Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I used to watch the show.

She's not a snoop. She knows that she has her share of shortcomings, but that's not one of them. Well, technically she's a snoop: since she's an NYPD detective, she's a professional snoop. She has a right to snoop. She's paid to snoop. Commanded to snoop. But personally? No. Even when she was a little girl and found Christmas presents in the closet, all beautifully wrapped and beribboned, she didn't peek under the paper.

A full week has passed since her apartment and almost all its contents were blown up and incinerated–except for her father's watch, which Castle had somehow rescued and had repaired. She's staying in his loft, in the guest room that's twice the size of her now reduced-to-rubble bedroom. The bathroom looks like something that the Museum of Modern Art would produce, if MoMA produced tubs, showers, tiles, vanities, and cabinets. The first couple of nights she'd been grateful but anxious. Once they had closed the case her anxiety had dissipated, but it should have been replaced by another kind of anxiety–namely, how she would ever find an apartment to equal the one she'd had, on her salary. She'd gotten the first on a fluke, and you don't win Manhattan Apartment Lotto twice in a lifetime.

Yet here she is, luxuriating in the loft and devoting not even a passing thought to looking for a new place. She'll allow herself a few more days. Nothing wrong with that. She's staying here at Castle's invitation and insistence, after all. Still, in her quietest moments she acknowledges, though to no one but herself and only fleetingly, that she could happily stay here forever. With him, forever. Castle and his family have been wonderful to her, giving her space and time but also embracing her. In Martha's case, literally: it's like being hugged by a perfumed butterfly. She's here alone for the weekend, though: Castle is accompanying Alexis on a sophomore class trip to Philadelphia and Martha is at a retreat in the Berkshires.

"Retreat from what, exactly, Mother?" Castle had asked over breakfast yesterday.

"The material world, darling," she'd replied airily.

"And yet it's setting my material wealth back three thousand dollars."

"Mmm," she'd said, sipping her power juice. No need to pursue the argument, apparently.

The place is hers for two days. It's miserable out, sleeting and windy. An hour or so ago, while she'd been savoring her first coffee of the morning, she had retrieved The New York Times from the mat outside the front door. One of the advantages of being a home-delivery subscriber is that you get certain sections of the Sunday paper, including the Magazine, on Saturday. It's the Magazine she'd wanted, because that's where the crossword puzzle–long her secret pleasure–is. She prides herself on doing it in pen, but on the chance that someone here is also a puzzle fan, she'd decided to work the grid in pencil. When she'd finished, and she always finishes, she'd erase it.

That's how the snooping had begun. It had been an accident, really. She hadn't set out to snoop. Not like Castle, the Sultan of Snooping. The Pasha of Prying. The Count of Curiosity. No, she'd just been looking for a pencil. Simple as that. And yet, not so simple.

The kitchen drawers contained no pencils. Neither did her otherwise astonishingly well-equipped bedroom. (The nightstand even has a box of blue stationery, a book of stamps, two pens, a tin of blackberry lozenges, a sleep mask, and ear plugs.) She'd had no intention of going into anyone else's bedroom to look, and she hadn't. The obvious place to search, even if she weren't a detective, had been Castle's office. Right there on his desk she'd seen a small porcelain jug sprouting a half dozen of her favorite pencil, the magnificent Palomino Blackwing 602, with a replaceable eraser. Oooh, another thing that she and Castle have in common. Wait, what? They have nothing in common. Well, maybe a few things. Maybe quite a lot of things, but she's shoving that thought to the darkest corner in the back of her own metaphorical desk drawer.

While pulling out a pencil, she'd knocked over the little jug and the silvery-gray Blackwings had gone everywhere. One had landed squarely on top of a fat, purple file folder in the middle of his desk, next to his laptop. She'd been surprised that he had such a thing, but there it was. When she'd retrieved the pencil, his clear handwriting on the tab had caught her eye. "KB notes," he'd labeled it. With a little heart. Yes, a heart. What the hell?

That had been at least five minutes ago, and she's still staring at the folder. It's not new, and it's well-used. He's probably had it for years. The upper right-hand corner is bent. There's a semi-circular stain, probably left by a coffee mug, near the bottom. He must have opened and closed the thing a hundred times. If the initials KB refer to her, if he has notes about her, left out where anyone could see them, hasn't she the right to read them? Of course she has. "Mi casa es su casa," he'd said to her when she'd arrived. "That's all my Spanish. Oh, plus parate, ladrón, which is 'stop, thief.' I made Espo tell me. But seriously, I mean it. Make yourself at home. Feel free to do whatever you like here."

OK, then. He'd given her permission. Not just permission, but carte blanche. What's the Spanish equivalent of carte blanche, carta blanca? She shakes her head, picks up the folder, and immediately drops it. "Parate, ladrón," she mutters. She's a thief. No, that's ridiculous. She's not stealing the thing. Not even taking it out of the room, for God's sake.

She's about to flip it open when something awful occurs to her. What if KB with a heart isn't her at all, but Kyra Blaine? How is it that she, a skilled detective, had never detected that the two of them have the same initials? She and Kyra, the one who got away. His long-lost love who isn't so long-lost. She'd come bursting back into his life during a murder investigation two months ago, and he'd gone all goo-goo over her. But Kyra had gotten married. He's supposed to be over her. That's what he'd said. Over her.

Son of a bitch.

If these are notes about Kyra, they could be evidence, even if she had been cleared in that case. If they're evidence, they shouldn't be in his office but in a closely guarded box in the basement at the Twelfth. There's the matter of the little heart, though, and the folder is purple rather than standard-issue beige. It's probably not evidence, then. Evidence of his love for Kyra, that's all. Still, she should probably look, just to make sure.

Grimacing, with one eye closed, she opens the folder, afraid of what she might find there. It's a fairly hefty bunch of papers, and she riffles through them; some are scribbled notes, others are printouts or letters or forms of some kind. She takes one near the top, which is in Castle's handwriting on a piece of stationery from a five-star hotel in San Francisco. It's dated–wow, five weeks ago. She remembers that crime-writers' conference he went to because for days afterwards he complained about what a hack James Patterson is.

I wish I knew exactly when I first dreamed about her. A real dream, about the real her, not the sex fantasies I had right after we met that really had nothing to do with her except physically. What she looked like, not what she is like. Not who she is. I think–

She drops the note as if it were on fire, or transmitting the plague. She doesn't want to read his erotic musings on Kyra Blaine, thank you. He's over her? What a joke. That must be why he's hanging on to this. And yet she's driven to know what else is in here. There's so much, and it's such a strange assortment. Some of it appears to be bank statements–legal papers, too. Castle and Kyra were essentially college kids when they were together, so what is all this stuff? She knows she should put it away and go do her puzzle, except this is another kind of puzzle and the lure of it is too strong to resist. It's painful and enraging, but apparently she's in a masochistic frame of mind. Gloom comes through the unopened windows and settles on her.

Maybe she'll examine a few of these recent bank statements. What are they doing in here? Wait, could Kyra be blackmailing Castle? She seemed so nice, but who knows? Underneath that sweet exterior could be the heart and soul of a viper. If a viper even has a heart. Or a soul.

She selects something from the New Amsterdam Bank and Trust. There are, hmmm, monthly statements from last October onwards, and a letter from the head of the Trust department is clipped to them. She reads it, and immediately reads it again. And then, feeling very wobbly, she sits down hard on the floor, and reads it a third time.

Castle has set up four separate trusts: one for Montgomery, one for Ryan, one for Espo, and one for her. Montgomery gets three percent of the royalties for Heat Wave and any and all future Nikki Heat books; each of the boys gets six percent. She gets 30 percent. No way. No way.

As gobsmacked as she is about the money, what strikes her hardest is that this file folder, everything in it, must indeed be about her. KB with a heart isn't Kyra. She, Kate Beckett, is KB with a heart, just as she'd originally and briefly thought, except this is nothing like what she'd thought it would be. Not that she had really speculated about what was in the folder, but if she had it would have been nothing like this. She shakily extracts another handwritten note.

Check with Tom–who's Tom? she wonders–about the possibility of finding an "affordable" apartment for Beckett. Can I make some sort of deal with a landlord and pay the bulk of the rent? Write a scene that she'll believe in which a great place is affordable? I should be able to concoct that. Just have to get someone to go along with it. There would have to be two different leases, a fake one for Beckett with the lower amount, and one with the higher amount for me to lock away. Need it to be legal. Secret but legal. Tom should know.

Tom is probably a real-estate lawyer. Castle probably has a whole string of attorneys, one for every occasion. He had to have written this within the last couple of days, and it's making her seethe. It's patronizing, it's outrageous, it's insulting in so many ways. It makes her feel like a horrible combination of a child and a kept woman. If he came home right now she'd smack him one. She'll sleep on a bunk in the precinct until she finds a place. Plenty of cops do that. She doesn't need him looking after her. She shoves the note back into the folder, and slaps it on top of the desk.

What she needs immediately is another mug of very strong coffee; she'd barely touched her first one and now it's cold. Back in the kitchen, she dumps the contents into the sink and pours herself a fresh mug. It's almost as steaming as she is, which is perfect for her mood.

And then her phone buzzes, right against her butt, and she's so startled that the mug slips from her hand, shattering on the floor and sending coffee all over it and her. "Shit! Owww." She grabs a dishtowel, puts cold water on it, and holds it against her the leg of her jeans. The phone is still ringing and she yanks it from her pocket. "What," she answers, her tone of voice ten times more acidic than the Jamaican Blue Mountain brew that she had been drinking.



"Are you all right?"


"You don't sound fine."

"Spilled my coffee."


She bites her tongue to keep herself from responding, You should be sorry, you Sugar Daddy wannabe. Paying my rent. God, almighty. Her actual, if involuntary, response is, "Ouch!"

"What happened?"

"I bit my damn tongue."

"Um, maybe I should call back in a while."

"Fine." She jabs her finger on the fire-engine red, hang-up-the-phone icon. If he were here, she'd jab him even harder in the chest.

She has to clean up this mess before doing anything else, like vacating the premises with all her worldly goods: a toothbrush and her phone. OK, a bit more, but not much. When she takes a step towards the broom closet her bare foot lands on a broken chunk of china. "Ow!" she yelps, not for the first time today. There's a gash across the ball of her foot and part of the instep, and blood is flowing from it like some grotesque tributary into the river of coffee. She reaches for the damp towel that she'd dropped on the counter a moment ago and wraps it clumsily around her foot. "This kitchen looks like a freaking crime scene," she says.

Because she can't get to her bathroom without leaving a trail of O-positive on the stairs, she hobbles to Castle's. It makes the guest bath look like something in a second-rate motel. She's still gaping at it when she realizes that the blood is leaking through the towel onto the tiles. Probably made of unborn marble from some artisanal place in Venice or Florence. With a twinge of guilt she opens the door to the medicine cabinet, but what else can she do? Inside is exactly what she needs, and more–antiseptic cleaner, antibiotic ointment (four varieties), gauze (two widths), and tape (three kinds, including one of hypoallergenic paper). Geez, he has his own personal Urgent Care in here.

Perched on the edge of the magnificent tub, she runs cold water over the long, jagged cut until the bleeding stops. Even after she dresses it, it still hurts like hell. "Get over it, Kate," she grumbles. "This is nothing."

She has to make another attempt to clean the kitchen, preferably without wounding herself again. Even with almost all her weight on one leg, she manages fairly well, and bundles all the fragments into paper towels before dumping them into the wastebasket. It's only when she's wrapping up the largest broken piece that she notices which mug she had destroyed. WORLD'S GREATEST DAD. That's what it used to say, but T DA is all that's legible now. It's his favorite. Was his favorite. He's told her countless times. Alexis picked it out herself for Father's Day, paid for it with her allowance, when she was seven.

His favorite mug. From his little girl. She'd broken it, and suddenly that breaks her. She slides down onto the floor and weeps. She cries for everything that's gone or lost or broken, and at the moment, it feels as though that's almost everything. And just as suddenly, she reconsiders his note about paying part of her rent. He's trying to be kind. And generous. He grew up with very little money, and now that he has it–wealth that he earned, not inherited–he likes to share it. He's misguided, but his heart is in the right place. And just like that, while she's sitting on the chilly floor of the empty loft, her jeans still wet, one foot bandaged and throbbing, her eyes red, and her nose running, her own heart opens up. T DA! Ta da!

But what is she going to say when he comes home? She doesn't want him to think that she's a snoop.