I vowed to never do a multi-chap fic again. But here we are…at the beginning. I have most chapters mapped out and it won't be too long, so expect regular updates. Set after Linchpin, but before Once Upon a Crime.

Thank you, as always, to the beautiful eitoph, who manages to find time even in the busiest of times for some great beta work. You're a legend :)

Disclaimer: If I had a dollar for every time I said 'I don't own Castle' I'd be quite rich. Maybe even rich enough to buy Castle...but no one gives me these magical dollars.

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Fall like Dominoes

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The meaning of life is to live,
just live…

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Death is an imminent and inevitable constant, one thing that the entire population of the world has in common. It's a link, a bond of mankind, a vulnerability and a strength all at once. We will die. That much is sure, and it need not be morbid and haunting. Like most things in life, a journey must take place to reach it. Death is about getting to that final place and wondering how you were the lucky soul to have come this far.

It's about evaluating all the ways you didn't die, all the ways you lived.

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It's amazing really, how often they cheat death. He's spoken to her before about the running tally he's got on their respective rescues of each other, the conversation serving as a reminder of their very fragile being. However, lately it hasn't been the freezer, or the dirty bomb, or even the water filled car sinking to the bottom of the Hudson that has plagued his nightmares. Any one of those moments has the ability to catch him off guard and take his breath away with hurt, but lately something much more striking and powerful has been invading his night time escape.

The sound of her agonising scream.

The strangled, "NO!" before Sophia fell to the ground, floored by a gunshot, her desperation for his life cascading out of her on one solid breath.

As close as they have come to death in the past, it's never been as cut and dry as when Beckett was shot in the cemetery. He knows the pain of seeing the life drain from someone you love, he knows his own tortured cries from that day and he hears them echoed in his partner's one syllable, reverberating in the empty, white parking lot. He hears her torture, her anguish and knows how she feels because he has felt it too. He hurts with her hurt.

It's that same stomach rolling, head spinning realisation that maybe, just maybe, tomorrow you will be without a partner.

"NO!"

And that one moment in time repeats in his dreams constantly. A warning bell in his head telling him that next time they may not be so lucky, that next time might be the day they can't cheat death anymore.

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It's a moment, just a brief moment in the greater scheme of things, a millisecond on an ever growing timeline. Barely a blip on any radar. And yet, that startling cry has captured his thoughts, his dreams, his very being for days.

He's called her twice already tonight, lame excuses about writing notes for Nikki Heat being his cover. But he knows she can see right through it. At any rate, when he wakes at 2am feeling vulnerable and alone, his phone alerts him to the fact that Beckett is at the top of his call logs and really, at two in the morning it's not hard to find meaning in everything.

So with fate on his mind, mixing with the disturbing sound of the scene playing over and over in his head, he calls his partner.

"Beckett." Her voice is sleep addled, but alert. He concludes that she mustn't have checked her caller ID, expecting a case, even when she's not on call.

"Kate, it's me." He's not sure why he's whispering, he's the only one home tonight.

"Castle?" All traces of sleep gone from her voice.

"Yeah. Hi."

She breathes into the phone, allowing herself to calm down from the startle of her phone ringing so early on a day off, "Hey. Everything okay?"

And suddenly he has nothing. No witty answer, no warm anecdote, just the truth and he's not even sure she's ready to hear that.

"Castle?" she prompts. Not impatient, but insistent.

And he wonders when it flipped around, when it became her waiting on him. The brief thought brings him back to the phone call, "Sorry for waking you, Kate."

She frowns in confusion at the pain hidden in his voice, "It's fine."

But he's already hung up.

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It's another thing they don't talk about…another moment of insignificance that wouldn't even come close to being an inconvenience for them to talk about. And yet, they don't. Can't.

Dr. Burke asks her to broach the subject with him and she tries, she really does try. Over Chinese take-out in the conference room of the 12th, she mentions that night he called, a hint of curiosity leaking into her well-crafted excuse for bringing it up.

He looks at her and she recognises the fear in his eyes. He's not ready to talk about it, just as she isn't ready to talk about certain things that she remembers. She nods her head, spooning rice into her mouth and he thanks her.

"Just not today, okay?"

She supposes that it's something that he's even acknowledging it.

..:::..

The problem is that he knows he's going to hurt her.

That much is evident.

Her pain filled cry is enough for him to know she cares for him.

And he is going to hurt her with his information.

It's the linchpin in their relationship; the one small moment that he chose to go behind her back on something so dear to her. Once she knows about it the dominoes will start their terrible fall towards the end of them. And so he holds back, he listens to her screams in his sleep and he doesn't call her. He pulls away from her a little more each day, withdrawing from the precinct bit by bit.

Her morning coffee becomes her weekly coffee and soon she hasn't seen him in an entire week. She wonders about it and calls him to ask, confused by his actions.

As she's getting better, becoming more, he's shrinking away, hiding. Enveloping himself in a story that she's not able to, a story that he has asked her to walk away from.

But putting himself in danger is pulling her out of it and really, the importance is in keeping her safe. He has to worry about that more than worrying about his feelings for her. He's got to keep her safe from the faceless men who will kill her for poking around, and safe from the pain of losing him, someone she loves, to those same faceless men.

Because how could she love him if he's not around for her to love?

He sits at his desk day after day, punching out notes for the newest Nikki Heat and working tirelessly through the night on Johanna Beckett's murder. He notices his phone light up, Kate's face beckoning him to answer.

In a small, yet bold move, he ignores the phone call and walks away.

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Would love your thoughts. Thanks :)