway. Castle did wear her out. She also needed time to herself to cry. She'd certainly cried at the precinct, but that was the adrenaline rush combined with the necessity of saving Coonan so she could find out what he knew. Now the rush was gone, leaving her with the need to mourn all over again.

Then Kate saw the box. Really saw it. Saw it again for what it was. Not just something to push out of the way when she needed something that had fallen behind it. She took it out of the locker, knowing that it could be dangerous, pulling her back into that place that took her a year of therapy to climb out of. But she did have some new information. She could begin looking into Dick Coonan, find out some of his associates. It was a long shot. But it was more than she had before, and it needed to go into the file. Both the official and her own.

She put the box in her bag and walked out of the precinct.

Shaking herself out of her musings Kate walked back over to the kitchen table where the contents of the box were spread out. Reading back over her notes, she made sure she had added all the new information gleaned from the case. It felt a little ridiculous to add Vong to her notes, with that stupid 'I own a boat' business, but he knew more about the person behind the whole thing than what he was saying, so he needed to be in there. Then she straightened everything up and packed it all back into the box to take back to her locker in the morning.

Just as she finished, there was a knock on the door.

Surprised and wondering who would be coming over this late – scratch that – wondering why he was coming over this late, because who else would it be – Kate moved over to the door and looked through the peephole.

Sure enough, it was Castle; making goofy faces at the peephole, he obviously knew she was looking.

Rolling her eyes, Kate opened the door and asked "What are you doing here, Castle?"

There was no venom in her voice, a little exasperation, maybe, but she wasn't wholly displeased to see him.

Wait, what?

Huh. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all.

Wait, what?

"I just wanted to see how you were doing, that's all," he said, his hands behind his back.

Kate's eyes narrowed.

"There's this wonderful invention called a telephone, Castle," she said. There. That was better, less sappiness more snarkiness.

He grinned. Castle loved riling her up more than anyone else ever had in her life. It drove her nuts, but she knew he loved that part too.

"Aaaaaannnd…I brought this over for you as well."

He pulled his hands from behind his back, an enormous bouquet of flowers in one, and a bottle of her favorite wine in the other.

"Castle…I…" she began.

"It's just a quick thank you for saving my life." He smiled at her. "I won't keep you," he said, noting her casual clothing that were most likely Kate's pajamas. "I also wanted to say I'm sorry I got put into the position so you had to."

"Castle, if anything it was my fault," she said quickly. "Some detective I am. I didn't catch on until it was almost too late."

"It's nobody's fault, except for Dick Coonan's," he replied with a frown. "I just mean that I'm sorry you weren't able to find any more about who's behind your mother's death."

Kate nodded.

"Yeah, well. It's best to leave it alone now anyway," she said, grateful that she'd packed the box up before Castle got there.

"Right," he said, shuffling his feet.

God, she felt like he was dropping her off after a date, trying to decide whether to kiss her goodnight.

Or maybe gathering up the courage to ask her out on one.

Before she could work herself up into a panic, Castle spoke again.

"Well, I'm going to get going."

"Y-Yeah," she stammered, "Time for bed, early day tomorrow."

"Exactly," he said, stumbling over his own words.

"I'll see you at the precinct?" he asked.

"Yeah, unless a body drops, then I'll call you."

"Great." He smiled at her again, then turned and walked away. She realized he hadn't even come in.

Kate turned back to the kitchen table where the box stood, now filled again with the information she had about her mother. She was tempted to open it again, but she also knew there was nothing more to be gleaned from it tonight.

She resolutely ignored the box as she placed the flowers in a vase and the wine in the

refrigerator. Smiling at Castle's thoughtfulness, she turned out the lights and went to sleep.

She went to work early the next morning to put the box back in her locker. A year and a new apartment later, she took it home again. And this time, she didn't bring it back.

A/N: I'd love to hear your thoughts!