The paramedics came. They poked and prodded, asked stupid questions and then took Ryan away. Esposito got left behind as they pulled him onto the back of the ambulance.

He would have gone. He begged to go. "Dude, you gotta let me go with him. He's my partner!"

But they wouldn't have it. They needed to poke and prod at him longer, and ask more stupid questions. They were done with him soon enough. Nothing wrong, but a wounded pride.

So, he dragged his feet toward Beckett's car. He was exhausted. His Jenga-like tower of emotions was threatening to crumble. Everything seemed less surreal-less like he was watching a movie or a really messed up dream-and he could finally see his reality.

How the hell am I alive?

He could be dead right now. He should be dead. And so should Ryan, and Beckett. He didn't even want to start thinking about Castle. The man who never had any sort of training had been shot at more times than a civilian ever should.

And it took almost losing Castle's life, his partner's, his boss' and his own life for him to realize the one life he could not deal with being put on the line.


He could swear he heard her voice.

"Beckett! What the hell is going on? Where's Espo-"

He spun around at that and saw Lanie bee lining straight towards him from across the parking lot. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun; her jeans, which were a tad too long, dragged on the ground. She seemed pretty put-together, he thought. But then again, everybody had been putting up a front. Even hypothermic Ryan kept insisting that he was fine.

As she came closer, he could see that she was trying so hard not to crack. A stoic expression graced her features, but it was her eyes that gave her away.

They were absolutely wild.





He stood there, dumbstruck, as began to yell at him.

"Javier Esposito! Don't you ever leave me waiting for you, ever again!"

A few more paces, and she fell into his arms. He couldn't tell if it was more for her sake, to let herself know that he was alright, or if it was for his sake. So he could know that he was alive.

"Don't ever do that to me," she whispered into his chest.

He began to wonder when they became so serious. Two months ago, they were just having fun. Last week, the fun just kept going. At some point, Esposito realized, she became his world.

At some point, the man who mocked married men, who abhorred the thought of a committed relationship, had fallen in love with Lanie Parish.

One day he'd tell her just what she meant to him.

Not today though. Today, they were too raw. Today, they were trying to keep this pretense. When playing Jenga, one must be careful. He was already teetering. He couldn't collapse.

So he pulled her in closer, and kissed the top of her head.

"I'm so glad you're here," he whispered.

And at that moment, it was enough.

A/N: Wasn't Knockdown amazing? I honestly only realized the lack of Lanie and Alexis when the credits started to roll. So I obviously, I had to add my own Esplanie flavour to it. (I'm actually so surprised my first Castle fic wasn't Caskett. I've had a million plot bunnies come, but this is the only bunny that's worked out so far. And it came out in like an hour, no jokes. Hasn't beta-ed or anything. I was so excited to get it on here.) Please let me know what you thought!