Castle stood by the car, his forehead pressed against his fist atop the roof, trying to summon the strength of will to follow her.

He didn't want to see it, to see what he'd done. Montgomery had placed a burden on him, on Richard Castle, that he wasn't sure he was prepared to assume the consequences of. Not yet. Not right now. The smoke had cleared, the bad guys had fallen.

Only Roy Montgomery had been one of them, one of those bad guys, and Castle had still-

He had stood by.

Montgomery had made a stand, and Castle had stood by.

It didn't mitigate his responsibility knowing that the Captain had *asked* him to. It didn't ease the terrible guilt for carrying Kate out of there just as Roy had asked him to. Kate would never forgive him for that. He would never forgive himself either.

He had stood by.

As he was now. Observer, witness, scared little chickenshit civilian. He'd taken one long look at Jim Beckett and had seen himself, his future, and knew it was coming for him. It might already be here.

So he lifted his face from the car, straightened his shoulders, and walked into the hangar after Kate. He owed Roy Montgomery the respect of at least bearing witness to the man's last stand. He owed him that much.

Of course, there was also the small, worrisome fear that Montgomery hadn't managed to get them all. But no one had come running from that hangar, and Castle assumed that Kate knew the sound of her Captain's gun, the echo of his service piece so different from that of a hired killer. Even Castle had heard the differences: the successive, careful plosions of Roy's weapon as he gunned as many of the bastards as he could, and then the quick, clean burst of fire from Lockwood or one of his men, the center of mass shooting. The kill shots.

And after a time, the Captain's last show, final act. Taking his stand.

Castle reached the door, pressed a fist to his mouth to keep his stomach from rebelling, and pushed it open.

Kate was on her hands and knees on the cold floor, her body over the Captain's, her phone in one bloodied fist crushed against the concrete, her hair falling around her face and dragging in the Captain's blood. Just past him, sprawled in the other direction, lay Lockwood. Dead.

Kate was moaning.

Castle dropped beside her, couldn't look at the man's face, couldn't, just couldn't. He draped himself over Kate, his arms along the length of hers, cheek to her back, then folded her in and pulled her up, up into him, away from the death and blood, away.

She sobbed.

Castle kept hold of her. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry," he whispered, he called, he begged.

She leaned away from him, reaching past him for Montgomery, her phone in the claw of her hand, pushing an elbow into Rick's ribs, getting her knee against his inside thigh. But he held on, he held on to her because that was what the Captain had asked of him. Reign her in. Leash her. Tether her to the earth when all was spinning.

"No, no, no," she moaned. "Let me go, let me-"

"Kate," he cried back, brought his arm up to hook around her neck, bury her head against his chest. "Kate."

"Bus is on it's way; he'll be fine. It's fine," she wailed.

"It's not fine. It won't ever be fine again." Was he yelling at her? No. "Kate, please."

She fought, he stood by, immobile and solid, unable to be moved. He would not, he would not let her go. He wouldn't.

"No. . .no. . ." She shuddered, her tears collapsing her frame against him, her body withering inside his embrace, her hands to her face now, blood in bold streaks against her cheekbones and eyebrows and neck.

"Kate, please."

She curled into him then, reached her arms around his neck and shared the blood trail, equal parts guilt; he had the Captain's blood in a line around his neck, a sticky hot fingerprint at his chin.

"Why? I could have played back-up. I could have- -I could have- -I could have done something. Why?"

Because he told me to, he yelled. But he didn't. He took it instead. He took it, standing by, silent and solid and present, a last witness.

"My mother," she whispered, garbled and choking on tears. "My mom. . ."

And he took that too. Let her. Kept her close to his body to keep her in, to keep all the pieces close and as much in order as he could.

"I'll never win this," she whispered, her mouth at his neck, her body going slack just as the red lights of the ambulance washed across the inside of the hangar, blue and whites not far behind. She clutched a handful of his shirt and dug her face into his neck, to halt her tears or tear him apart, or both.

"You won't," he agreed softly, pressed a kiss to her temple, the top of her head, before he could talk again. "You won't. But this isn't yet your last stand. Not today. Not tomorrow. God help us. Not tomorrow."

Castle curled closer, tried to keep all of her in, even as she, like liquid in his arms, melted away from him.