She's not inside her body, not really. She's a weird cross between being inside her body and out of it, caught inside and floating too far away. Nothing is rational and he doesn't make sense, shouldn't be there, crouching in front of her. His existence doesn't make sense, not here, so clearly a battlefield, where she can taste death in her mouth. He doesn't belong here but she brought him here and now he'll die, leave everything and die and that's her fault.

I love you, Kate.

The pain is sharp. He can't do that, can't love her. It's hurting. It hurts too much, too sharp and blinding colours, and why does he have to love her now, before she dies? Why now, when everything hurts far too much? Oh, God, why now?

"Kate." His voice is like concrete, firm, resolute, unbending, but she should be dead, a long time ago now, except he's still here. She's not dead because he's still here.

"Kate, no. You're not dead."

Is she talking? Out loud? The thought sends her heart into a fury and it' beating, strong. It hurts but it's beating. Does that mean she's alive?

"You're alive, Kate."

His voice is softer this time but just as resolute. There's a noise, a moan, low. Is that her, too? She's breathing too hard. She can feel it against the stitches.


The room comes back to her again, bright white, indoors, the silent indoors, and the only similarity between then and now is Castle, his worried face in front of her, eye big and blue and worried. But her chest hurts and her heart is beating much too fast. It hurts, doesn't matter that it's not the same.

"Look at me. Focus. I know it's hard, I know." There's an added sense of worry in his voice that he doesn't understand. "You're here. It's November, 2011 November, Kate."

She can hear herself speak this time, when she does it. Her voice is a tumultuous shake, half of what it should be. "November." It's not a question.

"The twenty first." He answers anyway, and she wonders how he knows what to do for a second before it hits her. A writer, of course he'd know PTSD. She's grateful, suddenly, for whatever character allowed him that knowledge. He's not shaking her or touching her or asking if she's okay when she's so obviously not. He's just … talking.

He's just bringing her back, giving her control in a way she hadn't been able to do herself.

The only other person who'd ever done that was her therapist. Funny, really. Of course, he understands psychology.

(She tries not to think about how maybe, it's just because he knows her.)

"November's a great month." He continues, mentally pulling her back. The words don't mean anything and she's glad for that, too. They don't have to make sense, the words, they just have to be there.

Kind of like him, really, but she doesn't want to think about that one either. Doesn't want to, can't, not when her heart is beating so fast that she can taste metal.

"Do you know what I love most about November?"

Kate speaks around the lump in her throat. "Turkey?" She tries for teasing but ends with something among a half-grimace.

"Oh, no, you know me better than that, Kate."

Her breathing's slowed down from the moment she spoke. Since when were they sitting on the ground? The floor seems far too solid for her to have been there all along. The floor, feel the floor and your surroundings, she'd been told. Remember where you are. So much for that.

"Knowing you, Rick? Something loud." The name slips out before she can draw it in and she rushes past it like it's poison. "Macy's Day Parade."

Her colour is coming back, she can feel it. She can't hear her heart thudding in her head anymore, and it's no longer tattooing it's shape against her ribcage. It's a blessing. He's distracted her from the worst of it – doesn't fix anything except for this moment but it's enough, for now.

She sighs, tilting her head back against the wall, shoulders slumping. There's still a sniper out there, the detective in her reminds. There's still a sniper, there's still –


She's floating again, somewhere between here and there, and she can't find the ground, or her heart, beating too fast and somewhere near her throat. She's lost again, can't breathe air because there's none in the room and you can't breathe air that's not there.

She can't find herself, can't see anything but dark nothing and a narrowing field of vision. He's coming back, for her, and for Castle, too – he didn't finish the job last time. Her head spins. He'll take Espo, and Ryan, and he'll meet her eye before he takes her last. They'll lay on Lanie's table, mere days before Ryan's wedding, and –

"Kate, breathe. In and out. And look at me."

He's there, she notes, but she's not all too sure he's not a mirage. Three months he was gone, and how many times did she panic and think he was there, think he was dead? He could so easily be in her own mind. Decipher what's real, her therapist had told her after she'd gone back to him the first time. Try to decipher what's real and what's your imagination playing tricks with you.

But it's impossible when she's like this Noise fills her head and her voice is strangled again, like she's trying to talk through a thick sheet of glass.

"He's out there," She says, "The sniper, he's –"

"He's not after you."

"He could be." She rasps, forcing the words past a mouth that feels numb.

"But he's not." He pauses, and she watches his eyes search her face. Kate's seen so many different things in his eyes – she's seen fear and anger, and kindness, and strength. She's seen curiosity to rival a child's but she's never seen him this gentle. "Can I touch you?"

Something bursts in her when he asks that – affection for her partner in a way she's never felt before. People don't ever ask that, it doesn't matter where she is. People assume, they make their own choices and decide what's best; they decide that they know best.

He's not doing that.

And she nods, because it's her choice and not his, and that puts her back in control. She needs control now, more than anything. His hand is warm over hers, and as soon as she feels his hand it becomes an anchor, her anchor. She's not floating anymore.

"No one is going to let you get hurt."

(He stresses the no one but it's so very obvious what he's saying, and it's him who's not going to let her get hurt. It's always been him, always, from the very first time, the Alexander who saved her. And it's her, she knows, who's not ready to admit that. Not him. He's been ready for a long time now.)

"I know." Her words are thin, she can feel it. "I know, but – I can't do this Castle. I can't do this and it's killing me." The confession twists her stomach, turns her chest to stone. That's it, right there. She can't do what she has to and there's no way around it.

"You don't have to."

"Yes," She answers. "I do."

It's true, and she knows he knows it. Oh, of course she doesn't have to do this case – she could sit out and watch them, Esposito and Ryan would handle things like they'd handled them in the three months she'd been gone, but it's different. It's so very different.

"Castle, I don't –" She searches for words she doesn't want to say and already knows. "I don't know who I am, without this job, without this badge."

"Just this case, Kate. Look at what's it doing to you."

"It starts out as this case. And it turns into so much more. I've seen it, Rick. I've seen Detectives go that way. I can't lose this job, this life."

"You won't lose yourself. No one's going to let you do that. I won't let you do that. We're partners, remember? I've got your back whether you're on a case or not."

"I can't lose this case." She repeats, because avoiding what he's saying – avoiding every implication of what he's saying – is so much easier than facing it. She doesn't think she can face it today. She sees that knowledge in his eyes, watches him take that mental step back but still hold his hand over hers. It reminds her of the bank, of the promise she made him that he's making back to her now.

I'll get you out, the hand on hers sounds like.

"Okay." He says, and it sounds like a truce. "Then what do you need me to do?"

"Help me up?"

He does, and despite shivering like its forty degrees in the room she makes it to her feet, his hand still holding hers. This isn't over, she knows. It's not over, not going to be over for a very long time, but that hand on hers feels more like a promise of something (she's not sure what) than any verbal promise they've ever made to each other.

Author's Note:

By the time this is posted, there are going to be a hundred different reactions to the promo for Killshot –but other than writing for Kavi_Leighanna and my crossover, Memoir, I haven't written for Castle in awhile and this one sparked my muse, enough so that I was writing during class for the past two days.

I hope I was able to give the emotions and feelings of someone with PTSD and/or someone having a panic attack justice here. All I could do was draw from my own personal experiences with panic attacks, but I know that adding PTSD is an entirely different ballgame – so yeah, I hope I did it justice.

Reviews make my ridiculously long, stupid week much better.