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As promised, in the (presumed) order in which they met Beckett, here goes Ryan's chapter. Let's get into that adorable Irish head of his, shall we? Back to the good ol' waiting room. ;D (I picture his flashback segment taking place about four months before the pilot, by the way.)

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Kevin had always been pretty sure he liked the color blue. Ever since he was a kid, his mom had told him that it was his best feature - his eyes, that is. Always seemed to be the first thing people noticed about him, and he got on pretty well with that. In the Pre-K years, he'd always picked the blue crayon first. His first car had been blue - a definite fixer-upper, but a good car. Then there was the blue of the NYPD, and there was a deep kind of pride there for that, embedded from way back in his rookie days.

Now, today, sitting here in the same dress blues as the ones Beckett had bled through…picturing the crisp blue sky in his mind, reflecting in Montgomery's coffin, Beckett just staring up at it lifelessly, and the flecks of blue paint in the cold, sterile hospital walls… Now, he wasn't so sure. He was starting to think he could really go without it for a while. Blue, that is. Maybe he was becoming a 'green' guy.

No…green was grass. Grass was cemetery. That wouldn't work either.

Maybe the better option was just to close his eyes and drown out color all together.

Pushing out a sigh, Ryan leaned forward, elbows on his knees, kneading his hands together until the already-pale skin there turned to white. He knew that he was probably worrying Jenny with his behavior, with the way his eyes wouldn't really stick on anything or the way he was trying to strangle his hands before he strangled somebody else. He knew, but then again, he wasn't positive. Not of much of anything anymore. For all he knew, the jumble of thoughts going around in his head could've included elephants and circus clowns.

Of course, those parts really went without question, just, not literally. There was, in fact, an elephant in the room - that one was pretty obvious. It made him absently wonder who was the clown.

Finally, Jenny must've hit the end of her rope of watching him do that, because she stopped rubbing soft circles on his back and captured one of his overactive hands in both of hers. He looked up to meet her gentle green eyes, studying the pale freckles around them, knowing he looked sallow and sick and she could probably tell he'd been crying. Just a little bit, involuntary, a while ago when no one was looking.

"Kevin," she said soothingly. For a moment, it seemed like she hadn't had anything else to say, but she added more just before he could look down again. "From what I know of Kate, she wouldn't want you to lose hope," Jenny reasoned. She took a long pause, cracking a tiny smile at the end, all for his benefit, if there was any to be had. She'd give it willingly. "We're all here. Just a little longer."

She was trying. And God, how he loved her for that.

For Jenny's sake alone - and, maybe a little of Beckett's, even if it was cheesy - Ryan managed to find it in him for a small half-smile, and he squeezed her hand back. "Yeah. Yeah, I know." He was fairly sure, at least a hundred and twelve percent maybe, that no matter how much good he did in his life, he would never have enough good karma racked up to deserve Jenny. He was okay with that.

Right now, honestly, he didn't know how far down the barrel he'd be without her being here. Ryan leaned back against his chair and the wall, dragged a hand down his sleep-deprived face, and gave a surveying glance to the familiar others stationed in the waiting room. Across from him and to the right was his partner, Javier: the man had been nothing but stoic since the long-forgiven alley. Kevin knew him like a brother, and he didn't like the signs he was seeing. Outbursts, combined contrastingly with this ten-foot wall. That was another bomb waiting to go off. Ryan didn't fail to notice that his partner still had his arm around a light-sleeping Lanie, either. At least they weren't bothering trying to hide it anymore. A grim thought, but the hell with it: life was short, better to take whatever you could get.

Across from him and to the left was the rest of their odd little tribe, none of them even in law enforcement. Beckett's dad - or rather, a seat for him - next to Castle, elbows on his knees, staring at the patterned tile, unfazed by the occasional filtering in and out of his mother and daughter. Kevin watched this group for a moment the same way he imagined birdwatchers might observe a blue robin or two. They flitted, they moved around their central point, but the central point was fixed. That central point was Castle. In his way, Castle was making his own stand.

Ironically by sitting.

And waiting.

They were all waiting.

And where did that leave Kevin?

He was hardly the most important person to Beckett in this room. Sure, he knew the three of them - himself, Javier and Beckett - were kind of like siblings in the badge by now, but he knew he was more of the 'little' brother than anything. He didn't have quite the history with her that Javier had, and he couldn't protect her like Javier could. Or tried to, anyway. No one was safe on this one. And neither of them, cops or not, could hold a candle to Castle. Hell, they hadn't even seen the sniper coming. Castle did.

But that didn't stop him from realizing he wouldn't be anywhere else. No matter how many hours he didn't go home, or the calls he had to field from the lobby, no matter what they needed him to do, he belonged here. Until there was news. For Kate. He closed his eyes, rhythmically stroking his thumb over the back of Jenny's hand. He'd camp here all week, if it came to it. He owed her that.

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The bullpen in Homicide really didn't look a lot different from the one downstairs in Narco. Or the one back in Vice, from his days as the uni probie breaking up high school parties. Come to think of it, they all pretty much looked the same. Except for the fact that his new team was up here. Somewhere. If he could ever find them.

"Ah, 'scuse me." Ryan lightly snagged the sleeve of a wild-haired, dark-skinned woman dressed in detective-like attire before she could pass him by. "Can you point me to Detectives Beckett or Esposito? Heard somebody say the Captain wasn't in, so I figured - "

"Right over there," the woman pointed. Before Kevin could so much as thank her, she whisked off into a conference room.

Blinking, he did anyway. "Thanks." Not that there was any point to it or anything. Taking a deep breath, he made his way toward the cropped-haired woman and the solid-looking Latino guy that'd been indicated, half obscured as they were by pillars and desks. The closer he got, he saw that they were standing in front of a whiteboard covered in case information, both with their backs to him, deep in conversation. Bickering or building theory, he couldn't tell which.

"I still won't believe Craig's alibi until we confirm with the neighbor again," the woman was saying. Ryan assumed she was Beckett - hated to be a racial stereotyper, but come on: if the Hispanic guy wasn't Esposito, New York was on the moon.

"Oh, come on, you know as well as I do that the neighbor's not gonna say anything different," Esposito shot back, staring at what looked to be a timeline. "This'll be what - the third time we've questioned him?"

"And the more we do, the more likely he'll slip something up."

"Yeah, and the more likely they'll find a suicide note by my body."

"I think you'll live."

"And what about Marshall, huh? C'mon, his story's holier than Sunday at my grandmother's."

"But he was on camera at our TOD."

"Coulda been rigged?"

"Maybe, but I'm not betting on it."

Kevin let their banter, rapport, whatever it was, wash over his head and down the proverbial drain. Not that he wasn't already noting little patterns in their personalities - you never knew when that could help later - but he hadn't alerted them to his presence yet, and he used the opportunity to lean back against an empty desk and carefully study the whiteboard. Apparently this Marshall guy had all the motive, but a solid alibi for their time window…and Mr. Craig had plenty of opportunity and an alibi in his seventy-one-year-old neighbor. Sure, the elderly didn't tend to lie, but Kevin smelled an anomaly in there somewhere…

"All I know is we've got forty-eight hours before Craig gets past TSA," Esposito was saying.

"You should really nab him on Murder One, then."

If Ryan were a true chicken, he would've probably regretted making himself known at that particular moment. Or with wit. Attempted wit. Both the other cops in his new team turned around to face him, not whiplash-fast, not painfully slowly, either. He wasn't sure if he would have preferred one or the other.

"You, ah…" Esposito grinned amusedly, glancing quickly to Beckett and back, reminding Ryan of Denzel as Frank Lucas in American Gangster right before he shot somebody; Beckett only raised an eyebrow, smirking back slightly, waiting. Kevin tried not to think of brains on the wall or swallow too visibly. "You think you caught somethin' there, new kid?"

'Kid.' Seriously? Okay, he knew he looked a little young for this, but it wasn't like these two were collecting Social Security either. And here they had these titanic reputations as case-closing thug-eaters. Why did he always get that? Ryan cleared his throat, taking a step closer to the board. "Say Marshall really was indisposed at the time Ms…." He squinted to decipher the name on the board. "Crawford died. But he does want her dead - nobody breaks it off with Wade Marshall, right? So, let's say he's familiar with Mr. Craig. Marshall takes some of that money he funneled, pays Craig a pretty penny to play the semi-lucid old nanny-neighbor and get her to tell the LEOs whatever they wanna hear - meanwhile, Craig waits for Janet Crawford outside her dinner party and makes sure she won't remember dessert." Hands in his pockets, Ryan stood back, feeling proud of himself.

Beckett and Esposito stared. They took their time with that, to the point where Kevin's bold confidence started to shrivel and eventually he wondered if they wouldn't just start laughing. Then they stopped looking at him, and, eyes widening, looked at each other.

Beckett immediately uncapped a marker, re-arranging notes and pictures on the board. "If Craig and Marshall are connected, we need to run everything that pops up in their financials, in their habits, anything similar if it means they could've crossed paths."

"No rule sayin' it wasn't a hired hit," Esposito agreed.

"We've been looking at them as separate possibilities this whole time and not as - "

"Accomplices."

"Exactly." Standing back to admire her new column, Beckett turned and threw Ryan a glance over her shoulder - he wasn't sure, but he thought she looked almost impressed. Couldn't confirm, though, as the moment was punctuated by the buzz of Esposito's cell phone.

The detective pulled it from his hip with a brisk "Yo," listened a moment, then nodded once to Beckett and walked away to continue the conversation. And then there were two. Ryan fought the urge to rock back and forth on his heels a bit, now that Beckett had fully turned and was staring at him, wearing that same look again. He's heard bits and pieces of her reputation through channels, and told himself that the image of her unhinging her jaw and eating him was totally irrational. People gossiped like kindergarteners.

One sculpted, slightly auburn eyebrow stayed arched as she gave him her once-over. Then she spoke. "That was…not bad. Not bad at all, actually." Oddly, she sounded more amused than surprised. Like someone had promised her this result and she was just now buying it. Kevin didn't reply, not yet, and Detective Beckett eventually offered her hand. "Kate Beckett."

Ryan was good with cues. He shook it heartily and briefly. "Kevin Ry - "

"Ryan; I know who you are. You must be the Narc transfer."

"Yeah. That's me."

She tilted her head at the board. "You ever work Homicide before?"

"Ah, no. No. I, ah…I have worked Vice, though, besides Narco…" Beckett didn't look that impressed with that. Vice was always kind of a joke with the guys in Homicide, he was never really sure why… Ryan moved on quickly, clearing his throat. "Anyway, my closure rate was the highest one there, I guess, so, when Captain Montgomery talked to my old captain and said there was an opening in Homicide, I - "

"It's okay." Beckett stopped him mid-sentence, and he wasn't dumb enough to try and keep talking. She looked friendly enough about it, almost like part of her wanted to laugh, but didn't want to seem rude. "Trust me, no one joins my team unless I've read their file synopsis. You're good, or you wouldn't be here." She paused, smirk growing by fractions, then casually shrugged. "And if you're not, you'll probably be dead by Tuesday."

Was that gulp audible? Kevin really hoped not. She was kidding. Right? Of course she was. Obviously she was kidding.

"Besides," she added, and Kevin wondered if she'd been into hazing in college or high school. She was effortlessly good at it. Her smile grew a little warmer. "It's not really me you have to worry about getting along with." A cock of her head indicated the direction Esposito had gone in. "It's him."

Are you kidding? The dude that could snap him in half. Yeah, that gulp was probably audible.

"Easy, tiger. He doesn't bite. Cops."

Kevin didn't realize his hand was resting near a pencil cup until he knocked it over by accident. "Jeez - sorry." He dove to catch rolling pencils before they could take sanctuary under any of the desks. "Got it, just…sorry." Okay, so one or two of them got away; it didn't mean his whole first day was doomed, okay? There were no omens. And even if there were, omens did not come in pencil form.

When he came back up, righting the cup on the desk, he noticed that Beckett was casually covering her mouth with her hand, trying to disguise a broad smirk. He scowled for a second, assuming automatically that she was laughing at him, but something about her expression made him revise the theory, and he erased the scowl. She looked more…entertained. Even if she looked like she was trying not to admit it. That was something, right?

It had to be. He really didn't want to get on her bad side and have her shoot him or worse, have her sic Esposito on him. Ryan had the not-so-vague feeling that would hurt. A lot. He tried not to picture hospital beds.

"So." He figured as long as they were standing here, he might as well strike up some conversation. And, also, try not to look like a neophyte or a doofus. Managing that would be a plus. "How long you been working up here?"

Beckett shrugged one shoulder. "Two years, almost, I guess. Came straight here from being a beat cop, so."

Kevin nodded. "And…Esposito, was it?"

"He's been with us for a couple of months, at the least. Transfer from another precinct."

"Yeah?" Call him a geek - Kevin preferred the term 'rampant consumer of information.' He was into people's profiles. "So what's his story?"

But Beckett didn't seem to share that trait - she only flipped a shoulder again, looking away. "Ask him," was all she said on the subject, and then the door slammed down on it. Ryan nodded, rationalizing his mild disappointment with the consolation that he'd learn these things later. He already knew better than to ask Beckett for hers.

"Right. Sorry."

"Don't be." Beckett might've been a closed book to outsiders, but Ryan could see she wasn't trying to be a bitch about it. Especially when, to his surprise, she tilted her head toward a doorway on the other side of the bullpen. "C'mon. I'll show you the breakroom."

He took it as a sign that he must've done something right this morning, and followed her without hesitating. "Let's go."

She led the way, and he found quickly that the breakroom was entirely unremarkable. Looked a lot like the one in Vice, actually, but he was already the New Guy - he wasn't about to bring up the 'V' word. Again. He was new, not masochistic and stupid. He stood there feeling awkward for a few moments as Beckett poured them both a coffee, then accepted his with a grateful nod. Smelled good, anyway.

"You'll learn to live on it," Beckett advised.

Before he even took a drink, Kevin pointed to the mug. "This anybody's in particular?"

The female cop raised an eyebrow. "You thought I'd give you someone else's unwashed mug to drink out of?"

"Good point." Setting it down for a second, Kevin peeled a Post-It note from a cube that someone had left on the table, took a pen from his inner jacket pocket, and wrote 'K. Ryan' on it, sticking it to the side of his mug. His Narc days had taught him that an unclaimed mug was like asking for mono.

Now Beckett looked impressed. "Quick study," she said.

"Thanks." Ryan raised the mug for a victory drink…which turned out not to be that victorious. The bitter 'a-robot-peed-in-my-cough-syrup' taste sent him on a rather humiliating coughing jag almost immediately.

"Yeah, it does that," Beckett admitted, and he gratefully took the paper towel she held out.

"Thanks."

"Sure."

Ryan tried fruitlessly to pat off his tie, but he had a feeling it was already too late; the formerly neat blue-and-orange stripes were already staining brown and…browner. Great. Now he was the new doofus with the so-called-coffee splotches on his tie. Batting a thousand, here.

He felt Beckett's eyes on him as he cleaned himself up, figuring she was just staring at the sheer number of ways he could make himself look totally incompetent within fifteen minutes of introduction…but when he looked up, she didn't look like that. She looked…contemplative.

Basically she was already surprising him every time he turned around. Learning her was going to be a long, long process, he could already tell.

"I'm not putting him up for adoption by doing this, you know," she began.

Kevin wasn't following. "…Putting who up?"

Beckett nodded toward the bullpen. "Him."

Following her eyes, Ryan took a minute to get the point. He guessed he didn't look any less confused when he looked back at her. "Detective Esposito?"

She nodded, and he finally felt like he was getting somewhere. There was a good-sized pause from her before she went on, as if making sure he was all there, and when she did she was still looking away. "He's my partner. And he's good. Montgomery's been after me for a while now to get someone else on the team; most the people around here work in threes or fours…" Her eyes moved to meet Kevin's, and, where Kevin thought he'd flinch under the gaze, he didn't. "I'm not putting him up for adoption," she repeated. "I'm adopting you. Is that clear?"

Still wasn't entirely sure where she was going with this, but Ryan nodded anyway. "Yeah."

"Good." Then a small corner of her mouth gave into a smile, just barely. "In that case, I'd get familiar with your new partner if I were you."

New…what? "What?" Kevin managed. Definitely hadn't seen that one coming. "But, you said - "

"I said the Captain's been bugging me to put a team together. Which he's been doing because he wants me to run lead on it. So, I said yes. Here you are. Any questions?"

"N…no. None at all." Well, anything sounded simple when you put it like that. Kevin suddenly got the strong feeling that he was going to be taking a lot of spur-of-the-moment mental notes on this job. At least if he wanted to keep up. And he would keep up.

After all, Beckett seemed to think he could do it. Even with what little he knew of her, he could already read that she didn't give that out to just anyone.

Well then. Time to prove himself worthy of being on 'the best team in the borough.' Not so hard when you thought about it. Right?

Beckett's smirk was knowing, not predatory, but there was a hint of something more there. Mischief, maybe. She walked toward the exit of the breakroom. "Welcome in, Detective Ryan."

"Yeah, thanks…"

And then she stopped in the doorway, one hand on the frame, her short hair flaring out as she turned back. "Oh - and be warned, he will haze you. Pretty viciously. Check your chair before you sit down, don't be offended if he double-checks everything you do through me for a while…oh, and start answering to the name Morris."

"M…Morris?"

"Just trust me." Ryan decided at that moment that that grin on Beckett's face could never be a good thing. She slid out of sight, then, back to the activity of the bullpen, leaving him alone with his thoughts and the awful, terrible, disgusting coffee that he would suddenly give anything to make Irish, stereotypes be damned.

And then he grinned, widely, to himself. This was going to be fun as hell…as long as his partner didn't flatten him first. Maybe while he was here he could even learn a thing or two from this legendary Kate Beckett. Sounded fun indeed.

Raising an amused eyebrow along with his coffee mug, Ryan got to work building up his immunity, offering cheers to nobody in particular. "Sláinte."

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Somewhere in the interlude, Jenny's phone had gone off. It must have been on silent, and knowing her, she'd undoubtedly checked with a nurse first to make sure it wouldn't interfere with equipment. Ryan hadn't even noticed anything like that, but she was talking on it now, he realized, still holding his hand with her other, keeping her voice hushed in deference to the people around them.

"No…no, it's okay…well, we don't know anything yet. …All right. Well, I'll call in plenty of time if I can't come in tomorrow. Will that work? …Yes. Okay. Thank you Hailey."

After she hung up, she seemed to notice him looking at her for the first time. Jenny blushed.

"Oh. Did I…? Sorry."

Kevin shook his head, letting her know it was fine. He could use the distraction, even. "Who was it?"

"Work," she answered. "I told them it depended on how Kate's doing whether I go back tomorrow or the day after."

"What? Jen." That was not the goal here at all. Kevin pivoted in his chair, facing her as fully as he could in the tiny rib-pinning contraption he was sitting in. "I don't want you to be losing time at work for all this," he said quietly. "We can take care of this here, me and Javi and the Doc - we might not exactly know what control is but we can handle it. Besides, God knows Castle's not gonna be going anywhere; he'll buy the hospital if he has to. I don't want this to be any bigger of a thing for you than it's been already. What if - "

"Kevin." Jenny used the same kind, gentle, slightly admonishing tone that he'd heard her use on her cousins' preschool-age kids, and Kevin shut up. "They'll be fine without me for a while. I'll feel safer with you, and I'll feel a lot better if I can help."

"But - "

"I know Kate is like family to you," she cut in more quietly, laying her hand over his. "That makes her family to me too. She'll be okay, but in the meantime, there is no other place I need to be than here with all of you. And my mind won't change no matter how many circles you babble yourself into," she smiled.

One thing you could say about Jenny was that she'd learned fast what exactly to say to prove him beaten. Another was that she was a saint who just hadn't been recognized yet. Kevin simply nodded, having learned a long time ago when to quit with dignity, even if he didn't always do it. "Yeah. Okay." He gave her hand a squeeze, then slid down as far as he could possibly slouch in his death-chair. And he thought. "You know she'll kick my ass for this when she hears about it," he said after a moment.

Jenny patted his hand. "I know." When he shot her an 'oh, thanks' look, she chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Don't worry, I'll be sure to tell her it was my idea to join the huddle. You did not once go looking for sympathy or ask me to stay or for any help at all in any way."

"You're good at alibis." Ryan swiveled his head toward her, looking her in the eye with an exhausted smile. "Thanks, Jenny."

She beamed back, and it made him feel a little better. "Anytime."

And then everyone else was rising - or rather, Espo was. The second his partner got to his feet, bringing Lanie up with him, so did Ryan, his eyes scrambling for the source for a millisecond before he saw the doctor. He was still holding Jenny's hand, and he was vaguely aware that she was standing up with him, not aware at all that he was gripping tighter, just staring expectantly at the man in the white coat that regarded them.

Let her be all right; she's gotta be. We can't do this without 'er. Just…just tell us we'll get Beckett back.

"Family of Katherine Beckett?"

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Well, I'm happy with how that turned out. (I don't start out with a structure for these chapters, except for the endpoint: I just start typing and see where it ends up. ^^ ) That's two out of three - and let me just take this moment to say I want to hug Ryan on a regular basis. He's so adorkable. ^_^ The next and final one will be Castle, though I'm SLIGHTLY toying with - and ONLY toying with - the very vague idea of a possible fourth chapter as an epilogue. I'll have to see later on. No promises. Just look forward to the Castle one. XD

As I always say, if anyone (ages 14 and over) is interested in joining a Castle roleplay board, go skim the boldface paragraph in my profile. All info is there.

So, you know how much I love to hear from you guys. (Even if I can't always reply back, I read EVERY review, and I adore you guys for writing them. ^^ ) I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts, feedback, favorite parts about this chapter, if you can. It helps and means a lot to me, really.

Thanks to all you followers out there, and stay tuned for the final installment from Big Ricky himself. ;D

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