Title: Getting There

Author: Cartographical

Summary: Life isn't so easy with a sniper around. Very, very vague spoilers for 4x09, Kill Shot.

Author's Notes: Blame Jill and Fi and Sara, for badgering me relentlessly. It turns out that I will do just about anything so that I don't have to read "WHEN CARTO POSTS" more than ten or twelve thousand times in a chat window.

Disclaimer: Castle and Beckett still aren't mine. Title is yanked from Sylvia Plath's poem "Getting There."

It takes until her knees hit the pavement so hard it makes his teeth hurt.

He sees it all, then, the past four days, sees it like he should have:

The barely-there hitch of her shoulders when they told her it was a sniper.

The pale gauntness of her face: the shadows streaked under her eyes, the hollow spaces in her cheeks.

Esposito yanking her into the interrogation room after a report of another victim.

The shuttering of her breath as Lanie gave them the run-down.

He'd asked her forty-five or fifty times if she was okay, and each time she'd responded with a short "fine." He'd made up a thousand reasons for her behavior that seem so stupid now that she's kneeling on the cold, concrete sidewalk, her breath a sharp staccato that doesn't look like it's actually getting any air into her lungs.

"Kate?" he prompts.

Then there's hands on his shoulders pushing him roughly down next to Beckett, and his world expands for a heartbeat, two heartbeats – a hysterical voice screaming, low moans of pain, the far-away chop of a copter quickly getting closer, and cops, cops everywhere barking out commands.

It was a shot, then, that spiraled them into this chaos. His brain retrieves the soft pop of a silencer. The sniper – the sniper must have been shooting at his own crime scene.

The thought spurs him to move the two feet over to Beckett on his knees. She's safe enough, he'd guess, sitting vacantly on her shins behind a wide trio of newspaper dispensers, except she's not safe, not safe at all, she's sitting there and there's a sniper, a goddamn sniper, and the thought is enough that suddenly all the oxygen in the atmosphere contracts.

There's another muffled pop, and he can actually hear the air catch and stagnate in her throat. He puts his hands on her shoulders and pushes her onto the ground and drapes his body over hers.

Her eyes are dilated, panicked. He can tell she's not getting in air, can feel the shallow, useless pumping of her lungs, the far-too-rapid press and fall of her ribs up into his. He's useless with this, less than useless, and all he can think about is gathering her into his arms and walking away, retrieving Alexis and Martha, walking right onto a plane Borneo-bound, where he will never have to think about someone shooting at Beckett again.

He leans his forward, careful to support his weight with his forearms, presses his forehead into hers.

Another muffled sizzle of the silencer, more yelling, somewhere in the distance. Her body jerks, and for a horrible moment he thinks she's been shot, somehow, even tucked behind the dispensers and under him.

"I love you too," she whispers around her gasps, like the words are being wrenched from her, "I love you too."

He reaches a hand up, strokes her cheekbone, brushes his lips against hers, presses himself a little harder into her heaving chest, says into her mouth, "you're okay, you're okay, you're okay."

"Espo and Ryan got him," Castle says, sitting on the curb next to her. It's been ten minutes since the pair took off after the sniper. "And Thomas and Lawrence were both critical but stable as of when they loaded them into the 'buses."

She takes a long, still-too-shallow breath. "Good," she exhales. The sniper, after firing three shots and hitting two cops, had stopped, and three or four excruciating minutes later, Beckett had gotten her breathing under wraps. She still looks shaky, though, her hands pressed hard into her knees, her face devoid of all color.

Not the time, he tells himself, but what comes out of his mouth is, "You remember." It's still impossible for him to sift through his conflicting emotions: the elation at hearing those words from her mouth, the hurt over her lies, the worry at watching her disintegrate into a panic like he's never seen before.

She's quiet for a long time before she angles toward him so that her knee just barely brushes against his thigh. "The night Montgomery died," she starts, and he can't quite keep a shiver from running up his spine, "and you picked me up to carry me out of there. Every instinct – everything in the world I wanted – told me to stand there and fight with Montgomery, to go down with him, if it came to that. And I could have. I could have taken you down, I could have gotten away from you."

He nods. If there's one thing he's completely sure of, it's that, even exhausted and emotionally ravaged, she could take him with minimal effort on her part.

"And I was panicked, more panicked almost than I've ever been, so panicked that you think I'd have just lashed out on instinct so that I could have made that stand with Montgomery. But underneath every other feeling was this thought that I couldn't erase: If I give into what I want, Castle will go down with me."

He considers, nods once. "If it came to that, I wouldn't have left you."

She stares at him. "Right."

His brain catches up. "Oh, Kate, no."

"Nothing's changed," she says.

He has trouble speaking around the ball of frustration in his throat. "It's not the same at all. You cannot compare being hunted by a trained killer to entering a relationship."

She smiles wryly, shrugs. "It's not as ridiculous as you make it sound."

He thinks of her, staring at him from her hospital bed, her face changing from joy to distant regard in the space of minutes - If I give into what I want, Castle will go down with me. Over the summer, walled off in her dad's cabin, never calling – If I give into what I want, Castle will go down with me. Over the past two months, the glimpses of abject happiness and longing he'd only ever wildly hoped he'd see in her, but never anything more - If I give into what I want, Castle will go down with me. "It's not really just your decision to make," he chokes out.

"Like hell it isn't," she says.

Her thought keeps echoing in his brain, haunting him, and finally says the only thing he can: "If you're going down, I'm going down with you already."

She flinches, hisses out a long breath like he's physically hurt her.

"But I don't think – I don't think that's what will happen." I think, maybe, we can save each other, he wants to continue, but he's pretty sure that even this shocky version of Beckett would punch him in the face for spewing that much blatant sap.

She stares at him darkly, still a little shaky, like she can't quite find it in herself to believe him.

"I'll tell you what," he says. "Come have some hot chocolate with me at the loft."

"Hot chocolate," she says flatly. "That's your solution."

"Well, it also involves a hot bath and a long nap," he says, throwing all his cards on the table, "but it starts with some hot chocolate."

"Hot chocolate," she repeats.

"It's not as ridiculous as you make it sound," he says, echoing her earlier words.

"Not that I don't –"

He can't dance around this right now, he decides, feeling raw, feeling stripped to his bones. "Kate. You're not the only one who was having flashbacks today." Her blood, the heat and heft of it welling up against his fingers, he would give anything to forget.

"Castle," she sighs.

"I'm not asking for anything you can't give," he says.

"Okay," she says, abruptly. "I'll come over." She pauses, stares at her hands, worries her lip. "I'm sorry. I know it's not enough."

It is, he starts to say, but it's not quite, anymore; there's this gaping yearning for her in his chest that he's not sure will ever be satisfied. "It's a start."