A/N: Sorry for the tardiness of this update...does it help that its three times as long as anything else? This is a direct continuation of the last chapter.


Roy Montgomery was the best captain in the Twelfth had ever seen. He'd been promoted to captain fifteen years ago, the youngest in a century. He was smart, committed, loyal, and just a damn good cop. He excelled in whatever he put his hand to—from his time as a traffic cop to his stint as a homicide detective with the highest percentage of solved cases in the five boroughs. When he became Captain, he established himself quickly as a firm superior and fair judge. Roy Montgomery was a good man. Yet, it seemed, he could never quite escape the shadows of his past.

Roy trained many cops in his day, but the best was indisputably Kate Beckett—

"I'm not the best." Kate interrupted.

"You are. Montgomery said so himself."

"He did?"

A shadow crossed Castle's face. He smiled gently at Kate's worried look. "Yeah. He did."

Roy trained many cops in his day, but the best was indisputably Kate Beckett, who went on to outdistance even his statistics as a homicide detective. They were the best and the brightest, and they gathered around them a team of people every bit as brilliant as them. There was Javier Esposito, tough and dependable, street smart and a warrior at heart. His partner, Kevin Ryan, loyal to a fault, quick on his feet, and possessed of enough charm to make any politician jealous. And of course, Lanie Parish, the brilliant forensic analyst, who defies that "dead men tell no tales" and yet can brighten up any room just by being in it. And Richard Castle, writer, consultant, and crime-solving extraordinaire; charming, brilliant, and—

"A pain in the ass."

"That too."

"Is this going somewhere?"

"Eventually."

"Continue, then."

"Yes, ma'am."

Together they solved crimes and put criminals behind bars. Together they brought justice to victims and their families. But, people are made of pain and suffering as well and joy and happiness, and we all have skeletons in our closets and mysteries veiled in darkness. Our heroes were no exception.

Roy Montgomery first encountered Beckett one night when she was still a rookie, long after everyone else had left for the day, huddled in a dark records room with a flashlight, pouring over a file well beyond her clearance. He could have written her up then and there, no questions asked, but that wasn't the kind of man Roy was. He discovered that the case file was her mothers, a murder with a trail long cold, and he saw Beckett's determination and fire, and he knew, it was his duty to make her the best detective he could, and to protect her as he sh—as well as he could.

"He told you about that?"

"Shush. You're ruining the flow."

"There's a flow?"

"Well, not anymore, thanks to you."

"Sorry."

Years went by and nothing new turned up on her mother's case. Then, one day the killer struck again, and all hell broke loose. What had originally been deemed random violence suddenly turned into a terrifying conspiracy the scope of which no one could fathom. But justice was on their side, and Beckett caught a piece of the puzzle, an assassin by the name of Hal Lockwood. For months, he refused to cooperate, or to speak at all. Beckett visited him every week, staring down the devil, waiting for him to crack. Then, it happened.

The devil blinked.

When Beckett arrived on one of her weekly visits, she found that Lockwood had been transferred to General Population—

"You're not serious." Kate was intrigued now, sitting up a little straighter, breathing a little shallower.

"As a heart attack."

"Did he make it to McAllister?"

"I'm telling a story!"

"Castle!"

"You found him over the body, covered in blood."

"Damn. He never would have talked, would he?"

"Not likely. It was his job to silence the people who would."

"Everywhere we turn, we get cut off at the knees."

Castle flinched. "Don't say it like that."

"I thought Lockwood escaped?"

"Not till his arraignment."

Understanding dawned in her eyes. "Smart. Harder to get in than out. Who helped him?"

"Don't know. Coupla guys dressed in stolen uniforms. Set off a flashbomb and had a helicopter waiting."

"A helicopter?"

"Stolen and returned before anybody knew it was gone. We only found it 'cause you managed to get a few shots off and the owner noticed the damage."

"How the hell did Lockwood get into General Population anyway?"

"Ryker."

"Chuck? No way."

"Lockwood got to him through his financials, then put a bullet in his brain."

Kate blamed the medication flooding her system, but suddenly there was an intense pressure behind her eyes and she bit her lip and clenched her palms until they ached. "Ryker….I knew him…"

"Hey…hey…uh, maybe, maybe, uh, maybe you should rest for a while…uh…isn't time for a nurse to come in or something…"

Kate rolled her eyes and swiped at her cheek... "Grow up, Castle."

"Maybe we should save the rest for later."

"No. I want to get this over with."

"But Kate…it only gets worse from here."

"I know. I'm fine. Go on."

Castle hesitated. "Your dad came to visit me."

Kate sat straight up. "What?"

He sighed heavily. "He…he was worried about you. So was I. Everyone was. You were getting lost, Kate, you were…slipping, and I just—"

Kate's face was suddenly a mask. "Castle, you're here to tell me what happened to Montgomery, not give me a psych evaluation."

"Alright. Alright. Well, we knew that Raglan and McAllister were working with a third cop, possibly the one who was calling the shots the whole time, or possibly the one Lockwood escaped to assassinate."

"Plug up all the holes."

"Exactly. We were going through files from Raglan and McAllister and I noticed that one of the names had been whited out and overwritten—physically, on a typewriter."

"The third cop. Covered up."

Castle was being quiet again, and not looking at her. "I don't know if I can do this, Kate."

She merely tightened her grip on his hand. "Are we there already?"

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry…I didn't think about how this would be for you. Were you…there? When it happened?"

"Yes. No. Sort of. So were you…but not." She stayed quiet, and he took a deep breath and gathered himself. "Montgomery called me. Said Lockwood was going to kill you. Said he had a plan, that he could save you, that he could save us all. I should have put the pieces together then, I should have known…I could have known. But…I didn't want to see…I didn't know he was going to use you as bait, I swear I didn't, if there's one thing I cannot forgive him for, that's it. Out of all of it…"

"Rick." She called him back softly from whatever dark place he had just gone.

"Right." He shook himself. "He called, told me to meet him at the hangar where they found the chopper. He promised if I did what he said, nothing would happen to you. He made me swear…I swore on your life…so I hid, like he asked. You drove up barely two minutes later, walked in…when Roy pulled out his gun I almost couldn't..."

"Castle, you're freaking me out. Just spit it out already."

"He was the third cop, Kate. He was a rookie, working w/ Raglan and McAllister; the undercover agent was an accident, but it was his gun. He turned it around after that, put everything into the job, but it was too late…some bigwig had found out and instead of turning them all in demanded all the ransom money himself. He didn't kill your mother, but it was part of the fallout of that first cover up—"

"Sir, I forgive you. I forgive you."

"Castle, get her out of here."

"No! Castle, let me go!"

His arms only tightened around her as she flailed uselessly, deprived of focus and direction by confusion and exhaustion. She needed him to let go, she need to go back, go back now. She fought to hold on her anger, not to give way to the despair that threatened to overwhelm.

"Let me go! Please!"

He said nothing, but he did not let go. He never let go. Why couldn't he let go?

"Rick…please…"

He just couldn't let her go. And now the despair swallowed her whole and she was breaking, melting, falling into darkness, and Rick held her as she fell, bore her up in the darkness where she couldn't breathe, tried in vain to gather the pieces even as she flew apart. His face was the only face in the world because the rest had passed into the abyss where she could not find it. The gunshots in the distance were like electricity to her broken limbs and the deafening bang of her captain's service weapon was the final snap in her rapidly unraveling life-line. Then it wasn't Castle anymore but Roy, and he was already going stiff and cold, staring at her with lifeless eyes.

"Kate?"

A terrible fury was churning in her gut. "What did you do?"

"What?"

"It wasn't a dream. You took me away. Lockwood was coming and we left him there to die."

"We didn't have a choice—"

"There's always a choice. I'd made mine, and you took it away from me."

"You would have died with him Kate. How could you expect me let that happen?"

"Because it's my life. Not your personal playground."

"Seriously? We're going to have this exact same conversation again?"

Kate was jolted out of her tirade. "Really? We've done this before?"

A particularly sour look crossed Castle's features and he sagged wearily. "Yeah. And made up again too."

"Oh. That's…a strange feeling."

"Tell me about it."

"So…how did we do it the first time?"

A small smirk with a hint of his old mischievousness appeared. "You apologized profusely and bribed me with chocolate."

Kate rolled her eyes. "Uh huh. Really."

"Yup." The smirk grew to a grin and he whisked something from behind his chair. "But I brought it back. Really, Kate, you should know better. I'm deathly allergic to coconut."

Kate laughed. Really, and truly laughed.