A/N: I wrote this initially to fill in the gap in Linchpin between when Kate was drowning and when she was suddenly fine (and honestly because I'm a sucker for a heroic rescue). As I started to type, I was fascinated by the whole linchpin concept and I soon developed an arc that became the backbone for Bated Breath. I created and followed an outline so even though this is 60+ chapters long, have no fear - each chapter was crafted for a purpose with the end in mind.

There are 3 parts to this story:

Part I (the first 23 chapters) is the rescue and relationship building.

Part II (chapters 24-34) is a series of significant one-shots to bridge the stories in Parts I and III.

Part III (chapters 35-64) is a the revelation of Castle's father, and the resolution of Johanna Beckett's case.

Even though this has been complete for a while now, I'd love to hear your thoughts so I know this story is still alive and kicking.

I don't own the show or any of the ABC characters, etc. so on with the story . . .

BATED BREATH

PART I

Chapter 1

February 15, 2012

Detective Beckett never imagined it would end like this. There were no violent flesh-tearing bullets or spectacular explosions, just water, common filthy river water. She could almost imagine her picture on the white board with the words 'Cause of death - drowning; Murder weapon - The Hudson; Suspects - ?' She didn't want to consider if would end up a double homicide but Castle had yet to resurface. She wasn't sure how long he'd been under but with each passing second she became more concerned.

Time was distorting.

She had tried to suppress her outward signs of panic for her partner's sake but he was out of reach and her mind was racing in tempo with her erratic pulse.

Her thoughts jumped to her father. The only consolation she felt on his behalf was that her death would be in the line of duty; a lesser evil than if it would be the result of her obsession with her mother's murder. At least she knew he couldn't blame himself for this.

Where is Castle?

Her teeth chattered and she was frustrated that she couldn't control the annoying spasms.

She shook her head, determined not to waste precious time with idle concerns.

What should she I be thinking about?

My father.

Right.

She prayed he would be able to recover, that he would not fall back on self-destructive coping mechanisms because this time there would be no one else to pick up the pieces. She wished that she'd made more of an effort to throw him together with Martha. The actress' fun-loving nature would have made her a good friend for her introspective father. Maybe through the loss of their only children they'd be able to cope.

No.

She couldn't stomach the thought of their combined grief.

She writhed in a vain attempt to free herself.

Lanie.

Kate rolled her eyes. Lanie would have to see them on her slabs. Gates would make someone else perform the autopsies but Lanie would never abandon them in death. It wasn't rational but the thought was oddly comforting. She knew Lanie would offer consolation to the others, saying that drowning would have been relatively painless.

Kate moaned ruefully.

In the final moments she might be numb but the time before then would be anything but peaceful.

She tugged violently at her seatbelt.

Ryan.

The loss of both Beckett and Castle might actually cause Ryan to become jaded. She didn't want that for him. Through the years she had counted on him to keep them human. He idolized Castle, who might as well have been another Irish brother. She was so thankful that she got to see Kevin Ryan happily married. This would crush him but he had Jenny and she would pull him through.

He'd be okay. He'd help Espo.

The water crept higher.

Javi.

Without him she would still be scanning for snipers with sweaty palms and shifting eyes. Without her he would be down a sister. They never needed to say much to get each other. He would smile less without Castle. Maybe this would bring him back to Lanie.

Could anything good come from this?

She elbowed the unrelenting glass.

The water lapped her neck.

She remembered freezing in Castle's arms. She longed for those arms. If they were to die together it was a cruel irony that he was out of reach.

She licked her lips then wondered why she bothered.

She didn't want the gun anymore, she just wanted him to be with her, holding her as they took their last breath together. She had a sick feeling that he already had. She focused on the moment that she had tried for months to suppress, or at least to rationalize.

Kate, I love you . . . I love you, Kate.

She had never given herself permission to savor the memory, but now she would give anything to hear her name spill from his lips one last time. Whether he had uttered the words prematurely or not, he had meant them then and they had rang true ever since.

She looked up in a useless attempt to stem the flow of tears.

The water overtook her.

I've lost my chance.

As she held her breath, she was securely fastened to her fate and her thoughts raced faster.

Alexis.

Oh, Alexis.

The girl who smiled sunshine into Castle's world was Kate's reminder of why she served and protected, so that people could grow up like Alexis Castle; secure. No, she had been secure. Her dad would be lost in the course of a muddled conspiracy and Kate wondered what would keep Alexis Castle from turning into another avenging crusader like herself.

No no no.

She didn't want that to be her legacy. Kate didn't want to imagine Alexis' dimpled smile yielding to wild determination as she sought answers that the CIA would never grant.

Kate Beckett released her final breath with all her regrets. Her mind swam with a montage of consequences for those whom she loved but most of all with the severe sense of loss for the man she suspected had just died trying to save her. Her salty tears mixed with the disinterested river as she prayed that there was an afterlife.

Will I see my mom? Will Castle be waiting for me? Will I just fade away and cease to exist?

She decided there was no point in wasting her last moments pondering a future she'd soon experience. Instead, she anchored her thoughts on Castle; on his infectious smile and how her stomach fluttered every time he'd brush his fingers along hers when he gave her coffee each morning.

Kate, I love you . . . I love you, Kate.

She filled her lungs with water hoping that her fictional version of Lanie was right and that at least it would be painless.

As she drifted out of consciousness, she felt a strong arm around her.

Maybe she wouldn't die alone after all.