*All right, so I know post-Knockout fics have been done to death (no pun intended), but I just had to but my two-cents in. Hope you all enjoy!
The title refers to a Standing Eight Count, which in boxing occurs when the referee stops the fight and counts to eight. During this time, the referee will determine if the boxer can continue. I thought the boxing term seemed appropriate, considering almost all of the Beckett's Mom's Case episodes have had a related boxing title.
Be forewarn, even though I've rated this T, I have still used a few choice words here and there.
Eight Count – Chapter 1
Detective Kate Beckett stood there watching as the honor guard folded the flag. She swallowed hard, and looked away for a moment. There was a small part of her that felt wrong being here, paying homage to the man that had kept such a terrible secret from her. But whatever his mistakes and flaws, Montgomery was not the villain in all this. He had not killed her mother. His actions with Raglan and McCallister might have led to her mother's death, but it had not been him. Dick Coonan had been the hired gun, but even he had taken orders from someone else.
That man, whoever he was, obviously held a lot of influence. Replaying everything in her mind, Beckett had a sinking feeling he was someone powerful, someone it would be next to impossible to take down without any evidence. The part of her that felt betrayed and angry resurfaced for a moment. She was angry at Montgomery for dying on her. He had been her friend, her mentor. It was because of him that she was the cop she was today. He had trained her; she was his protégé. His legacy… his redemption for past sins.
But Roy Montgomery was not going to pay the price for the mistakes of others. Beckett did not want anyone to know what had really happened. Before the funeral, she called Castle, Ryan, and Esposito over to her place, where she made it clear that, on no certain terms, the truth would stay buried, that it would not leave "this immediate family." If the truth ever did come out, it was not going to come from them. For sacrificing himself to protect her, Beckett owed him that much.
Taking a deep breath, Beckett walked up to the podium. She pulled a folded piece of paper from her jacket pocket and slowly spread it out, placing it down flat on the podium. Taking a quick breath, she opened her mouth.
"Roy Montgomery taught me what it meant to be a cop," Beckett spoke into the microphone. Her voice was stronger than she had expected it to be, which surprised her, because her emotions were still much closer to the surface than she would have liked to admit. "He taught me that we are bound by our choices, but we are more than our mistakes." She paused and swallowed, looking down at her prepared notes. "Captain Montgomery once said to me that for us, there is no victory… there are only battles. And in the end, the best that you can hope for is to find a place to make your stand."
Swallowing hard, Beckett glanced down and saw the words she had added at the last minute. She was still debating over whether or not to say them. Taking a quick breath, she decided to say them. Life was too short to waste time. Montgomery had also taught her that. "And if your very lucky… you find someone willing to stand with you," she paused and glanced over at Castle, locking eyes with him for a moment.
Those words rang so true. Castle had never once left her side. Sure, he had unknowingly broken her heart last summer, but that was really her fault for not seeing what was right in front of her. She had been afraid of letting him in, of opening herself. Apparently everyone else had seen it. From Lanie and Esposito to Royce and Montgomery. All of them had seen it, and known what she had refused to see herself. The words from Royce's letter repeated in her mind: It's clear that you and Castle have something real. And you're fighting it. But trust me, putting the job in front of your heart is a mistake. Risking our hearts is why we're alive. The last thing you want is to look back on your life and wonder… if only.
Looking over at Castle, Beckett wondered if he knew how she felt. Admitting it to herself had been more difficult than she had thought it would be. Yet she knew telling him would be even harder. Castle could always read her, he had been able to tell her story when they had just met. But she was always one to keep things close to the chest. He had had to work hard to pry out any information about her mother's case. And when he had, she had felt betrayed and violated. It had taken her a long time to realize he had only done what he had because he cared about her. And now she was finding she wanted him to care even more about her.
She wished she could read him like he could read her. Beckett could always read a suspect, know what they were thinking, but not so with Castle. Castle was different. He hid behind a childish playboy persona, one that had slowly disappeared over the past year. She had begun seeing more of what she believed was the real Richard Castle, the loving father and son, the man who would do anything for those he cared about. Hell, he had tossed away $100,000 like it was nothing, just because it could help her find her mother's killer. He had even flown to L.A. and stood by her side to help her avenge Royce's death, a man Castle had no reason to care about. It had been important to her, so it had become important to him, too.
Taking a deep breath, Beckett forced her gaze away, and turned back to her notes. "Our Captain would want us to carrying on the fight," she continued. "And even if there—"
Suddenly Castle was diving in front of her. Beckett heard the unmistakable sound of a bullet echoing through the cemetery. Her world spun and she was falling to the ground, Castle on top of her. For one panicked moment she thought she had been hit, but there was no pain, nothing to indicate she had been shot.
Castle let out a gasp, his mouth hanging open, and his eyes wide.
"No," she whimpered softly as Castle's weight went dead and he collapsed beside her. She spun around, her heart jumping into her throat. Out of everything that had happened, this was the worse. She had just lost the captain—her friend and mentor; she could not lose Castle, as well. Not when there was so much left unsaid.
As she moved over him, immediately pressing a hand down on the growing red stain collecting on his shirt, Beckett placed a hand under his neck, supporting his head. "No… Castle. Stay with me, Castle. Don't leave me," she begged, her world slowly slipping away as his eyes glazed over. Damn it, why did he have to jump in front of her, the bullet was obviously meant for her! "Stay with me, okay?" her voice cracked.
His breath came out in a raspy groan. "Kate…," he gasped her name, his voice pleading, a single tear escaping as his eyes franticly looked around for her. Finding her, he let out a soft breath and a slight grin tugged at his lips. "Kate, I love you. I love you, Kate."
Tears formed in her eyes as she tried choking them back. She had waited so long to hear him say that, why did he have to wait until now! But then his head was moving back and his eyes closing. Beckett shook her head, a sob working its way out of her throat. "No… Castle… don't! Rick… Rick?"
He didn't respond.
"No," she whimpered out, doubling over. She leaned forward, placing her forehead against his. "Don't leave me, Castle… I… I love you."
She sat there in the waiting room, wearing a navy blue NYPD hoodie and matching sweats. She couldn't stand being in her dress blues, especially with Castle's blood on them. Esposito had been kind enough to stop by the Twelfth and pick them up before meeting her at the hospital. She had long since undone the tight bun and let her hair down. The long tresses cascaded down over her face as both a sign and cover of her grief. Beckett had rode to the hospital in the ambulance with Castle and the EMTs. She had felt guilty about rushing pass Alexis and Martha, and taking the only other available seat, but she couldn't just leave his side, not after hearing the confession he had just made.
The ride over to the hospital had been frightening. Castle had almost flatlined twice. The two incidents gave her a rational reason to excuse her rudeness in pushing his family aside; her mind telling her it would have been terrible for Alexis or Martha to have witnessed that. Hell, it wasn't easy for her, and she was a cop. But she was still in a state of shock and not completely there. When they arrived at the hospital and the EMTs pulled the gurney out of the ambulance, Beckett was shocked to see that Josh was the doctor waiting for them outside the E.R. entrance. She was slightly flustered, not knowing how to act around him with everything that had happened. He locked eyes with her and gave her a slight nod, telling her with just one look that he was not there to make a scene, that he was only there to his job… to help.
She gave a quick nod and then was ushered back by the EMTs and nurses as they flew about Castle, Josh asking questions as they wheeled him inside. She followed behind the mob, unsure what to do with herself. Halfway down the hall, a nurse stopped her and directed her to a waiting room.
Beckett had been the first there, having rode in the ambulance. So, not knowing what else to do, and needing something to do, she filled out the paperwork that one of the nurses had given her. She knew she wasn't technically family, but Castle had given her power-of-attorney when it came to this sort of stuff. He had done it around the same time he had asked her if she would become Alexis's legal guardian, just in case anything ever happened to him. That had shocked her, because Meredith, Alexis's mom, was still around. Yet Castle had gotten sole custody of Alexis in the divorce for a reason. So, Beckett had agreed. Now she sat there, filling out the paperwork, using it as a mechanism to cope with what had happened by concentrating on it while Castle was rushed into surgery.
That was more than four hours ago. Now they were all there, sitting and waiting. The room had gone silent, except for the quiet conversations by hospital staff members and some other people who were awaiting news of their loved ones. They weren't there alone. Apparently there had been a devastating wreck a couple of blocks from the cemetery. Beckett's first thought had been that it was related, that in his haste to escape the bastard had ran a red light, causing the car accident. But when Ryan and Esposito came back with the preliminary report from the first responders, that idea was quickly dismissed. It was just a tragic coincidence.
Alexis had zoned out an hour ago, having cried herself nearly to exhaustion. The skin around her eyes was puffy and red. She was sitting on one of the couches leaning into her grandmother's arms. Beckett could tell that Martha was barely holding it together, but was doing so for her granddaughter. Beckett had no idea what must be running through Martha's mind. Beckett had lost a mother, not a son. She knew both were equally tragic, but to lose a child… that just seemed worse.
Lanie and Jenny were huddled in the corner consoling one another as their significant others had left to help coordinate the search for the shooter. There was part of Beckett that thought she should be out there with them, looking for the bastard that had tried to kill her, and might have succeeded if it hadn't been for Castle and his stupid heroics. But she had to admit that she was in no condition for that. She would be too distracted, worrying about Castle.
And she might not be able to guarantee she would not try and kill the bastard if they found him. In L.A., Castle had asked how close she had come to killing Ganz. She hadn't answered him then, partly because she didn't want to admit that if it hadn't been for him calling her name she might have pulled the trigger. But this time, if she were out there, she would squeeze that trigger, because Castle would not be there to stop her. And because she wanted the bastard dead for threatening the man she—
Beckett jumped, startled when her father's hand touched her shoulder. She swallowed and looked up, seeing Jim Beckett looking down at her with sympathetic eyes. Her voice caught in her throat as she opened her mouth to respond, unable to find the words. She just shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Daddy?" she choked out in a pleading voice. God, she hated how pathetic she sounded.
He knelt down beside her and pulled her into his arms. Beckett let herself go and she cried, burying her head in her father's chest, needing the protection and support of his comforting arms. She did not know how long he held her, or how long she cried, she just lost herself in her grief. Eventually, she calmed down a bit, and he got up to go get them some coffee. Jenny went with him. Martha got up and announced she was taking Alexis home to "wash up and get a few things." Beckett nodded, swallowing hard as she glanced up at Castle's bereaved daughter, unable to look her in the eyes.
Before she knew it, the teen's arms were wrapped around her neck, and the two of them simply held on to one another for a moment before Martha placed a hand on Alexis's shoulder.
"Call if anything happens," Alexis pleaded in a soft voice.
Beckett nodded that she would, swallowing hard before giving the teen one more squeeze. She watched as Alexis sagged against her grandmother as the two left the waiting room through the automatic doors. Beckett closed her eyes and held back the tears. Oh, how she wished she could take away Alexis's pain!
"How're you holding up?"
Sucking in a breath, she glanced up to see Lanie sitting next to her. "Lanie… I… I don't know," Beckett admitted, her voice raw with emotion. "Damn it, why did he have to jump in front of me?"
Lanie placed an arm around her shoulder, giving her an understanding hug. "I think we all know why," was her response.
Beckett let out a sad laugh. "Yeah, I guess we do," she replied mournfully, no longer denying it.
"Kate?" Lanie questioned, narrowing her eyes, obviously surprised at Beckett's lack of any denial.
Knowing it was futile to holdout on her friend, Beckett relented and looked up, letting out a long heavy sigh. "He told me, Lanie," she said in a soft voice, almost afraid that saying it out loud would mean it was not real, that it had been a dream.
"Told you what?" Lanie asked, furrowing her brow.
"He confessed his love!" she nearly snapped. The other people in the waiting room looked up and Beckett closed her eyes, blushing slightly with embarrassment. She heaved in a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose, looking away before she continued. "Lying there, in my arms, dying…," her voice choked up. "Oh God, Lanie. His last words were not a plea to see his daughter… or mother. Not for his family. No. All he could think about was… was me!" Her voice choked back as the tears threatened. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, trying to contain her emotions. "The last thing he wanted to do in this world was tell me that he loves me. Why? Oh, why, Lanie? Why?"
Lanie took a deep breath and hugged her closer. "Because he does, girl," the M.E. answered, trying to lighten the mood a bit by using that affectionate endearment. It helped a little. "That man fell for you the moment you met each other. Heck, I don't know if he even realized it at the time, but he did. He fell hard. Why the hell do you think he left when he did last summer?"
"I… I…," Beckett stammered, only half suspecting, but not trusting whether she was right or not.
"Because he couldn't stand seeing you with someone else," Lanie put in before Beckett could say anything. "Hell, girl, that man loves you so much he was willing to let you go so you'd be happy. He was never committed to getting back with Gina. He tried, yes, because he believed that he couldn't have you. And when he couldn't get what he wanted from her, he broke that off, but by then he was too late, your heart was still broken… and, well… you had moved on."
"Moved on?" Beckett was confused. How could she have moved on from Castle when they had never, well… been?
Lanie sighed, knowing she wasn't getting through. "Look, Kate," she said softly, placing a hand on Beckett's. "Really, were you ever going to open your eyes and see what was right in front of you?"
Backing out a Lanie's hold, Beckett bit her bottom lip and averted her eyes, placing her hands in her lap. "I almost… in L.A.," she spoke softly, not completely trusting herself to actually admit it. But what did she have to lose now? Especially when she might actually be losing him as she sat here opening up to her best friend. "One night, we… we stayed up talking, and then… then we had this moment… I think?" she knitted her eyebrows together, still confused… always confused.
Lanie didn't push and let her work through it herself.
Taking a breath, she continued. "He asked me if I wanted to know what he thought of me when we first met. I had laughed, knowing Castle it was going to be something loaded with innuendo. But then he started talking, and he was so serious… it worried me." She paused, closing her eyes as she took a breath. His words were seared into her memory. "He… he told me that I was a mystery he was never going to solve. He told me that even after all the time we've spent together, he was still amazed at the depths of my strength, my heart and… and…," she smiled softly, remembering (it was totally Castle to say it), "my… my hotness." The smile broke through for just a second, and then it vanished.
Lanie chuckled softly, nodding. "That's our writer boy," she agreed.
"But that wasn't where it ended, Lanie," Beckett confided. God, she had replayed this conversation over so many times in her mind it was almost like a second skin. "I… I looked up at him, straight into his eyes, and said, you're not so bad, yourself, Castle." She paused and took a breath to calm her nerves. It had been one of the few times she had actually ever said something to him that might have revealed her true feelings. She was still stunned she had actually said it. It was hard for her to confide in others, and Lanie knew this. Beckett was grateful that the M.E. let her continue at her own pace. "Then…," she continued, "we… we just stared at each other for this long moment. And… and I…"
"You got scared," Lanie finished, nodding, completely understanding.
Beckett bobbed her head. "You know me so well," she said, her eyes glazing over with the memories of her internal struggle. "I got up, said it was late and that we should get some sleep. I went to my room… and then… then… Lanie, I changed my mind. I opened the door. I don't know what I was planning, but all I knew was I wanted him… to be with him… with Castle, in every sense of the word. But I was too late, he had already gone to his room."
"What are you trying to tell me?" Lanie gasped, obviously shocked, and lowered her voice. "Were… were you going to sleep with him?"
"I think so, yes," she nodded, brushing her hair away from her face, not even bothering to hide her blushed cheeks from having admitted something she never thought she would.
"What… what about Josh?" Lanie stammered out, still in a daze of shock.
Beckett laughed sadly and shook her head. "Lanie, you know me. Would I have really even considered sleeping with Castle if I was still seeing someone else? Besides, I had already ended it with Josh a couple of weeks before…," she paused and risked a glance up at Lanie when her friend didn't respond. "Don't act too surprised."
"Oh, come on, Kate, we all knew you weren't really committed to that relationship," Lanie said, placing a hand on her arm. "Well, maybe not all of us. But I knew. From the start, I knew. Josh was always just the rebound guy after Castle unknowingly broke your heart."
"What... no… I… you?" Beckett knitted her eyebrows together, shaking her head, unable to form a coherent sentence. Pausing and heaving in a deep breath, she closed her eyes and collected herself. "How did you know?"
"You forget whom you're talking to, sweetie," Lanie squeezed her arm. "I speak for the dead, but I can read the living just as well."
Beckett sighed and gave a nod. "He's here, you know… Josh, I mean. He's the one operating on Castle."
Lanie opened her eyes wide. "Boy, that must be awkward for him…," she said, then added, "and you."
Beckett nodded and let out a long breath. "You have no idea. He… When I saw him at the loading bay, I had no idea how to react…," she said.
"Did he know?" Lanie questioned. "I mean, that you broke up with him because you had feelings for Castle?"
"I… um… I don't know, maybe, I think he might have suspected," Beckett admitted it for the first time. She and Josh had had arguments about Castle, about how much time she had spent with her "shadow," with that "annoying writer that keeps following me around." Josh had never understood her relationship with Castle, and never really accepted the "we're just friends" line, because, in all honesty, they weren't.
Castle was more than just a friend, more than just her partner. He was the man she loved. Josh had been gracious about it, but Beckett knew it had hurt him, that he had truly developed feelings for her. She felt ashamed that she was unable to return them, but deep down, Beckett knew, that when it came down to it, she had never expected anything long term with Josh. Lanie was right. He had been the rebound guy, the guy she had hoped would help her get over Castle. But, he didn't. No man could ever help her get over Castle, because unlike any other man she had ever developed feelings for, she had quite literally fallen for him, head deep… head-over-heels. Castle was it. He was her one and done, she just never had wanted to admit it.
After having confessed more than she had intended, Beckett withdrew. Lanie, being the good friend that she was, didn't press, and simply held her as they waited for news. Her father and Jenny returned with coffee and Beckett sat quietly, sipping the strong brew, remaining silent. Her father took Lanie's place, and he just held her in his protective arms. She felt like she was a little girl, afraid of the dark, and needing her daddy to check under the bed and in the closet for monsters.
Martha and Alexis finally returned, and Beckett noticed that the two were carrying overnight bags. Her father must have caught her eye on the bags, because he offered to go to her apartment and pick up a few things for her. She smiled softly, and thanked him, giving him her spare key. He hugged her close and whispered words of reassurance, the kind of reassurance that only a parent could give to a child. When he backed up, he ran his hand down the side of her face and kissed her forehead, an act the Beckett found surprisingly comforting. Lanie decided to go with him, needing to get some air, and to help in selecting the more personal items that the M.E. knew the detective would be embarrassed to have her father retrieve for her.
Unlike Lanie, Beckett didn't very much feel like getting any air. She preferred to stay where she was, underneath the flickering florescent lights, awaiting news on Castle. However, when the younger Castle approached her and asked if she'd go outside with her, Beckett nodded. She could not refuse Alexis, not now. Getting up, she was slightly surprised when the younger Castle wrapped an arm around hers as they made their way towards the outside terrace.
*I originally intended this to be a one-shot, but then it got too long. So now it's turned into a multi-chapter story. I have always believed that Castle needed to get shot or injured for Beckett to finally admit her feeling to herself. This is actually what I had expected from the finale, and I am probably just as shocked as everyone else at the ending.
I'm interested in knowing how you guys feel about how I dealt with Josh. Since we did not hear that much about him since "LAW & MURDER", I've taken the creative license that Beckett had ended that relationship sometime before "TO LOVE AND DIE IN L.A." and that Royce's letter further reinforced that decision for her. And knowing Beckett, how she keeps things close and doesn't like to share personal things, I think she would not have really told anyone, except for maybe her dad.
Anyways, thanks for reading. I'll have the next chapter up shortly.