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Well, I ended up doing another 'Knockout' fic after all - only, I didn't add it on to my other one because this one is a multi-parter. YES, it's yet another post-finale fic, but bear with me! This one's a little different. It's not Caskett-centric (though there will definitely be strong Caskett tones in the last chapter), and it's not Esplanie-centric (like I usually do) either. Rather, there's no defined 'ship' at the core of this at all. It's a team fic, based on Kate's reference to herself, Castle, Esposito and Ryan as "this immediate family."

Therefore, even though I could go on and on and recount every single character's first encounter with Beckett, I'm only going to cover the Immediate Family. There will be three chapters total, one for each of the three guys, in the order that they met her. (And I'm completely making these backstories up, except for Rick's, so just call it AU if you want, in case Marlowe fills in something different later. Hence "fan fiction," after all.) THERE WILL be a small hospital perspective/intro from each of them as well, but hopefully it's not too redundant to stuff you've already read around here. Should be at least slightly fresh, since I'm using three different guys' POV.

As always, I don't own Castle. The first chapter up is Esposito's Kate story. No more ado. Enjoy.

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The fact that it was called a 'waiting room' was so obvious, it was borderline idiotic. Almost patronizing, somehow - as if the people who huddled in here from day to day weren't already aware of the fact that that's all they were doing. Waiting. Helpless as a damn baby, and nothing they could do about it. No sense of control. Nothing left but to literally, agonizingly...wait. It was something Javier had never taken to very well.

People died, got shot all the time. You'd think he'd be used to it by now.

Being careful not to shift Lanie, he swung another weary glance up at the clock on the wall. 9:28 p.m. He wasn't sure how many hours that made, but it had to be getting up there. Esposito didn't even have to look left to see that Ryan was still perched in his own chair on the opposite wall, elbows on his knees, hands folded, staring at God only knew what. Jenny had arrived shortly after they did, and she was sitting beside Kevin now, rubbing his back in repetitive circles, whispering soothingly every now and then about how "Kate is a fighter" and "They'll patch her up, you'll see, I know they will." Jenny was a good woman. The thought made Javier recall his own, and he turned his eyes down and to the right to check up on her.

Lanie had been one of the first responders at Kate's side, once he'd let her go, the premises clear of gunfire. She'd ridden along in the ambulance and barely let the surgeons stop her at the double doors; Javier wouldn't be surprised if she'd left claw-marks on the side of the gurney. Ever since, she'd been here in this room just like the rest of them, holding down the fort in her capacity as fifth member of the team. And God almighty, could the woman pace. Javier had had to pull out every last one of his best stops just to get her to sit down - the whole pleading-eyes thing, three attempts to hold her hand until he'd finally succeeded, an inflection in his voice somewhere between 'Baby, I know what you're going through' and 'Woman, don't argue with me.' It'd been about half an hour now since the punchy M.E. had finally conceded, and within minutes, she'd dropped off into a light sleep, both her arms curled around one of his, her cheek against his shoulder. At this point, Javier was just glad he could be of some comfort in all this; hell, it went both ways, and she didn't even know it. He couldn't really ask for more than that.

She looked all right, so Javier was extra careful not to wake her as he brought his left arm around to pull a piece of her hair away from her eye. Small as it was, that was the only task he'd had for the last several hours. Then there was nothing left to do again. It made him both weary and restless, like caging a dog.

Felt like he hadn't breathed yet today. Exhaling a lungful, he snatched the police uniform cap off his head before tipping it back against the wall. A hell of a day like this seemed like it should've been over by now…of course, that would almost be like implying that the world was fair. Ha. Staring at it, Javier turned the cap over in his hand. He hated this uniform, hated having to put it on each time since he'd been promoted out of it, years ago. Not the blue itself; it was what he walked those streets for…but the reasons. The reasons for putting it on again were never good, this one especially. Eventually he'd just grown to hate seeing it again. Every time his mind traveled back to why, it was like a dull knife in his chest. Every time. With Ike, it had taken years to go away, even when it was all proven a lie… He knew that this time would be longer. And worse. This time, nobody was kidding.

Something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. It was Castle. The writer was still sitting alone in the row across from them, next to the seat using Jim Beckett's jacket as a placeholder while the elder man distracted himself with a coffee run. But Castle…for once, he was the focused one. Refusing to move, refusing to accept any coffee or a change of clothes or turn his thoughts to anything but Beckett.

And inevitably, that was right where all his trains of thought kept ending up. Beckett. Kate. Their friend. His sister in the badge; in practically every way but blood, come to think of it. All the options of her condition occupied his mind, only one of which he could even begin to accept. There was only one option, and the others didn't exist; not to him. All those other scenarios were just there uninvited - and despite it, were making themselves pretty damn comfortable - but unfortunately Javier wasn't immune, and he let his eyes fall closed. She had to be all right. There wasn't another way out of this. She had to - she would be all right. As long as Kate made it, they could hold together, and he kept on sending the silent prayer to God or the Captain or whoever was listening until he wasn't aware of it anymore: It's Beckett we're talking about. Just let her pull through this one. Gradually, the fluorescents above his head faded away to the blackness behind his eyelids.

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The door with the nameplate was partway open, but his upbringing, his training and recent events were so well-ingrained that he felt compelled to knock anyway. He stepped into view, giving a quick, two-knuckled rap to the doorframe. "'Scuse me. Captain?"

The man behind the desk - a half-bald, solid-looking African-American guy in a tailored suit - didn't even need to look up to acknowledge him. "Come in," he granted. His voice was affable and resonant. "Siddown."

Shutting the door behind him, the younger man did as directed, shoving his hands into the pockets of his weathered bomber jacket. He took the leather-padded chair offered, only to stand right back up when the captain shut his folder and rose, trading a strong handshake.

"Detective Javier Esposito?"

"Yes sir."

"Roy Montgomery. Good to have you aboard."

"Glad to be here, sir." To be honest, he wasn't exactly positive that was true just yet. All he knew was that he was glad not to go back to the Fifty-Fourth. Everything else was a trial-run from here on out. Simultaneously, both men took a seat. The captain folded his hands on top of the desk, taking a moment to study his new recruit quietly, and Javier warily let himself be studied. The man's gaze didn't exactly make him comfortable, but he knew better than to say so, and opted to keep a poker face on.

Whether or not the older man saw what he was looking for, he didn't let on. Instead, he pulled a second folder toward him; Javier noted his own police picture fastened to the upper corner. "You're here right now, so I assume I don't have to tell you that your file is very impressive," Captain began.

"No sir," Javier said indifferently.

"Special Forces background, that's some solid experience, got to respect that… Expert military-grade weapons intel; Spanish-fluent, level two proficiency in Farsi, level one in Gulf Arabic… Experience in undercover operations, that's a given… Graduated early from Academy, top five percent in your class… Eighty percent closure rate with the Fifty-Fourth Precinct working Organized Crime." He glanced up. "Seems to me like you've been around the block for someone your age."

Javier knew all of that. He'd kind of been there. Waiting for a 'but' somewhere, he watched as Captain Montgomery leafed casually through the folder with, more or less, his life story in it. Then, surprisingly, the man shut it, leveling with him eye-to-eye.

Montgomery pointed to the bullpen through the office window. "Those people out there are some of the best in this town. Now maybe that's just my humble, very biased opinion, but our rates say we're damn close, if we're not there yet." The captain paused a beat. "I know what you been through, and I'm sorry to hear that. To lose a partner like that is a special kinda hell - and whether or not you choose to share that around is up to you. I wouldn't blame you myself, and I know for a fact you wouldn't be the first or the only one around here with a few skeletons in the closet." He followed the revelation with one more loaded pause. "But the fact is - yeah, you're young - but you're the one of the best where you came from. Now I'm gonna put you with one of my best, and I expect no less from you on this job. Homicide's a whole different ballgame." Finally, the question. "Am I clear, Detective?"

The allusion to Ike's death bristled him, but Javier wasn't hearing anything he hadn't come in expecting, and he nodded. "Yes sir."

Then came the question he wasn't expecting. Montgomery raised an eyebrow, asking him, "You sure you're up to the task?"

Weird. It almost didn't sound like his new captain meant the job. Almost like it was genuine concern for him as a person. Javier wasn't quite ready to wrap his mind around that just yet. But he did answer, at least, even with a few more syllables than last time. You couldn't say he didn't try. "I am, sir. Never been the kinda cop to let a setback get in the way of the job. I can handle it; I'm just happy to have a desk and a gun."

The captain had a fatherly, off-center smile, and he used it then. "Good. That's what I like to hear." Javier was just about to dismiss himself when Montgomery turned to look past his guest's shoulder, toward the door. "You can c'mon in now."

Who can whatnow?

Javier twisted around in his chair, then stood up all together. A slim woman with a brunette ponytail stood in the doorway, her arms folded, leaning one shoulder against the frame. He ballparked her at twentysomething - actually, he was just about having trouble believing she worked here at all when she came forward and extended her hand. They shook.

"Detective Esposito, this is Detective Kate Beckett; she's on her way to being one of my finest Homicides. Beckett, I'd like you to meet Detective Javier Esposito, fresh transfer from the Fifty-Fourth. And your new partner."

Partner. So that was the reason Roy looked oddly proud of himself. The eyebrows alone seemed to say 'Don't say I didn't warn you.'

"It's nice to meet you," Detective Kate Beckett said. Obviously she'd been warned. Must've been nice.

"Yeah, you too," Javier returned, but he was a little distracted at the moment. What was this captain doing? Assigning him some rookie? What, like some bullcrap re-immersion into field work? Before Javier had the chance to turn around and ask Roy over there for a word in private, the Captain was already waving them out of his office.

"Go on, you two get acquainted amongst yourselves. Oh, and Esposito - good luck. Welcome to the Twelfth."

Well. That was a 'Get out' if he'd ever heard one. So much for a word.

Looking to Beckett for some kind of cue, he found one when the female detective tilted her head toward the door, then turned and walked out of it. Javier followed, given that the option had pretty much been chosen for him at that point. Awesome. They headed out into the desk-punctured open space of the bullpen, past a small cluster of officers in uniform - to which Beckett gave a "Hey guys, how's unemployment?" and they quietly scattered back to work - and came to a stop beside the only desk there without a nameplate.

Javier craned his neck around to get a look at the beat cops, mildly impressed, or at least surprised. "You're kidding. They actually listened?"

Beckett gave a half-shrug. "You'd be surprised." Hell, he already was. She laid a hand on top of the desk, empty except for a computer monitor and a cup of pencils. "This one's yours. Won't look like much just yet, but a few nights going over cold files and it'll feel enough like home."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind," Javier deadpanned. He gave the desk a glance, then raised his eyes to meet Beckett's. "Cold files. That what we do?" He gestured between the two of them. Call him crazy, but he hadn't really been looking forward to studying unsolveds when he'd signed up for this.

"Oh. No." She shook her head. "Mostly they're pretty fresh. The cases, I mean. We've got a decent turnaround, so the cold ones aren't really common." For a second - just a second - Esposito thought he saw something flash behind her eyes. Something she was remembering, maybe. Something about the thought of there being unsolved cases that perturbed her. But then she was back, and he thought better to let it go than to ask. "I'm over there," she went on, pointing to her own desk, two back. "The one in between us here is Starling; don't bother him and he won't bother you. He's practically pre-retired."

Javier raised an eyebrow. "Pre-retired?"

"You know. One foot out the door," Beckett gestured. "Daydreaming of Maui. Or Miami."

"So, he's still here because…"

"The pension. Wouldn't you?"

"Ah." Esposito nodded once. Good point there.

But then he felt it. He noticed it - it was only a matter of time, after all. Was going to come up sooner or later. Beckett was studying him. Profiling, like any good detective would've - trying to figure out where he fit on the chain. Javier didn't shy from it, but he straightened almost unnoticeably; held himself taller out of habit. He'd was used to it, having been through this song-and-dance just about a thousand and one times before. Everybody always thought they knew him front-to-back with only a look. What his personality was like and how easy or difficult he was gonna be. Ninety percent of the time, they were wrong. Like hell anyone 'knew' a damn thing about him. He should've known better than to put it past Beckett, too, and could only guess that the next thing she said would be the same old record.

Then she opened her mouth, and it wasn't.

"Anyway, come on. I'll show you where we keep the coffee."

And before he followed, Javier's eyebrows took a quick trip north. Huh. Okay then.

The breakroom - according to Beckett's "This is the breakroom" - was nothing special. Two walls of countertop, an off-brand Coke machine that looked pretty easy to rig, a coffee pot, and a bunch of typical posters proclaiming 'If a cop calls you asking for money, it's not a COP, it's a CON.' Didn't look much different than the Fifty-Fourth, come to think of it.

He glanced around, hands in the pockets of his jacket. "Cozy," he commented. Sixty, maybe seventy percent sarcasm.

"Here." Beckett handed him a mug, off-white, with the NYPD shield glazed on the side. "I'd mark it if I were you. Or bring one. Any coffee mug without a name is fair game to these people."

"You speaking from experience?" he smirked.

A smirk of similar breed graced the female detective's face, but she declined a response, instead pouring some of the contents of the coffee pot into her own mug. She offered it to him with a tilt, and he nodded, taking it from her to serve himself a cup, sliding the pot back into the machine afterward.

It was all pretty run-of-the-mill until he actually took a drink of the stuff.

"Jeez!" Sputtering, he practically choked the mouthful back into the mug he was holding. What was this, some kind of sick hazing ritual? "Holy mother of shi - "

"You get used to it," Beckett spoke over him.

Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, Javier looked up at Beckett, fully in disbelief that she could drink that crap and be so calm about it. There she was, leaning back against the counter, nursing a full mug with both hands to hide the grin that was spreading on her face. Oh, he saw it, all right, but she obviously didn't want him to. There was something evil about that. He gaped at her for a second. "…Seriously? Oh, come on."

"Seriously."

He pointed at the coffee pot. "You put this here. Arsenic in it or something." Had to be. The stuff tasted like toxic waste, the bastard love-child of Starbucks and Chernobyl.

"Nope." Beckett even took a drink herself. Must've had a steel stomach by now. "Like I said, you get used to it. After a while of having no alternative you just don't really notice anymore."

"Yeah, I'll believe that when I see it. Matter of fact, scratch that: I'll take your word for it." Javier set his mug down next to the creamer rack, deciding he'd rather live another few years.

Beckett just shook her head and chuckled, taking another sip after a dry, "Hey, have it your way, tough guy."

"Thank you; think I will." Far as he was concerned, he'd had about enough of that for the next three lifetimes. Besides, there was something he was much more interested in. The question had been nagging at him long enough, and now Esposito folded his arms, leaning back against the table -

"Ass off the table."

- standing up straight and giving Beckett here a suspicious eye. "So what's your story?" he broached. "C'mon. Really."

Beckett only blinked at him. "…Why do you need to know?"

"Cap'n told us to get to know each other, right?"

"I don't talk about my personal life," was all Beckett said. Hedging past him, she walked briskly back out into the bullpen, taking her nasty-ass cup of coffee along with her. For a moment, Javier just stood there…he definitely hadn't seen that little display coming… Then he turned around and followed.

"Hey, wait a second."

"We're losing daylight, Detective; we've got paperwork here that won't file itself," she said without turning.

"Relax, it was just a question."

Finally, his new partner came to a stop, whirling around to face him so abruptly that he had to brake or risk toppling her. "Yeah, well, it's a question - " Beckett slapped a thick stack of folders into his hands " - that I don't answer." She paused, her green eyes staring him down from inches away, softening only enough for him to see the benefit of the doubt in there. Lot of regular doubt, too. "Remember that and we'll get along just fine."

Maybe it was just him, but Javier was starting to see how people respected the girl.

"…Fine," he conceded. "Fine by me."

"Good."

"Isn't it though."

"And a wiseass, too, I like that in a trans-cop." God, she was starting to get irritating - running off one minute, mouthing off the next. Resting a hip against the side of her desk, now it seemed to be Beckett's turn to cross her arms and give the same, inspective look back to him. Javier almost had to scoff at the turn here. "And what about you, Javier Esposito, huh? If you're so interested in people's backgrounds, I'm sure you wouldn't have any problem sharing your own - "

"You're dead wrong," he said, harsher all of a sudden. His eyes narrowed. So the girl was clever - well big freakin' deal. That didn't mean he was suddenly gonna let her go poking around in his life. She wanted to make her point? Fine. Point taken. "That's not a question. In fact why don't we just consider the subject off-limits. Okay? Comprende?"

"Perfect. Loud and clear," Beckett ground out.

"Excellent. Glad we understand each other."

"Glad we do." That settled, the slighter detective plopped down at her desk, scooted in her chair, and wordlessly picked up a pen, opening a folder. She seemed perfectly content to have nothing more to do with him.

Well then, score one for getting along with the new partner. Just as well. He didn't want a partner anyway.

Knowing he looked as gruff as he felt, Esposito whipped off his leather bomber and threw it on the back of his new desk chair, sinking himself down after it. He dragged one of the folders toward him and got to work - the sooner he did what they paid him for, the sooner he could leave. He'd gotten just about halfway through the case report, familiarizing himself with the details, when he felt a shadow seep over the pages. Looking up, there was Ms. Congeniality.

Javier sighed, and suddenly his eyelids felt heavy. "What do you want," he asked.

Beckett let a few fingertips rest on his desk, looking down on him with what looked like a hint of apology there somewhere. "…You don't ask, and neither will I. Start over. No preconceptions, blank slates."

It just wasn't that easy for some people. Him included. Trust was a fragile thing like that: took a long, long time to earn. Javier gave her a look, part weary, mostly skeptical. "Yeah? And why would you do that."

With the slightest shift in glance, Beckett indicated the Captain's office behind her. "Montgomery's got eyes on us."

Subtly, Esposito looked up. Sure enough, the man had a stern gaze fixed on them both through the window. Hey, at least Beckett was honest. Blunt, even.

And Javier laughed. Seriously. Why not? He did have to work with the woman, after all. Might as well make the best of it as possible for a change. No place to go but up; either that or go crazy.

"All right," he said, "Works for me. No more questions. Blank slates."

Beckett held out her hand to him, and he shook it, erasing the past five minutes. "Good. Welcome to the Twelfth Precinct, Detective."

"Thank you, Detective."

Slyly, they both risked a glance from the corners of their eyes - Javier knew she had because they'd looked at each other afterwards. Their little peace display seemed to at least placate the Captain; Roy returned his focus to his own work, and for a second - just a second, and he was pretty sure she never meant him to notice - Javier caught Beckett grinning a tiny little grin his way. Like they were the only two schoolkids with a secret, trying not to laugh and blow their cover. Even more shocking, he couldn't help but return it.

What the hell was the world coming to, anyway?

Before either one could say anything, a cell phone went off. It was Beckett's, and she pulled it from her hip; Girl Scout or not, she was all business. "Beckett."

Esposito watched her for any reaction as she listened. She had an unnervingly good poker face - it didn't give him much to work with, and he was left without a conclusion to draw until she finally hung up, tipping her head toward the elevator.

"C'mon."

He stood along, grabbing his jacket. "What was that about?"

"That was your first body," said Beckett, a hint of mystery in the near-smirk that grazed her features. "Let's hit it. I'll drive."

"I'm sorry, you'll drive?"

Her amused laugh rang away down the hall. "Oh, this job is going to be pretty interesting for you, isn't it, Detective…"

Hey, he had to concur on that one.

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Several hours had gone by now. That was how it felt, anyway. Either the clock in the waiting room had stopped about an hour ago, or time itself had just stopped moving, period. Very little was going to surprise him at this point.

To his right, Lanie was still asleep. Jim Beckett had returned from his coffee run with not only a round of coffee for the wake ones, but a stack of spare blankets from the nurses' station, and Javier had gratefully taken one for her, draping it around her. She was cozied up under it now, snuggled up to the shoulder in both it and him. He was still awake himself, or was now, at least. It didn't matter if he'd drifted or not. No one's post had changed. No information had changed. Nothing had changed. They were steadfast, the group of them. That was all they had right now.

With the free hand he had, Javier rubbed the film from his eyes that lack of rest had put there. It must have worked, because suddenly, he blinked them in double-time, making sure that the white-coated doctor heading their way was no mirage.

"Lanie," he whispered, giving her hand a jostle. She woke hazily, taking only seconds to orient herself before standing up to greet the man. Esposito stood with her. Jim and Rick stood. Ryan stood. They all stood, the group of them. Together. All watching in suspense as the surgeon regarded his clipboard, all waiting to breathe.

I'll do anything. Take me in her place if you want to. Just say she's okay.

"Family of Katherine Beckett?"

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Yes, I realize that was en evil place to end the chapter. And yes, I am going to end EACH chapter exactly the same way. Hey, the point was never to be a post-finale diagnosis fic: the point was to flash back to the Origins of Team Beckett. ;) So I figure that's a good common place to press pause. Hope you enjoyed Javi's POV - I adore his 'big brother' relationship with Beckett. They're so alike it's crazy. Makes me want to hug them both. ^_^

As I say on all my stories: if anyone (ages 14 and over) is interested in joining a free, written Castle RPG board, go give the bold paragraph in my profile a scan. The info's all there.

Liked this chapter? Excited to read the next one (Ryan's perspective)? Did you have a favorite part about this one? There's nothing I would appreciate more than if you would kindly review and let me know. It seriously does make my day to hear what you guys enjoyed the most out of one of these things, what your thoughts are, etcetera. Plus, every time you review, Castle gets renewed for another season. Y'know, so I hear. ;D XD

Thanks to all who're reviewing/reading. Next one's coming up. ^_^

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