This came to me the other day and I actually cried at how beautiful a moment like this would be on the show.
And then I tried to write it out and this came out. Clearly I'm not Andrew Marlowe.
This is set in the future... I'm thinking the break between season 4 & season 5? June-ish? Hey, just for fun, let's say this story takes place on June 9th, 2012... because that's my birthday. There you go, there's the setting. I'm rambling. I'll stop now.

Disclaimer: I don't own Castle. Or the song Lean On Me. But you already know that don't you?

She had been ready to chalk it up as a victory on her part.

When the perp pulled a gun on her, she didn't even freeze. She had pulled her own gun and trained it on him, never losing eye contact. She had talked to him, gotten a complete confession out of him without faltering once. She had him lowering his gun, preparing to arrest him when they heard a loud bang from the room next to them.

And then he shot her.

Even though she was wearing her vest, the impact of the bullet against her chest had immediately sent her back to that sunny day more than a year ago when the exact same thing had happened, only she wasn't so lucky. She hit the ground behind her so hard that for a moment she lost all sense of space, the air leaving her lungs in a rush and her vision going black.

When she opened her eyes again, both Ryan and Esposito were hovering over her, twin expressions of concern and panic in their eyes, their perp off to the side, face down on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back. The boys got her vest off of her, both of them throwing rapid-fire questions at her, asking what happened and if she hurt and if she was okay and did she think she could sit up.

A bus showed up not too long after and the paramedics quickly cleared her, telling her that she had been lucky to get out of it with only an ugly black bruise that lay almost directly on top of her scar from the sniper that had nearly killed her. Kate returned to the precinct to give her statement and finish up the paperwork, not wanting to leave the boys there to deal with it on their own and really not wanting to go back to her empty apartment.

That was two hours ago, and now she was standing in the break room in front of the coffee maker, trying to get some air.

Kate reached out to pick up a mug, hoping that the familiar taste of coffee would help calm her down somehow. Trying to control herself, she lifted up her arm slowly to grab a mug off the stand. Once she was lifting it on her own, that damned coffee cup might as well have been an anchor on the end of her arm, and it fell out from between her fingers, tumbling down onto the counter. Kate bit back a yelp at the tightness the action caused around her bruise, one hand flying up to her chest, the other shaking hand snaking its way across her stomach. She took a deep breath and the tears sprung into her eyes. Not knowing what else to do, she spun around slowly and sank to the floor under the coffee maker, ignoring the knobs of the cabinets that dug into her spine, bringing her knees up to her chest and resting her forehead on it, the tears slipping out of her eyes without her consent.

She wasn't sure how long she sat there before she sensed the presence of other people in the room. Kate could tell who it was just by their steps. The light gait and the heavy footfalls of her team moved towards her, and while she wanted to move and stand up and defend herself, she didn't. Esposito and Ryan each moved to one side of her, and sank down next to her on the floor, close enough so that she could feel the heat emanating from the two of them but still far enough away not to touch her.

Kate lifted her head from her knees and moved her hand to run her fingers through her hair, trying to push it all away from her face. Deciding it was pointless, she let her hands fall back onto her knees, her legs sliding a little bit further away from her chest, leaning her head back against the cabinet and closing her eyes.

The three of them sat in silence, trying to control all of the thoughts running through their heads.

The boys were what made the loud bang that set their perp off. They had been trying to break down the other entrance into the warehouse and as soon as the door splintered open they heard the gunshot. They went in guns blazing just in time to see Kate fall to the ground.

To say they were terrified was a gross understatement. They had almost lost her once before because of a gunshot and they were not about to let it happen again. Esposito quickly ran to get their suspect, who was trying to get out by breaking one of the glass windows and may have used what lawyers would call "excessive force" to apprehend him. Ryan immediately ran to Kate, his phone already to his ear calling for a bus. Once Esposito passed their perp off to one of the uniforms with them, he ran to Kate's side too. The air left his lungs in a rush of relief when he discovered the bullet had hit her vest, but the two of them couldn't relax until her eyes reopened. When they finally did, Ryan could have sworn he saw Esposito's eyes start to water, but he couldn't really tell because he knew his vision got blurry quickly after that.

This was their teammate; their friend; their sister. And she was alright. She was awake and she was breathing and she was okay.

The three detectives sat for a moment without speaking, the sounds of bullpen just a murmur through the closed door of the break room.

"You want me to call him?"

She was actually surprised Ryan and Esposito hadn't called him as soon as it happened. Maybe they did and he just didn't pick up. He wasn't even on the east coast anymore. If he was still on schedule, he was somewhere around Minneapolis. He probably had his phone on silent. After all, he was supposed to be working.

And she knew that he would be on the next flight home in a heartbeat if she called.

Only a month before the two of them had nearly fallen to pieces. Kate found out that Rick was still working her case behind her back and Castle found out that Kate had heard him that day in the cemetery. They had screamed at each other. Kate told him she hated him and Rick said that she was selfish. She kicked him out of the precinct and he left without a fight.

A week and a half later Kate ended up on the other side of Rick's front door in the middle of the night. He stared at her for a moment, taking in the dark circles under her eyes that matched his own and the fact that she had her arms wrapped tightly around her middle to hold herself together. He let her inside and they talked about everything over a fresh cup of coffee in his office. She said she was sorry and he told her he still loved her and Kate told him that she needed him to drop the case because he meant the world to her and she couldn't lose him, too.

They spent the night curled up together in one of the spacious leather chairs in his office and sometime during the middle of the night, everything shifted. And while they still weren't officially together, they, and everyone else around them, knew it was only a matter of time.

She knew if she let the boys call him, he would beat himself up over not being there. She basically had to push him out of the precinct to get him to go in the first place. He would book his flight back to her as soon as he hung up the phone. And really, after all that's happened, the last thing she needed is Rick's agent and publisher mad at her because, for a man who makes most of his money on publicity tours, he hadn't been on one in nearly 5 years. He said it was because he wanted to slow down. Kate knew it was because of her, and Gina and Paula knew that, too.

Kate took a deep breath and shook her head, "No. No, he's on tour…" she took a deep breath, trying to control herself, "… He needs to focus on that."

Esposito nodded, and looked straight ahead, "You know you have to tell him."

Kate bit her lip, "I will… He'll be home in a week. By then the bruise… it will have healed… a little. I'll be… fine."

Esposito, knowing just how angry Castle would be about the whole situation, tried once again to change her mind to let him call Castle. Well… to try and call him again. As soon as Kate was taken to the privacy of the ambulance to get her chest looked at, both Ryan and Esposito had tried calling Castle to let him know what happened. He deserved to know. After all, he was her partner, and it was obvious to every detective in the precinct that he loved her.

"He'll be angry if you don't tell him now."

Kate squeezed her eyes shut and nodded, "I know."

"Then you should –"

"Javi," she cut him off, her voice trembling. He looked over, and saw her clenching her eyes shut, her shoulders tense and shaking.

He finally took in the sight of the senior detective. There was nobody else in the precinct minus Gates who was locked in her office doing damage control and a few beat cops who got the short end of the stick and were preparing to begin their night shifts, but no one had dared to come near the break room since Ryan and Esposito had shut the door behind them. The sun was setting outside and the light funneled past the hallway and through the break room windows, the light casting rectangular shadows on the floor in front of them. Those shadows also painted the three detectives currently sitting side by side against the cabinets.

She looked awful. Her hair was falling wildly over her shoulders despite the fact that she had been pushing it back over them with anxiety the past few hours. She had her knees lifted up in front of her, her elbows resting against them with her hands fisted against her forehead. With the light shining across her cheek, he could see the tear tracks down her face which she had tried so hard to hide from them.

She looked broken.

Which is exactly why he or Ryan, who had moved quietly over towards the sink to get Beckett a glass of water, should call Castle and get his ass on the next plane back to New York to be with her.

But it's also why they wouldn't. At least… not right now.

Ryan returned and slid down on the other side of Kate, nudging her shoulder lightly and handing her the glass of water he had gotten. She took it without looking at him, thankful that her hands had stopped shaking enough to keep any of the water from spilling and began taking small sips. When the glass was empty, Ryan took it from her again and placed if off on his other side.

Kate lost herself in her thoughts again. She didn't hear Esposito's phone going off. She was just trying to keep herself from sobbing openly in front of the boys. Everything hurt. Her chest physically hurt because of the impact of the bullet, her scar was extra tender. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest, aching for the comfort that she knew only Rick could help give her, but she was unwilling to interrupt his work for her selfishness. And her head was spinning, trying to figure out how she was going to tell her partner that she had gotten shot again.

He was going to be so angry. And confused. And hurt. Maybe she should have let Ryan or Esposito call him. She wasn't sure she'd be able to -

"Kate? Kate! Kate, are you there? Are you okay?"


It took her a moment to realize where Rick's voice was coming from. Looking towards her left at Esposito, she came face to face with his phone. He was looking at her, an apologetic look on his face as he handed her the phone.

She almost didn't take it from his hands, but she heard his voice again.

"Kate? Kate, please! Talk to me," Rick pleaded.

Kate sighed and took the phone from Esposito's hand and held it up to her ear.

"Hi Rick," she choked out.

His relief was audible, "Kate. Are you alright?"

Kate nodded although he couldn't see it, "I'm fine."

She bit her lip. She certainly didn't sound fine.

Kate could practically hear Rick pacing, "I'm coming home."

Kate shook her head, the phone still up to her ear, "No," her voice quiet, "I'm fine, Rick. I promise."

"I need to see that you're okay, Kate."

She read the subtext easily.

I need to see you because I almost lost you to a bullet once already. I need to see for myself that you're okay because I know you're not. I need to be there with you. I need to make sure you're still breathing and this isn't some trick because I can't survive without you anymore.

She tried one last time to keep him from coming home, "But your fans…"

He cut her off gently, "You're more important. You know that, right? You're far more important to me than money, or travelling, or making Paula and Gina happy. Okay?"

You're more important because I love you. I would run to you if I had to because I love you. I would do anything for you, say anything for you, give anything for you because I love you.

She sniffed, her voice barely audible, "Okay."

He was quiet for a moment, but Kate heard him breathing on the other end and what sounded like typing. A minute later, Rick spoke again.

"I'm on the last flight out of Minneapolis tonight. I'll be home by midnight. Alright?"

"Okay," Kate murmured.

"Okay," he whispered back, just as quietly, "I'll see you soon."

Kate nodded again, taking a deep breath, quickly losing control at the tenderness in her voice, "I'll see you soon."

Kate hung up the phone and handed it back to Esposito, her hands shaking again. He loved her so much. Even after everything she put him through. He was willing to drop everything at a moment's notice to come to her. And she knew that this was going to kill him. He was going to blame himself and say he should've been there to protect her when they both know it would've happened anyway. But despite all that, she just wanted him to come home. And now he was and she felt inexplicably guilty because his life shouldn't stop just because she got hurt but it always did. She knew he really didn't mind but she felt like a burden, and god dammit her chest felt like it was on fire and when did breathing become so hard?

She took a shuddering breath and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to keep the emotions at bay. It didn't work, and they slipped out from the corners of her eyes without her permission.

She felt Ryan place a hand on her knee and without looking at him, she reached out and grabbed it within her own, using his hand to keep her grounded. Almost immediately afterward, Esposito wrapped his arm around her shoulders, his hand rubbing up and down her arm, comforting her without words. She leaned towards him slightly, a new wave of tears making its way out past her eyelashes.

These were her boys. They wouldn't say anything to try and make her feel better because they knew it wouldn't help. She was hurting and missing her shadow and they knew that today was just a culmination of everything coming out. These were the tears that she never cried in front of them from last May. These were the remnants of the sniper case coming back to haunt her.

She had always tried to be the strong one for them, but they had been her foundation. She had the absolute trust that Ryan and Esposito would always have her back. Without them, she truly believed she wouldn't be nearly the detective she was today. They covered for her when she went rogue, willing to do anything they had to do to keep her safe. And here they were again, letting her cry while they sat by her side waiting for the storm to pass, acting as the life jacket keeping her head above water when the torrent of her emotions threatened to drag her under the current again. They didn't think any less of her. They didn't think she was weak.

The two of them would never let anything happen to her. She was the strongest person they had ever met. They had been there before Castle and they had been there when he was gone. They'd seen her when she was proud and happy and they had borne witness to when she hit rock bottom. They loved her, just like she loved them, and there was nothing that she could do to ever change that.

At the thought Kate leaned a little further into Esposito and gripped Ryan's hand a little tighter.

These were her teammates.

These were her boys.

These were her brothers.

And they always would be a family.

We all need somebody to lean on

I'd love to know what you think.
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