Yes, I realize that there are going to be exactly eighty-three-skrillion fics out there about 'Knockout.' I'm aware of that, it's just that I don't care. ^^ BUT THIS ONE'S NOT CASKETT. Well, I mean, it is PRO-Caskett, just not CENTRAL to Caskett…you get it. XD I figured enough people are doing the same Caskett hospital-and/or-cover-up scene over and over…so mine takes the Esplanie angle of things. Hey, it's what I do. Why break tradition? ;)
Mostly, this is stemmed from the fact that Seamus and Tamala BOTH said (in separate interviews) that there was going to be a heartfelt Esplanie conversation in 'Knockout.' Personally, I was TICKED to discover that it was a casualty of the cutting-room floor. So this is partially inspired by the lack of that scene, as well as when Esposito held Lanie back after the shot fired. Somebody had to explore what was going through their minds right there. So enjoy. ^_^
I do not own Castle (though if they don't want Roy anymore, can I keep him as a pet? ^^ ). Nor do I own Broken Bells, though their album is fantastic. :D
To look at Evelyn Montgomery was like looking in a crystal ball.
In the back of her mind, Lanie wondered how long it would be. She watched, seeing every downward-sloping crease on the woman's face, every tear track that hadn't yet been allowed to dry, and she wondered when Javier would do this to her. She wondered if she was a fool to wait and find out.
A quarter-acre away, the chapel bells had hung quiet, instead letting the military clatter of field drums take their place in the stillness. The procession itself had gone slowly, glacially, as it should've. Unlike the successive actions that'd managed to change so much so quickly. Lanie'd kept behind it, satisfied to observe from her post at the back. The oak vessel that now housed their captain would've been hard to mistake: it'd been front and center up ahead, bobbing soundlessly and levelly down the line to its final mark, nestled in its tight crowd of six. Five detectives, decked honorably in officers' uniform. And one writer, just decked. Knocked out, even. Just like everyone else.
Around a few of the other heads in the procession, Lanie had snatched glimpses of her man from behind, concerned more than she'd have liked to admit. If it hadn't been such a grim walk to take, she would've had to have smiled: among all the pomp of the caps and epaulettes, it was the ears that gave him away. Not that she wouldnt've already known which was him. While everyone else's stoic gaze had been set forward at nothing, Lanie had used her position to keep a subtle, watchful vigil. It was the best she could do, if the least.
Her eyes' priority had been Javier. They listened to that stupid heart of hers too much, she figured. He'd stood taller, walked straighter than she'd ever seen from him, keeping footfall in time as he'd called out the orders, the honor bestowed on him as senior officer. Honor and a curse, both. But his veil was thinner to her. While his voice may have sounded strong and clear to anyone else, Lanie knew the difference, and she knew it too well. She'd heard the hitch he was doing everything to hide, even as the occasion commanded strength from him. Order. Things were only orderly on the surface.
The front they'd managed to build was convincing, at least. Carrying the body of their captain, the little family of three was almost unrecognizable in their uniformity, the same blue from cap to boot drowning out the last vestige of singularity to the outside world. Singularity, maybe, but not the grief. That remained, and extended from Castle, the somber-for-once adoptee, all the way back to Lanie herself. It would've been impossible not to feel it in shockwaves. She'd walked on, fulfilling her duty to them to be part of it.
Back there, on that long march, Lanie's attention had stayed steadfast with the pallbearing detectives; if not her boyfriend, then the empty profile of her best friend. Oh, Kate had polished a good game, and the words were written. But she was no better off than Javier, maybe worse, though both could hold a world title in covering it up.
Her gaze had still been fixed on Kate's back when Lanie'd felt a gentle hand on hers. Drawing in a quick breath - not enough to constitute a gasp - she'd turned around to find Javier, the casket already positioned, people filing into the rows of wooden seats.
"Hey," he'd said quietly. His eyes had traveled her for signs of…well, anything, really. She'd nodded softly in acknowledgment; of what, she wasn't sure either. And he'd copied, then motioned to their row. "C'mon."
That was how she'd gotten here. That and the grace of God, or whatever else was out there holding her together. It was here, sitting with Javier on her left, Alexis Castle on her right, and silence in the sky above them, that Lanie's focus drifted over to Evelyn Montgomery, and with it her thoughts.
The fresh new widow - a title no one should have to hold - stood tall, and proud; but only for minutes, sometimes just moments at a time. The sobs that wracked her thin body in waves were arguably only the tip of a heavy iceberg. No one could possibly know a grief like that; not even the rest of them, sitting here today. That was reserved for the families, the ones bonded through flesh and blood, with rare exceptions. On a normal day, Lanie had her ways of detaching from it. She could compartmentalize; she'd devised little tricks here and there that let her look at a body as just another science experiment, at least in the moments she really needed to. But this one… Needless to say, it was an autopsy she hadn't done. It was too close to home, even for her, even for all her strongholds. There wasn't a compartment big enough to keep the image of history repeating itself out of her mind.
There she went again. Rebecca and Mary Montgomery huddled an arm each around their mom, their little brother a few seats down on the lap of a cousin, not quite sure what was going on. Crying, all of them. Even the ones who were trying to hold it in fell eventually, especially at Beckett's words. Lanie listened to them, everyone listened, and still her glance seemed never to stray from Evelyn. That's what it's like, that exact picture, right there, Lanie thought.
She didn't plan to marry Javier. Then again, she hadn't planned to be with him at all, and look how that'd worked out. Things had moved so quickly in all aspects that suddenly, nothing was quite so hypothetical. Especially not after this; not now. Not now that all she wanted was to give up the front and let him hold her. What would it be like, if she ever got that knock on her door? Would it be Ryan who broke her the news? Would it be Kate? Lanie pictured the scene, against her will, and then she just wanted it gone. She just wanted away from death, just for a day. And he would promise her. She would make him promise her, so help him God, if he ever wanted to see her again…he would promise never to put her in Evelyn's shoes. She didn't give a damn about nobility, though what Roy had done was more than well and good. If there was even a fiber of that power in her, she would make Javier come home. He wasn't allowed to go this way. She would never be Evelyn Montgomery.
Despite her reputation, she truly didn't think she had the strength.
He was where her mind was, and it was him who brought her back. Lanie turned her glance when she felt Javier's grip tighten slightly on her hand, and that was the end of her wandering. Right now, he didn't have to promise anything. Right now he needed her, and that was all she needed to know. Facing straight forward, Lanie gave him an almost imperceptible nod back, and held his hand tighter too. That was the only signal either one of them needed. Of weakness, of grief or anything else. It was enough, if just for right now. Lanie tuned fully back in to Beckett.
"…once said to me that for us there is no victory. There are only battles. And in the end, the best you can hope for…is to find a place to make your stand. And if you're very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you."
In front of the podium, for all to see, Lanie watched as her best friend, Kate Beckett, took pause enough to turn ever-so-slightly, sending a loaded look toward none other than Castle, by her side 'til the end. A hint of a smile crossed Lanie's face for the first time that day in any real sense of the word. Just a hint. There was enough to sail ships in that look. Maybe the poor girl had finally realized.
Then, with the same line of the eulogy in mind, Lanie snuck a glance to the far left of her peripheral, toward her detective in uniform, re-threading the fingers of her left hand through his right. Maybe they could stand together, too. He was sure as hell a man worth standing for.
"Our captain would want us to carry on the fight," Beckett continued from her pulpit, a note of real strength in her voice behind the layer she was faking. It made Lanie proud. "And even if there is…"
Kate continued, but the expression on Castle's face drew Lanie's concentration. What in the hell is he lookin' at…?
In one hit - one second - the answer rained down on them like hellfire. A crack rang out over the cemetery, and the once-proud Kate Beckett, their Kate, buckled to the ground.
Detective Javier Esposito had known a lot throughout his career, and the rest of his life, even before his name had borne the title. He'd known rough neighborhoods; violence and discrimination. He'd known the deserts of Afghanistan; he'd known back alleys and back doors, threats, criminals, betrayal in the worst; he'd known the feel of a belt around his neck as he watched his partner's torture, the feel of looking down the barrel of a gun, the feel of being beaten to the edge of his consciousness. He'd known the loss of the best captain he'd ever had the honor to serve under.
None of that compared to the moment the sniper's bullet hit Kate Beckett. It was the sharp stab of an icicle through his insides, it was the world slowing to a thick haze of panic, terror, and now, now he knew what that was like.
It all sped up as quickly as it slowed, his pulse jacking higher along with it. He only caught a glimpse of the pale, stricken expression of horror on Lanie's face, screaming all around them, before she was bolting forward. His reflexes kicked back in and remembered their training - he sprung an arm out, catching her waist. "Lanie! Get down!" God, if she had gotten hit… Beckett… Beckett was hit… Who the hell was doing this to them?
"Beckett's down!" Ryan's voice was echoing. He sounded miles away, through water and all the screaming… Wails rose from every corner of the funeral party. Mrs. R and Little Castle were down, unhurt, huddled together on the ground. Through the commotion, in those seconds he saw Castle by Beckett's side, cradling her, a swarm of the attending beat cops creating a perimeter, more in the sniper's pursuit. In those seconds Javier's mind raced, and Lanie was tugging with all her might against his arm.
"Let me go!" Color fled back into the scene, and he heard it in Lanie's voice. The horror had taken hold of her. She was crying, beyond herself, gut-wrenchingly begging him to ease his grip with every fiber in her body. "Javi, please, let me go, let me go…"
"Get down, just get down," he repeated, begging her too, but it was no use. Even when her strength had given in, angry tears choking her, her pleas to him still carried the hint of an order.
"I can help her, I need to get to her, now!"
In those seconds, Javier's eyes darted back, to the origin of the shot. Then to the front, where Ryan was already running, under the cover of the seats. She could make it. She could make it if he helped her. They could make it. For Beckett, who had to make it, or all was lost.
"Okay," he said over the noise - then he tightened his arm across her waist. But he moved, inching by the others, toward the end of the aisle. "Stay low! You stay with me!"
"Where are you going?" It was Castle's daughter, Alexis, pale face stained with tears and terror in her wide, blue eyes.
"Stay down," he directed, to both the girl and her grandmother. Police were everywhere; if anything, Esposito knew at least they would be fine. He kept Lanie against him and in front of him, switching arms, preparing to make their break. "Now! Go!"
And they sprang. In almost a full crouch, they ran on his signal, his body shielding hers from the sniper's vantage. More chaos, radiating from the perimeter inward. At another cop's shout, Javier immediately took a knee beside the closest row of seats, pulling Lanie into their cover. Half a second went by as they waited for a clearing of frenzied bodies. Then one opened. "Go!" They were off again, doctor and human shield weaving their way to the front until finally they were by Beckett's side.
The scene they came up on should never have been real. "Stay with me…stay with me, Kate," Castle was whispering.
"Castle, I gotta help her," Lanie instructed. Her command was back, and irrefutable.
At first the writer didn't seem to hear them, tears ribboning silently down his cheeks as he cradled the wounded detective, hunched over her body. It was then that Javier saw her face, and it was a sight that made him lose focus of all else. He didn't register Castle's words or his partner's presence on her other side, on the phone with an ambulance, even Jim Beckett come to kneel at his daughter's head; all he registered was Kate Beckett, unresponsive, pale and bleeding out.
"Castle," Lanie barked; "Move!"
He registered his girlfriend's orders. Pulling himself back to earth, the millisecond gone, Javier got a stern grip on Rick's shoulder and pried the man backwards with one pull. "Give 'er room!" Whether he meant Lanie or Beckett, he didn't know. He didn't mean to be rough on Castle, either. All he knew was that his boss had died this week. It wasn't something he would let happen twice.
Helplessly, Castle rocked back onto his heels, but his eyes wouldn't leave her. Javier knew that much even as he stared at Beckett's face too, two fingers pressing her wrist to keep a pulse. Thank God, it was there. "Hold on Beckett," he found himself saying. "Hold on, Kate. You're gonna be just fine. We gotcha. It's all right." Javier didn't know whose benefit it was for. Whether it was for his own and Ryan's; whether it was for Lanie's, even for Castle's. Whether it was for the great Kate Beckett herself, though he doubted she could hear. You send a miracle this way, Roy, he prayed, if that was what it was. You gotta help us, here. If you really been protectin' her, don't you stop now. Come on, Cap. Don't stop now.
Lanie held furiously to the wound. Looking up, Javier caught her eyes across his friend's immobile form. In that look, he held a silent promise to her that things would be all right, then wondered how long he himself would believe that it wasn't a lie. By God, he'd make it true if he could. Glancing right and left, he caught Ryan's eye as well, and traded him the same foreboding, the same fear - but not so with Castle. The shadow just continued to stare at his muse, keeping vigil like the watchdog he was in another life.
Javier had no room to talk, nor would he try. He nor Ryan were any different in this mess. Lanie began issuing instructions; Castle diligently planted himself at Beckett's side… Commotion still rode over the field. How quickly the silence of those bells had turned into cries, anguish, echoing peals of gunfire scored by the shouts of officers. Amidst it all, there the five of them were. The most Esposito could do was hope and pray that it was enough. Their detective still had a lot of silenced voices to speak for, far too many to become one. She couldn't go with Captain yet. Lanie would work her magic; Javier had faith in that, in her, above anything else. And he believed in Beckett. She'd come out of this just fine.
This wasn't her stand, and together they knew it, even if the rest of the world didn't.
Phew! Holy crap. The intensity. XD So yeah, first half Lanie's POV, second half Javi's. (I kind of used Lanie for the emotion-dominant part and Javier for the action-dominant part; it was unintentional but it works. XD ) Oh, and I checked iMDB, so Montgomery's daughters' names are legit. (If you're wondering where I got the son from, Roy mentioned having a young son a couple of times throughout the series. He should be, what, four? Six? Something like that.)
As always, anyone ages 14 and over who'd like to check out a writing-based Castle RPG site, just go over to my profile and give the bolded paragraph a skim.
So, see? I tried to strike a nice balance of Esplanie and Caskett, internalization and drama - did it work for you guys? Favorite part or anything? I'd love it if you'd tell me in a review. Details help a ton, especially. That'd be something nice in my day, after the hyperventilating and all. ^^ Please consider it - and if you do, thanks!
Not sure if there'll be more 'Knockout' oneshots from me, but if there are, I'll probably just tack them onto this. Until then, finito and adieu, 'til we meet again. ;)