Hello! New to the Castle world; have been writing Bones, Chuck, and House for a while (by the way, for those who got alerts: There actually will be an update to "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" at some point. I love it too much not to.) and am happy to be playing in this sandbox!

This is born out of the fact that I really, really thought that Castle was going to get the bullet in the season finale, and the parallels of the what-if-ness intrigue me. So this story will be essentially two stories in one, alternating chapters: In the odd-numbered chapters, "If," it's the what-if world: What would happen if Castle was the one who got shot? How would people think/feel/react, and how would the relationship dramz get resolved? In the even-numbered chapters, "Only" (geddit?), it's the "reality": Kate's gotten shot, it's the only real world. How much is truly different, how much is actually the same? Blah blah existentionalism cakes.I decided to post them all in one document to highlight the dualism and parallels and any other deep literary currents that pop up :)

It'll all unfold in a pretty easy-to-grasp fashion, but here are the bullets (pun intended): Everything in "Only" is the same as aired; in "If" Castle jumped in time, took the bullet, and still said "I love you" before the lights dimmed. We're taking off from there.

PS — I'm sorry for starting the story with the uncompelling dead fish of Josh. It was the best natural starting point, but damn is it hard to write a never-seen, never-explored plot device. I apologize if he seems out of character. /sarcasm


If

Chapter One

When it came right down to it, Josh knew that there was nothing inherently dramatic about cardiac surgery. When it came down to it, it was procedure. Routine. Something he did frequently, with some variance, but inherently the same. Just like coffee. Breathing. Sleep. Running. Sex. Surgery. All the same.

There was nothing, though, routine about this surgery, where he was cutting, suturing, and clamping to save the larger-than-life life of one Richard Castle, his girlfriend's partner, shot at a funeral, of all places. He gritted his teeth. Partner. He'd never quite trusted the term when she used it: First, he wasn't a cop, and she was, so he called bullshit on the professional veneer. She rarely used "friend" — and if she did, it was in a tripping, "He's my partner, my friend," way, as if it was some sort of backup justification — but even "best friend since the seventh grade" wouldn't cover the look of terror in her eyes as she had jumped out of that ambulance as it screamed into New York-Pres. She wouldn't even look that way for Lanie, a voice taunted from the back of his head. He wasn't stupid, but he trusted Kate, and he'd asked her, enough times, about Castle, and the answers had been so distant and clueless that he'd taken them.

"Well, those are Ryan and Esposito and … that guy? That's Castle. He's a writer. He's … It's kind of embarrassing. He follows me around for his books," she'd said the first time he'd asked about the guy in a picture in her apartment.

He follows her around for his books, Josh thought, the voice in his head taunting him even as he asked for suction.

"His books?"

"Yeah. You know that Nikki Heat series of detective books. He writes those. He comes along on cases with me and the boys for research."

"Research?" he'd raised his eyebrows. "You're, like, the main character in a book series?" He'd laughed then, because he'd known her for three weeks and she was ballsy and beautiful, and of course she had a book series written about her.

"Yeah. It's … weird. I don't like thinking about it, honestly," she giggled, doing that adorable bite-the-lip thing. "It's … It's just weird, you know, since she's not me but she's kind of like me, a little. I just kind of do my thing and let him do his."

He hadn't even heard of the books but he went to the Borders and bought the first book the next day. Needless to say, it had rubbed a little.

"So, these Nikki Heat books," he'd said the next day, when they were at a café on the Upper West.

She swallowed a bite of omelet. "Oh, God," she'd said. "You didn't — did you read them?"

"Uh, yeah, I did," he said. "So this Rook guy."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, that Rook guy."

"He's based on this Castle guy, I'm guessing," he said, waggling his eyebrows a little.

She shrugged bashfully. "I guess, I mean, I don't ask him about his job."

"He asks you about yours, though."

"Well, yeah. Because that's part of his job," she'd explained.

"Still," he pressed. "Have you read the books?"

She straightened. "You're asking about the sex scenes, aren't you?"

He hedged. They were dating, not exclusively, and Kate seemed like a pretty private person. But he liked her. "I'm asking if I have something I need to ask about," he finally said.

She shrugged, then shook her head. "Castle has a very active imagination, and he knows what he needs to write bestsellers," she'd said. When she saw the hesitation in his eyes, she said, "That's all. I swear. Trust me, he's completely, exclusively, in the friend column. Unlike, say, you," she trailed her foot, sandal slipped off, up his calf, and he grinned.

For a while he'd been fine with it. After all, he met the guy, and he didn't seem like much — kind of quiet, which wasn't how Kate described him, but he was definitely quiet, and older, and he had a kid and a girlfriend and always seemed kind of out of place, wherever he was (Mostly, "wherever" was the precinct). He seemed pretty decent, nothing too great, honestly. Kate never particularly seemed to talk about him, but was neither defensive nor evasive when discussing him, and seemed a bit wary of delving too deeply. That was Kate, though — she didn't like talking about work. She insisted she liked her job — anyone who was that committed had to, he knew — that she liked the justice it brought victims of truly terrible things. Castle was a part of every story she had from work, though so were Esposito and Ryan and Montgomery, and all their antics seemed to make her laugh equally. She gave Castle credit where it was due but that was it. They both had their own circles at work — god knew he had enough female friends — and it seemed to be both so odd and so innocuous that it rarely came up. Kate was solid; hilarious and dependable and independent enough to deal with his trips and fantastic in bed, and the combination was tantalizing. She didn't like talking about her job much but that was normal. There weren't any warning signs that this guy was anything, really.

In fact, Castle didn't really come up again until one night, after he'd just returned from a trip to the Sudan, that he noticed a sheaf of papers on her dining-room table when they were having a quiet night in. He'd only been back for a few days, and he was pretty damn happy to be back with her. There was something about Kate, this way she could just listen and reflect back and make you calm down and relaxed, and after so long in the Sudan he needed it. He wouldn't have noticed but she never had any clutter. There was some legal paperwork, a few applications, and, briefly, a flash of something that looked like a seating arrangement.

"What's this?" he'd asked.

"Oh," she'd said, scooping them up to clear the table for dinner. "It's for this scholarship Castle's starting."

"He's starting a scholarship?" he let the 'and wants your input' dangle.

"Yeah," she said, folding her arms and rocking on the ball of her feet. "In honor of my mother, at Columbia, so he's asking me for input on the, I don't know, fundraising, and the applicants the school screened. He was over the other night to discuss it."

He was flabbergasted. He knew Kate's mom had been a lawyer; had been murdered a decade ago. It was why she became a cop. He admired that about her; that she could take a personal tragedy and let it drive, but not define, her. She barely talked about it, had only mentioned it around Christmas.

"He's starting a scholarship. For your mother."

"In honor of my mother," she insisted gently. "And, yeah. We had this case, remember, I told you about it. The guy who was the lotto winner, right? And he was trying to figure out what I would do if I won the Lotto, and finally he decided — all by himself, of course, because he's Castle — that I would want to start a scholarship in honor of my mother. So. He did."

"He just up and started a scholarship," Josh repeated.

She nodded. "He also bought a helium machine to make his own balloons that week. I think this one's a slightly more worthy cause, but that's just me."

He thought of the Castle that Kate had presented, a lightweight writer distracted by anything shiny, and matched it up against the type of guy who would start a scholarship worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a platonic friend's name.

"Is it what you would have bought?" he asked, suddenly struck by a singular thought.

She shrugged. "I mean, I never thought 'if I had a million dollars I would do this.' I just never thought about it. But … it's an amazing thing, Josh. It's going to help a lot of people, and I think my mother would really want that."

"It's just a lot," Josh said, "given that he's not even a colleague."

"He's not a cop but he's there every day; he's got my back," Kate insisted gently. "And you just have to know Castle — he's … very big-spirited. He's really generous. He doesn't need all this money he has so he finds things to do with it."

"So he decides to spend, I don't know, a million dollars on this thing?" he asked.

"He's just starting the pot, giving it a chance," Kate insisted. She paused. "There's a benefit he's organizing to raise funds. February 25th. You should come with me." She looked apprehensive about asking him; like she was trying to convince herself of something.

He shook his head. "I'll be in Haiti then," he reminded her. The trip had been planned for weeks.

"Right. Of course," she'd said. She smiled. "Sorry, I forgot."

Her smile was unnerving. Shouldn't she be mad, that he couldn't come to some big benefit in honor of her dead mother? "You're … OK with that?"

"Your work is important to you, Josh. We agreed on this months ago."

"Yeah, but … this is important to you, too." His phone buzzed then. The hospital, obviously. "Shit, Katie …"

"No, go," she said, leaning up to kiss him. "We'll talk later, OK?"

He'd thought about that conversation when he'd delayed Haiti, when he'd found them locked in that icebox. They'd fought about it a little; her being reckless, and she insisted she knew what she was doing and that Castle was more than adequate backup. He didn't get it; had yelled about her about her trust in someone that wasn't a cop. The argument had reached a stalemate eventually: He didn't quite know what to think. She kept insisting it was actually something he could not tell him, why she was in that freezer with Castle, and he was inclined to believe her. He knew she wouldn't cheat, he trusted her not to lie, and there were questions that, despite the fact they'd been dating for the better part of the year, he didn't think he could ask. Because she'd told him, so long ago, that there was nothing to ask about. He flew out to Malawi for three weeks and came back buoyant and inspired, and then Kate and Castle had burst through the ambulance bay, literally the next day. He hadn't even seen Kate the night before; she hadn't answered texts or phone calls at all and he figured she was caught up in work.

The surgery wasn't serious; at least, not as serious as it could be. He knew going into it that the only way the man could die was human error, and Josh didn't make those. It only took four hours; then he was rounding into the waiting room where he knew he'd find Kate.

Ryan and Esposito were there, of course: Ryan looked pretty raw and was sitting next to his fiancé (Jenny? Janie?); Esposito alternated between leaning against the wall and pacing aggressively. Lanie, seated next to Kate, just looked worried. He liked Lanie a lot. Kate, still dressed in her blood-soaked dress blues, gripped the hand of a teenager with light-red hair. On the other side, the girl leaned into the arms of an older, worried woman, who was sitting next to a thin, older man. Castle's parents, probably. The older man looked a little bit out-of-place, a little awkward in the situation.

"Josh, hey," Kate said, rising to meet him and pulling the shaken teenager, dressed all in black (what?) with her. "This is Castle's daughter, Alexis, and his mother, Martha." The rest of the precinct rose with them. "You know the rest of the precinct and Jenny, of course. My father, Jim Beckett." Josh's eyebrows rose. What the hell was going on, exactly? And this was not meet-the-father time. He didn't even know if he and Kate were at the meet-the-father point. Hell, she'd said she wasn't particularly close to her father. Looking at him, she quickly added, "Dad, Martha, Alexis, my boyfriend and Castle's surgeon, Josh Davidson. He's the best surgeon he could have had, promise." She hesitated a half-beat before boyfriend, and he mentally rolled his eyes.

"How is he, doc?" Esposito asked, folding his arms across his chest.

"He'll be fine," Josh said, the questions that were swirling in his mind slipping behind a professional façade. "All things considered, it wasn't a terrible injury. The bullet entered his side, just under his rib cage, cracked a few ribs and grazed a lung. We were able to repair everything; he'll be able to make a full recovery."

"Oh, thank god," Alexis, the daughter replied, tears leaking at the corner of her eyes. She kind of sank sideways into Kate, who squeezed the girl's shoulders. "When can we see him?"

"He'll be in recovery for another few hours," Josh said. "I'd take this time, go home, shower, maybe pick him up a few things," he focused solely to the girl. "Come back in maybe two hours and you'll be able to see him." The girl nodded her head shakily.

"Well, good," Martha said, taking a deep breath and clearly trying to calm her body. "Yes, that sounds like a plan. Come on, Alexis."

"Alright, go home, take a shower, Alexis, you hear me? I'll come by in two hours to pick you up and bring you back in." Kate said, gripping the girl's shoulders. "Martha, take care of yourself too, okay?"

"Same to you, Beckett," Martha said, hugging her tightly. "You get home before you come back for us, alright?"

"Of course, Martha," Kate straightened a little under the older woman's gaze.

"Alright, darling. You hear? He'll be fine," Martha put her arm around the girl, who honestly still was in shock, Josh could tell. She paused. "He'll probably be insufferable over this. Boys do love cool scars, Alexis …"

As soon as they were out of earshot, Kate's eyes slid to Esposito. "There's a detail on their place, right?"

"Been waiting outside the hospital for an hour," Esposito confirmed.

"Make sure they don't know — Alexis is already freaked out," Kate insisted.

"They're cops, Beckett, they know how to do this," Esposito said. "You need to get home and changed too, by the way. You're still —" he motioned at her arms, caked in dried blood.

"I know, I know. I'll take a cab," Kate replied. "You guys head home, though. We need to meet in a few hours to figure out where to start. We need to get to the bottom of this case, immediately."

"No way, Beckett," Ryan piped up. "We meet in a few hours to tell you to stay the hell away from this now. Forget it, it's too dangerous."

Kate worked her jaw and looked like she was about to start arguing, but her dad put a hand on her arm. "Not now, Katie," and she just rolled her eyes and nodded — "Fine, then."

The boys hugged her then, Lanie and Jenny, too. Neither of the cops looked like they believed Beckett's "Fine, then," for a minute, and Lanie and Jenny reminded her to go home and change before the four of them finally left.

Then, finally, her father nodded at Josh. "Nice to meet you," he said, scrutinizing him. Kate shifted on her feet.

"Likewise," Josh finally said.

Having had enough of the conversation, Mr. Beckett turned to Kate. "He'll be fine, Katie, and you need to listen to everyone and go home and change."

"Yes, Dad," she said, rolling her eyes a little. "Promise."

"And Kate?" he said. "Let this one go. Please. For me."

"Okay, Dad," she said.

Looking at Josh quickly, Mr. Beckett said, "I mean it, Kate. Don't —"

"I get it, Dad, ok?"

"I can't …"

"Alright."

Mr. Beckett still didn't look like he trusted her, but he hugged her gingerly and said, "He's a good man, Katie, he'll be fine. Tell him I'll be down to visit in a few days. And stay with Lanie or Alexis and Martha tonight, okay?"

"Yes Dad," she said, dutifully.

They were alone.

"So … how was Malawi?" she asked, finally.

"Bullshit, Kate," he said. She flinched. "What the hell is going on?"

"Josh —" she started. She seemed to wait for his interruption, but he just stared at her. "Castle got shot today, okay? It's been a long day. Please."
"Yeah, at a funeral. How does someone who's not a cop get shot at a funeral? Hell, how does anyone get shot at a funeral? Whose funeral were you at? What happened, did you guys … get in a shootout with the Mafia, or something?"

"It was … It was our boss's funeral, Josh. Captain Montgomery, you met him once. He was on this case we've been working on that got deep," she said steadily. "A sniper showed up at his funeral."

"A sniper, Kate? What the hell kind of case was this?"

"Josh, it's complicated."

"Like hell it is."

"No, like it actually is, okay?" She uncrossed her arms. "I … I need to go, I need to get cleaned up, we'll talk later."

"No, we'll talk now. What is this case, Kate, and why are you acting like you're still on it when it's killed your boss and everyone who seems to know anything about it — which doesn't include me, by the way — is telling you to back off?"

"You haven't been here, Josh! Of course you don't know. I don't expect you to. It's an old case, we reopened it, and it's just bigger than we thought. I'll give you a call later, okay?"

"Stop it," he insisted angrily. "I'm sorry, explain this. No, really. Three people just told you to back off, they've killed your boss and shot … someone … at his funeral, and you're still going after this old case?"

She gritted her teeth, a slightly manic, determined look (one that he had never seen before) crossing her eyes. "This old case? Is my mother's murder. Whoever killed her, killed my boss, my friend, too, because he knew too much, about only-god-knows-what. And today? They shot Castle. And you know what, Josh? They were trying to kill me. That bullet, the one you just dug out of my best friend? Was meant. For me. Castle was trying to save my life. Which he did. So yes. I am going to find whoever did this. Of course I am. I'll talk to you later." She spun on her heel and fled.


So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Don't get it (no seriously: Have I explained the concept correctly?) The first chapter of "Only" should be posted in a few days!