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

A/N This story will have a few lines from "Knockout" and "Rise" that everyone will recognize, but everything else is AU.

Is she dead? Is this what dying feels like? She's pretty sure that she's not dying, that she's not in the process of shedding her life. She's pretty sure that that already happened. It was so fast, over in less time than it takes to blow out the candles on a birthday cake, even if there were 100 candles—though she has no way of knowing how long that takes, since she's only 31. Was 31. Will forever be 31, since she's not going to see 32, let alone 100.

She heard one EMT say it: "Flatlined."

She heard the other EMT say it: "No pulse."

That's it, then. She's dead. Detective Kate Beckett, 31. She's picturing her gravestone.

Katherine Houghton Beckett
Beloved daughter
November 17, 1979-May 19, 2011

Really? That's all? Not that she's not happy to be, have been, a beloved daughter, but what about beloved wife? Beloved mother? Beloved grandmother? Okay, so she hadn't considered those for a long time. Years. But lately? Oh, yeah. The wife part—even the mother part, eventually. And many, many years in the future, grandmother. But none of those is an option any longer. No longer a possibility.

They were laying Roy Montgomery to rest when it happened, a few minutes ago. She was in the middle of eulogizing the Captain and some sniper shot her. She has no idea where he was when he let loose the bullet that landed in the middle of her chest. Nestled in a tree? Waiting in a tinted-windowed car? Crouched behind a gravestone?

"You gonna shoot me, do it where I can see you," she says loudly. "Do it where I can look into your eyes when you point that gun at me and squeeze the trigger, you cowardly son of a bitch."

No one seems to hear her, which is probably further confirmation that she's dead.

She is seriously pissed off.

But wait a minute. If she's dead, why does it hurt so much? Aren't you supposed to be immune to pain when you're dead? Isn't that one of the paltry advantages of having breathed your last? The only thing worse than the pain that she's feeling—her ribs and heart and veins and lungs are on fire—is the anger. How can she be dead? She has too many things left undone, goddammit.

There's another thing now, the most important thing. She can see, and what she sees is Castle. She's floating around, which is odd because it's so cramped here in the back of the ambulance. There are four of them jammed in the vehicle, its siren wailing: the two EMTs, Castle, and her. No, five, since as of a few seconds ago there are two of her: the dead one on the gurney, and the spectral one. She assumes that she's spectral, anyway, since she's floating and no one notices her at all. What she notices most is this: Castle is crying. The tears are running down his face so fast that they're landing on his black shirt. She can see wet splotches on it. And blood, on his hand. He's probably unaware that it's there, her blood. He runs his knuckles under his eyes, and leaves a broad red streak by one cheekbone.

"She isn't dead," he insists. "You can't let her be dead."

"Sir, please," the woman EMT says. Kate can see her name tag: E. Rodriguez. Elena? Estella? Eloisa? Esperanza? That would be ironic, if she were Esperanza. Esperanza means hope. There's no hope for her, Kate. Katherine. Katherine means pure, clear. She's purely dead now, that's clear.

"She's my partner," Castle says, anxiety scraping through his voice. "She can't die. Can't you stop the bleeding? There's too much blood."

"Sir," the male EMT—name tag S. Jackson—says. "We understand, but please stand back and let us do our job."

There's not much room to stand back in, especially for someone the size of Castle. And though he takes a step away, he's able to put his hand on her ankle; her dress-blue pants have ridden halfway up her calf and she feels the warmth of his palm and his fingers. But how is that possible, since she's dead? She remembers reading that the brain can function for a few minutes after the heart stops beating, so maybe that accounts for it. Oh, God, she'd have given a lot to have felt Castle's fingers wrapped around her leg while she was alive. It's better than she had ever imagined, and she'd imagined plenty.

"I've got a pulse. She's alive," Rodriguez says.

The pain is crushing now. It's a brick wall, a tsunami, an ocean, a mountain, a volcano, a cement mixer, a freight train, something, of agony. She doesn't know, she can't think. She's aware of moving but not moving. She's on her back and something is moving under her, rolling. There are voices all around, but she can't sort them out. They're like bits of melody that she can't grab on to before they disappear. Whatever she's on is moving faster, and someone is next to her. Lanie, it's Lanie, pumping her chest. She's trying to tell her friend to stop, but she can't push the words past her lips. It's excruciating. Please stop, Lanie. Stop, please.

"Stay with me!" Lanie shouts. "Stay with me!"

And now Lanie's gone. Where did she go? Where is Castle? Castle told her that, too, she's sure. It's so hard to focus, but this is vivid. He said, "Stay with me, okay? Kate, I love you." That was before, and outside. She remembers the blue sky around him, and his hands, one under her head, the other at her ribs. This doesn't feel like outside. They aren't outside. She isn't. Where is he? Castle. She can't see him. She can't see at all. She hears doctors, yelling, people are yelling. She feels herself being lifted up and put on a table. Someone puts something on her face. A mask? Is it a mask? She's—.

Castle is in the hospital corridor. He'd tried to chase the gurney through the doors towards the O.R., but two orderlies had stopped him, and now he's in a tiny, grieving huddle with Lanie, Espo, and Ryan. The boys have already ordered surveillance video from in and around the cemetery. Who has cameras trained on a graveyard, anyway? They haven't found the shooter, who must slipped away in the chaos. Maybe he was dressed as a mourner. Maybe he was dressed as a cop. Maybe he is a cop. Jesus. The boys said that cops had found the rifle, something Special Forces like to use, and are running the prints.

He wishes he had a surveillance camera on the O.R. What are they doing to her in there? She can't die. Can't. They revived her in the ambulance, she can't die here. Won't. She's a fighter, the most impressive fighter he's ever known. Muhammad Ali has nothing on her. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee? That's her, way more than it is Ali. That's Beckett. That's Kate.



His mother and daughter run to him, and no sooner has he taken them into his arms than Jim Beckett appears, looking equal parts furious and terrified.

"Where's Katie?" he asks.

What Castle is longing to say, father-to-father, is, "She's in surgery. They're fixing her up. She'll be good as new. She's probably already demanding that the doctor let her go back to work tomorrow." But he can't.

And then there's Josh Davidson, who engages four of Castle's senses in quick succession. He hears him first, then sees him–in his blue scrubs and white sneakers splattered with red—then smells him, a potent, ghastly, coppery-acidic mix of blood and sweat. Lastly, he feels him when the surgeon slams him up against the wall.

"You did this!" Davidson says. "This is your fault. You pushed her to look into her mother's murder. She was shot because of you, and Montgomery is dead because of you!"

He wishes the bastard were carrying a scalpel, because he'd tear it out of his hand and bury it in his chest. Except that Davidson's right. Shit, he's right. It is his fault. He did virtually push her into the line of fire, even if he'd tried to knock her out of it. He probably had no chance against a projectile that travels 1,800 miles an hour. If only he'd reacted when he'd seen the first light caroming off the gun barrel. If only he hadn't waited. She'd be alive. She wouldn't be in the O.R.

She's hovering again, this time in a bigger space. It's an operating room. She's looking at her dead self, so pale, the incisions in her chest, the heart no longer beating. She realizes how often she heard the expression "life's blood" without giving it much thought. There it is, her (former) life's blood, all over everything: the floor, the sheet on which her corpse is lying, the gloves and gowns of the team that worked on her. "Cardiac arrest," the chief doctor just said.

Dead again. That's two lives she's lost today. What are the chances she'll get a third? Why do cats get nine? Where's the justice in that? She looks frantically for Castle, but of course he's not here. They'd never let him in here. But if he were he'd be pushing them like hell for that third life, just as he had pushed like hell for a second one in the ambulance.

"Get Castle! Find Castle! He'll make you give me another chance. Please!" No one hears her this time, either.

Or did they? Here come the paddles again. She remembers they used them before. "Clear," the doctor barks, just as he had before. "Clear."

Castle is alternately pacing and sitting. How long have they been waiting? How long has she been in there? Is it a good sign or a bad one that no doctor has come out to talk to them? No doctor but Josh, who didn't talk to them at all, just screamed at him and stormed off after Beckett's father told the two of them off for fighting. Which they deserved. Josh must have been made to leave the O.R. since he wouldn't be allowed to operate on his girl friend. His girl friend. Dammit. Oh, finally. Finally. Here's a doctor walking towards them. Doctor Kovacs.

He tells them that she went into cardiac arrest during surgery, but that they'd gotten her heart going again. "We'll need to watch her very closely," Kovacs says.

He'll watch her very closely. If they let him go to her room, he'll sit by her bed forever, very closely watching her. For as long as it takes for her to open her eyes again, so he can tell her that he loves her. But Kovacs says that Jim Beckett can see her in a while, and that the rest of them should go home. It's only right, that Jim stay with his daughter. But as for him going home? Not going to happen. He and Espo and Ryan will get on this case and work it like no case has ever been worked in the history of the NYPD. His mother and Alexis head for home, but he's with the boys, and they're off to the Twelfth.

There's fog. Not fog. She's foggy. There's something in her nose. And something in her wrist, and at her elbow. It's pulling. She hates it. She wants to yank everything out. She's trying to open her eyes. There is a dull pain everywhere. She can't tell where it's emanating from, but maybe her chest. When she breathes it hurts, and there's something on her chest. It pulls, too, with each breath. Tape, is there tape? She's aware of a hand now, a warm, larger hand that's holding hers. Castle! No, it's not Castle's. A hand more familiar than his. Familiar for a long time. It's her father's.


"Katie, thank God. Oh, thank God. You're awake."

"Seep?" How can it be so hard to talk, if she's been asleep? And what is the smell, and the sound of a machine to her left? It must be a machine, since it's making machine-like sounds. Beeps. Pings. Her throat hurts; it feels raw and dry.

"No, you weren't asleep, sweetheart. You just had surgery."

"Wy? Why?" Her eyes keep closing, but she sees him for a few second. He looks so old. Old and so worried. Now his other hand is on her forehead. He's brushing her hair from her face the way he used to when she was little.

"You were shot. At Captain Montgomery's funeral. But you'll be fine. You're fine."

If she's fine, why does she feel like this? "No fine. Hurt."

"Let me get the nurse."

"No, Dad. Whrr."

"What, sweetheart?"

"Whr. Wtr."

"Oh, water. I have to ask if it's all right for you to have a drink of water. I don't know. Maybe some ice chips. I can get you some ice chips."

"Get Csl, Dad. Cas." She has to say it right. She will. "Where Castle?"


A/N to Moochiechat. Could you PM me, please? I'd like to ask you something about Tony Hillerman. Thank you!