"As far as the world is concerned, Roy Montgomery died a hero." – Beckett, "Knockout"
"Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed. You can look it up later." – Zoё, Serenity
Some days, you roll out of bed, go to work, carry out a normal day, and then go back home.
Some days, you roll out of bed, go to work, intend to carry out a normal day, and end up watching your mentor die.
Once she'd gotten over the initial shock of it all, some time later that awful night, Beckett collapsed onto her couch and buried her face in her hands, not crying, just sitting there and fighting the urge to think, to process, to even so much as ruminate on the day's events, because thinking meant knowing, and knowing meant comprehending, and if she had to comprehend it right now she thought she might just implode.
Castle knocked on the door. She knew it was him without having to open the door. He hadn't called, and she didn't really recognize his knock, she just… knew. She stood up, tried to force something other than despair into her expression, and crossed to room to open the door.
Before she even got a good look at him, he folded her into a tight, quick hug. His flannel shirt felt good against her cheek. Breaking away, she realized that Ryan and Esposito were standing behind them. "Hey, guys," she said, trying to keep her voice from wavering. She wasn't completely sure why- they were all close enough that it didn't much matter that she kept her walls up around the three of them, and it wasn't like she needed to keep face in front of them. She could already see that Ryan had been crying recently. "Come on in."
They formed a quadrilateral in Kate's living room, each of them a corner, well-aware that if it weren't for any one of them, all four of them would crumble. They were a team, a family, and never more aware of it than this moment. After a while of talking, Ryan and Esposito came to the conclusion that Beckett should read Captain Montgomery's eulogy.
"No way," said Castle unexpectedly, speaking up for the first time since he'd gotten there. "She's not standing up there, she shouldn't even be going!"
"What?" said Beckett. "Castle, I know what he did, but… I forgave him…" She bit down on her lip, refusing to start crying again. Captain Montgomery hadn't betrayed her, and she knew that. He had made amends. He had saved her life.
"Kate," he said, "he's still after you. Whoever hired Lockwood is still out there, and he'll look for any opportunity to…" He couldn't say it, couldn't form his deepest fears into actual words, they were too unthinkable. Ryan and Esposito exchanged a surprised glance, still unused to the free use of her first name.
"That's it," she said suddenly, determination soaking its way into her voice. "That's how we catch this bastard."
"What?" said Esposito, not following her.
"If I'm up there at the funeral, vulnerable," said Beckett, "he'll shoot – or his hired man will shoot – thereby exposing himself."
"You can't let him shoot you," argued Ryan.
"No, it'll be okay, I'll wear a bulletproof vest under my shirt," she explained, caught up in the brilliance of her plan and the desire to catch her mother's killer. "I can play dead while you guys chase the guy."
"No," said Castle immediately.
"It actually is a pretty good idea," sighed Esposito.
"No," said Castle.
"You two would get all the cops there to follow the shooter," explained Beckett.
"There's nothing about this plan that isn't horrific!" exclaimed Castle. He was staring at Kate, horrified that she seemed so willing to go through with this. All he wanted was to keep her safe, and he was shocked that she would be the one standing in the way of that.
"Castle, this is my decision," she replied, sounding annoyed.
"We'll go call up the other cops that are going to be there," muttered Ryan, excusing himself and Esposito. They walked outside, leaving Castle and Beckett alone in the apartment. Something hung between them, something that Beckett was afraid to define.
"I can't…" said Castle, once again failing to find the right words when it mattered most. "I can't…" He couldn't let her bait a killer. He couldn't watch her hang herself out like cheese in a mouse trap. He couldn't walk in knowing that she might get shot at and allow her out of arm's reach.
"Castle," she said, taking a deep breath. She'd slid closer to him on the couch. "I'll be okay." He shook his head, almost reflexively. "Listen…" she started, "you said that we never talk about anything." To his utter surprise, she swung around and kissed him on the mouth. It was so fast that he didn't have time to react and kiss her back before she'd returned to her original position on the couch- and he regretted that. "Now," she said, a mischievous grin brimming at the corners of her lips, "I promise, we will talk about that after the Captain's funeral."
He didn't bother asking her why she'd just done that and what it meant about her and Josh. There was no point trying to figure out where the two of them stood, not now anyway. All he knew was that he needed to keep her safe, and also that he needed to keep her happy.
"Okay," he sighed, more because he knew he couldn't change her mind than that he actually agreed with her idea. "Read the eulogy. Wear the vest." She smiled, happy that he was accepting what she felt she had to do.
Castle stayed a while longer, but as the night went on and he had to deal with the awkward stares that the guys kept shooting the two of them, and also the knowledge that his mother and Alexis would be expecting him, he decided that he really should be leaving.
"What happens if he doesn't shoot you where you're wearing the vest?" Castle said, turning around to say goodbye to Kate. "What if he aims for your head?" He gulped, not sure how he'd managed to actually force those words out of his mouth.
She shrugged and said simply, "I die."
It was a solid plan. All the police at the funeral were prepared for any shot that might ring out, were alert and aware and surveying the perimeter. There were people designated to run after the shooter and some that would stay back and keep the guests safe. Beckett was as safe as they could possibly make her, aside from wearing a helmet.
And yet, despite all their preparations, when Kate fell backward into the grass, the force of the bullet smacking into the Kevlar propelling her back as well as the dramatization she was putting into the act, Castle forgot all about the plan. He forgot that she was wearing a vest, he forgot that they'd all seen this coming, he forgot that he was supposed to be controlling the chaos. He rushed to her side, hands flying above her, trying to figure out what he could do to save her.
"Kate," he said, frantic. "Kate, stay with me." She didn't know why he was so freaked out- she'd felt the impact of the bullet, knew that it was resting safely outside her body, and yet he was staring at her in horror like she had a knife sticking out of her head. She tried to wink at him, but she was still a bit disoriented from falling backward and ended up just closing her eyes.
Then came the one part of the plan that she hadn't anticipated. "I love you, Kate."