Title: A Sparrow's Fall

Characters: Kate Beckett & Richard Castle. Lanie, Martha, Alexis, Ryan & Esposito will make an appearance.

Rating: T

Spoilers: Anything up to and including S3 finale "Knockout." And a small morsel of S4 theory.

Disclaimer: Well in an Alt. Universe I might, but since we are not there right now I will begrudgingly admit that I don't own, profit from, or claim any rights to the TV show Castle or it's characters. All rights belong to ABC and to the bloody brilliant Andrew Marlowe. In the Alt. U...I also have unicorns. They're adorable. :)

Summary: After the shooting, Kate Beckett and Richard Castle try to navigate their unrequited feelings while trying to keep each other out of harms way. Post S3. AU S4.

A/N: A huge 'THANK YOU' to all of you who read and/or reviewed "The Gravity of Always," my first foray into Castle fic writing. Your reviews were a pleasure to read. For those reviewers I could not PM a response to just know that I read your reviews and you have my gratitude.

If this fic captivates you even a miniscule in comparison to how Castle has captivated me, and us all, then that would be wonderful. Welcome to my imagination. There is tea to the left :)


Chapter I: The Barter Dance


As Muted Chaos slow danced with Father Time, Rick felt his partner fall into another world.

His invitation was lost. A universal oversight; he was sure of it.

His eyes drifted over her unconscious form as he tried to cradle her in his arms. He saw an unwanted, languid stream of red silk mingling with sprigs of cropped emerald green, stitched ivory and flesh. His flesh. Her flesh.

Rick's body froze. He did not know these steps; he didn't want to learn this dance. Wind the clock back. Start the music again.

Then, he was being pulled away. A feeling akin to how she must have felt in the plane hangar, only days before, when Rick had pulled her away from her mentor. He had ripped her from someone she had held dear. Now someone was doing the same to him. Every part of him screamed in protest.

Female hands were patting his chest, squeezing his hands. They fluttered around him. Delicate, just like Kate was, but they weren't broken.

"It's going to be ok," was volleyed around. From whom, he couldn't pinpoint.

It didn't matter.

Those words were meaningless.

What was going to be OK? Nothing was.

He roughly shoved their hands away, marking them with silk and receiving pleas in return. Rick knelt beside Kate again. Taking off her glove and feeling her soft skin. It was getting colder. He wanted to tether her to him. Make her stay.

Lanie's body swooped in. Her hands shook and were wet from wiping her face, but now were wet from adding pressure to the wound. Rick knew she wasn't accustomed to warm victims. No, she wasn't that. She wasn't a victim. She was Kate.

Esposito was now beside Beckett. Lanie's strong tone made him do exactly as she commanded. Esposito stumbled a bit, stepped on toes, but he wasn't useless, he let Lanie lead.

One step. Two step. Three step. The ABC dance of medicine. All in tandem.

It was a an interpretive dance that Rick didn't understand. He should have. He knew the lingo, the medical jargon from his research. This was different. It was like he was watching a program in a foreign language. You knew the gestures and the facial expressions, but comprehension was minimum.

Lips were moving. Feet were moving. People were moving. But she wasn't.

He wanted it to stop.

He wanted to buy Father Time a drink and get him to turn back a few minutes. That's all that was needed. He would get to her then. His flesh would be pierced. All would be well.

As the sirens drew near, he knew the 'Golden Hour' was upon them. The EMS team took to the ground running.

"Over here!" Ryan yelled, waving his hands to the paramedics, before looking down at Esposito.

"Did you get the son of a bitch?" Esposito asked.

"Javi, you need to apply more pressure!" Lanie commanded, snapping Esposito back.

Ryan didn't answer the question, but shifted to the man standing next to a nearby gravestone.

Rick's name was being repeated. It sounded wrong to him.

'Dad'. 'Richard'. He wanted his name to fall from her lips not theirs. He wanted to hear her yell, scream or coo 'Castle', 'Rick', 'Writer Monkey'. Anything. Just as long as it was her voice.

It had to be her.

"Wake up. Please wake up, Kate."

His Kate.

He dared to call her that now.

Those words that he had spoken to her in fervency needed to be heard. Those three words that no wordsmith could ever manage to recreate or string together an equivalent; those words that people had sung to one another as they danced through life, were now fluttering, looking for their partner, their mate.

He urged them not to land on deaf ears. Kate must have hard him. A faint smile? She had smiled. Or did she? Those moments of recognition were hazy. He remembered tears. Hers. His. And blood.

Rick urged the universe to hear those words then. The words that he should have said months ago. From the moment he first met her. Deep down he knew then. He must have. The universe had to hear their sweet song. So it would be known, beyond repose, that she was wanted, needed and loved.

Here. By him.

Their dance had only just begun.

Strips of sound started to pierce his ears. Slicing through the chaos, sharpening it's effect. A mosh pit of sound ensued. Everyone was dancing now, just to an off beat tune.

"Down Time?"

"5-10 minutes"

The ripping of her uniform.

"Single GSW to the chest."

Stranger's hands were touching Kate's blood-tinged, porcelain skin.

"She's unresponsive."

Gasps from the uniformed crowd.

His daughter's muffled cries.

The sound of feet crunching against the grass.

And chirping.

His ears latched onto the last as he looked over the trees. White-throated birds with yellow lores flew off into the sky.

"Sir, I need to you step back."

He gripped Kate's hand even more.

"RICHARD!" Martha's tone pleaded him back to reality as she pulled him to his feet. "You have to let them do their job. Let them save her."

Castle felt his mouth move, "I wasn't fast enough."

"Oh, Dad," Alexis broke off into a sob and clung onto his arm, taking the glove from him and placing it between her fingers, next to Kate's hat that Alexis managed to grab off the ground.

"Richard, listen to me," Martha reached up and he could feel her hand wiping tears from his cheeks, "She needs you to be strong."

"She needs not to be shot!" Rick said. More like yelled. Stupid, yes. But his proficiency with words required higher functions than he had at the moment.

Eyes met his briefly. His tone had caught everyone's attention and made sure those handling her know that she was precious.

He scanned the scene before him before he settled on eyes that were a part of her. Jim Beckett. He was standing by a grave stone near by with Ryan. Horrified to petrification. Castle knew that look. Whenever a loved one is close enough for Death to kiss, you barter. You offer jewels, wealth, and promises.

Your life is worthless now and your loved one's becomes priceless.

Then Death faces you. Even-faced. It looks at what you have to offer, then shrugs the decision off to the stratosphere for judgement. Whichever deity or thing or energy is out there, you stare it down. Beg to it on bended knee. Lay things out. Step by step. Teach them your dance. Razzle-dazzle 'em. No logical argument needed, just a trade.

One life for another. Heel-toe. Heel-toe. Tap-Tap-Tap.

Rick looked away from the man bartering to the woman in trade. There was no need for that, was there? She was Detective Kate Beckett. She stared down the barrel of gun; chased down hardened criminals; put up with Richard Castle on a daily basis. She was a fighter.

Kate was surrounded by paramedics now. They knew the steps. They were well rehearsed. They weren't going to fail like Rick did.

A failure that led to detective Kate Beckett, their Kate, his Kate being carted off. A rag-tag image of blood, flesh, and fabric. Fragile. Broken. Unable to fly away like the gang of birds sailing betwixt the chaos and trees.

He watched as the paramedics put her in the box for broken things. He went to follow, but his legs locked when he saw the EMS team scramble.

"No Pulse."

Hands moved. Instruments were played. Beats hit her chest.

"No..." Castle lurched towards the ambulance. His feet, though, were rooted in fear. But he needed to go. Needed to hold her hand and let her know she was not alone. He was too late. And so was Jim. Both too frozen, so Lanie clamored in.

The doors closed. The dance had moved on. They rolled away under the song of sirens.

Esposito and Ryan were left to usher a shocked Jim towards the parking lot among the shocked expressions of the remaining bystanders and cops from the 12th.

Alexis and Martha ushered Rick in the same direction. His feet worked then. Things kicked into gear.

Get to the car.

Get to the hospital.

Get to Kate.

Simple.

Alexis and Martha tried to keep up with his pace as Rick stared after the flashing lights.

All he knew had just oozed away. All he wanted had just wilted before his eyes.

Then the voice came. That small voice from the back of your mind that pecks away at any thread of hope you might have. It says things like: "She might not make it," and, "No pulse, no life," and "You couldn't save her."

Rick was in a moment of pure human helplessness coddled by fear, taunted by death, strangled by hope and marred by knowledge that he was too late.

He felt his throat constrict, his car keys hit the pavement. He slammed his bloodied hand against the back window of his black S.U.V.

His mother's hand fluttered once again on his back. He couldn't meet her gaze.

"Mom...I can't..." his voice was childlike.

"Darling, you haven't lost her. Alexis, put him in the back. I'll drive."

They drove away, leaving Muted Chaos and Farther Time bowing to the crowd. Rick looked out the window, through his blood stained imprint, and knew there was only one thing left to do.

Barter.

...


There is a high chance that there's a plethora of post 'Knockout' fics already out there, but I hope you find room for one more. This is just the start and next we will be moving to the hospital.

I hope you find the time out of your busy day to leave a review. If there are any mistakes, by all means let me know. I will, of course, respond in kind. As always though, you have my gratitude for just simply reading my work.

I plan on regular updates, so the next chapter should be up within the week. I would recommend a story alert just to be safe.

Cheers,

Rini :D