"Sometimes in the morning

I am petrified and can't move

Awake but cannot open my eyes.

And the weight

is crushing down on my lungs;

I know I can't breathe

And hope someone

will save me this time."

-Rilo Kiley


Not a head shot. Not a head shot.

Please, God, don't let it be a head shot.

She has the vest on; it's hot. Sweat is rolling down the back of her skull under her hat, slick at the nape of her neck. She opens her mouth, catches Castle's eye, gets that jolt of awareness and certainty just from the intensity of his gaze, and can keep going, keep it up, don't stop.

Don't let it be a head shot.

A puff of air that doesn't release, the sucker punch to her gut, oh God I'm shot and then full body tackle by Castle, to the soft green grass, the soft of her insides ripping, the Kevlar vest pressing all breath out of her.

Castle looks afraid. Castle's anguish pours out of him like blood. All over her, poured all over her.

She tries to bring her hand up, tries to see it, the blood, but Castle bats her hands away; she has no control over herself anymore, her eyes are heavy, too much sunlight, too much bright green grass, bright eyes, Castle-

It hurts. Her body-

The Kevlar did her no good. No good against armor-piercing rounds. She was afraid of the head shot; she should've thought of this, she should've thought of this-

Her stomach, chest; it burns. It's hot, her vest crushes, the taste of bullets on her tongue, no, please Castle-

"Kate, stay with me. Don't leave me."

She should've thought of this. She can't breathe. She can't-

"I love you. I love you, Kate."

Oh God, please.


She should've thought of this.

Damn it. Damn it. She should've warned him that this could happen.

Her cap, on the ground; he needs to get that; she'll want it; she'll need that when-

when-

Rick's fingers fumble against the grass, crush her dress uniform's hat in his fist, reaches back for Kate, for a touch, for something of her. The paramedics, Lanie, her father all crouched in the grass beside the grave, flowers crushed and scattered. He's crying. He's crying; her hat is crushed. He eases his hand, smooths it, a smear of blood across the brim and he catches himself on his knees, hunched over, sucking in breaths that won't come.

"Castle!"

Ryan. Lifts him up. "In the bus, get in the bus; call us when-"

"When, when," he agrees. Not if. Not if. When.

A shove from behind which gets him started, tumbling towards the stretcher, the paramedics quick-moving across the grass. The bus has pulled up the lane, past the gates; Lanie, her dress ruined with grass and blood, running after them, yelling things. Should he be listening? Are these instructions for him, or the paramedics, or Esposito-?

Esposito isn't here. Ryan has run back to-

to wherever the scope flashed.

Castle reaches forward to touch her hair, the tangled mess that his fingers have already caused, needs that connection. The paramedics hoist her into the back, the bus is running, Lanie is crawling in, turning around to tug Castle up; four of them squeezed into the back of the ambulance; the doors slam and he tries to keep out of their way, tries to not be a stumbling block, but he has to-

he has to-

has to touch something of her. Has to have that. His fingers tangled in her hair, his palm cupped over her ear, thumb just at her cheekbone. He leans forward, presses his mouth to her ear so she can hear him, somewhere, he believes it, knows it, somewhere she can hear him:

"Fight, Kate. Keep fighting; stay with me."