A/N: This is my first fanfic story. I am looking for any and all feedback – I'm here to learn! So let me know your thoughts if you have any… and enjoy!


Ensconced in an inky black, her ears pound with the sound of her lungs as they heave deep, heavy rasps.

Her eyes dart wildly, searching for anything to focus on in the dark abyss.

Her body convulses with the wave of blood rushing through it, like water raging past an unleashed dam.

Her whole system restarts with a jerk, as if the 'on' switch has suddenly been thrown.

She fights for the image. Fights to keep him close. The only thing getting her through this hell.

But with each reprieve she's given, her mind takes a little longer to get him to her, wasting precious seconds she doesn't have.

And then, miraculously, there he is. Her body instantly caves, suddenly cocooned in warmth. She sees him. Feels him.

His lips feed on the elegant curve of her collarbone.

His hand reaches along her thigh – fevered flesh on flesh.

Her heel traces a line up his spine.

Their fingers intertwine. Their palms fuse. Their hips undulate in perfect sync.

Her heart quickens, its beat intensifying with every wave. Overwhelming her senses. Leaching into every part of her.

And then all she can see is black. Unending black. As if sunlight is a fairytale that never truly existed.

Instead of the sweet timbre of his soft whisper in her ear, all she can hear is that depraved voice echoing in her brain, planting a chill deep within her.

"You know what they say Detective Beckett. Knock on the devil's door long enough, he's bound to open it for you."


Three months and two days earlier…

He stands outside her hospital door, flowers in one hand, a bundle of nerves in the other.

He hasn't felt this way since…. well, since he told Susie Connors he liked her in the sixth grade. For that brief moment before he uttered those words to her he was so scared of the consequences. So scared she wouldn't respond, or worse, laugh at his confession. Rejecting him in front of everyone.

But she had taken the news well – squealed if he remembered correctly - and responded in kind. And from that moment on he never worried quite the same about his desires being unrequited… until now.

His luck persisted through high school. Getting girls seemed to be effortless. He adopted a humble attitude about it when chided by his friends, yet underneath he always knew how easy he had it.

But with that ease came restlessness, some part of him disappointed that there wasn't more risk involved. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he was always looking for the woman who wouldn't give in so readily.

He thought he had found that girl in Kyra. She was different than the others, an independent spirit that awed him, inspired him. She made him forget all about his own desires so long as he could live in hers.

But he was young and unknown then; everything that is his life now had yet to be discovered (or as he sometimes thinks of it, shackled to him). He was easily swayed by her and there was no conflict between them. No tension. Because he was too young to even know yet what it was he wanted to fight for.

If Kyra had let him, he'd have married her. Because he was impulsive and liked to think of himself as a romantic, not because it was the right thing to do.

Kyra ran off to London before he could ask. Maybe that's why she left? Maybe she sensed he was getting to that point? And while a tiny part of his heart still aches for that time in their lives, he knows she was the smart one. She made the right choice for both of them.

He needed to live through the heartache in order grow up enough to become the man he is today. The man standing in front of Kate Beckett's hospital door, his admission fresh on his lips, his heart skipping like a teenager's.

It took Kyra, two failed marriages and raising Alexis but he finally found the girl that challenged him. Took him to the next level. Demanded more from him.

If he had met her when he was younger his ego probably wouldn't have been able to take her. But he'd been through stuff. He'd had his heart broken, some of his dreams had been dashed, he'd raised a daughter.

He was finally ready.

As he stands in front of her hospital door, he can't help but feel he is out of his league.

He's confessed everything to her. He hadn't meant to, but he found he couldn't hold his tongue in front of her any longer. If she left this world and didn't know how he felt, he wasn't sure he could live with himself.

Thankfully she'd stayed here, in the same universe, with him. And now she knew his true feelings, the ones he had kept buried so deep for so long. How would she react? What would she say to him? What did she think?

Does she feel the same?

He starts to feel faint – not even realizing he'd been holding his breath.

"C'mon Rick. This is stupid. You've never been the type to sweat it out silently. Get it over with. Rip the band-aid off. Get. In. There." He mutters this out loud before booting himself inside the hospital room.

When he first sets his sights on her, he hitches, his heart lumping in his throat. Not a response to how he feels, but how she must.

He's never seen her so frail, so weathered. She looks exhausted and drained. It's her, but it isn't her.

"Hey."

She looks up, a sly smile creeps over her lips. There's that spark. Thank god. It's faint, but it's there.

"Hi."

He takes a seat beside her.

"How you feeling?"

"My insides are a little scrambled and my entire body aches. But on the plus side I've met my new BFF."

He looks up, confused.

She holds up her morphine drip.

"Ahhh." Faint spark, sense of humor – the situation isn't as dire as he first thought.

"I heard you tackled me? I hope you didn't touch anything without my permission."

He smiles, slightly embarrassed – he definitely touched things he wasn't supposed to, but it wasn't like he was enjoying it at the time.

And then it clicks.

"You heard?"

"That's what the boys told me. Said you were a regular hero."

"You don't remember?"

Her cheeks flush, as if out of embarrassment. But about what? He's not sure.

She shakes her head no. "It's all just… a big blur."

So she doesn't remember. He can start over. Slate cleaned.

The thought should make him feel better, but instead a wave of nausea works its way through him.

He looks up at her, trying hard to keep his eyes from betraying him. That's when he sees it, albeit for just a fleeting second. A look he swears is fear flashes across her face.

"Kate?"

They turn. Josh bustles through the door. No knock, just steps right in. As if he owns the room.

He nods in acknowledgment to Castle.

"Visiting hours are over. She needs her rest."

"Doctor knows best." He gives her a weak smile. "Call you tomorrow?"

Josh answers for her. "Tomorrow's not so good, Rick. She's got physical therapy most of the day."

Never one to enjoy being told what to do (well by anyone other than Beckett) he swallows his irritation.

"Okay. I'll check in later, then."

"I'll call you, okay?" She's throwing him a bone. Trying to make him feel less… marginalized. If he wasn't so annoyed he'd be appreciative.

"Sure." And he's out the door, ashamed that he's been run out by Josh, but unable to spend another second in the same room with the two of them.

She'll call.

She'll call and he'll come see her and they'll be alone – really alone – for a while. Things will get back to normal.

This is supposed to comfort him but instead it stings. Who knew that normal was the last thing he really wanted?

He calms himself. This will be a minor blip on their relationship screen. He'll be back later in the week. Things will progress. They won't stay this way forever.

They'll find their way back. A day, a week maybe. But they'll put this behind them and they'll be partners again.

All he needs to do is wait for her call.


Three months later…

Kate picks at the edge of the couch. Waiting isn't her strong suit. But she's in another professional's domain now. She can't run the show. She has to be patient.

She shifts on the cushion, unable to get comfortable on the plush sofa.

Tick, tick, tick. The ever-present clock strums along like nothing's wrong. It makes her feel even worse. She has thoughts of throwing it across the room. But her psychiatrist would likely classify that behavior as volatile. Better squelch that urge.

Talking about her feelings isn't fun for her, but she's been down this road before. This is what needs to be done. No sense putting off the inevitable.

"Kate?"

Dr. Burke enters through the alternate door – ahh the civility of psychiatry, finding creative ways to protect their patient's anonymity. She appreciates the effort – she certainly isn't comfortable sitting in a waiting room where other patients can observe her 'mental state' but the set up always struck her as awkward; it highlights that need everyone has to hide something.

Being a homicide detective, she knows that desire better than most. But the thought that she too has secrets, isn't anything she likes to admit out loud.

He sits down in his armchair across from her.

"I was surprised to get your call. Since I cleared you for duty, I figured we were done. Everything okay?"

"Yep." She opens her mouth to talk again - she knows she owes him an explanation - but nothing comes out. Dutifully, he sits silent, waiting for her to make the first move.

"I lied. About what I remember. About the shooting."

"Oh."

She smiles to herself. Psychiatrists are always so polite. Most people wouldn't take that information so lightly. But these doctors? No judgment.

What adds to the irony is just how opposite that reaction would be from a certain partner of hers. He's the one she really needs to confess these things to.

"Why?"

Such a simple question, but the answer is at the crux of her dilemma.

This is why she brought herself here: to figure out why she lied to him, and to find out, possibly, if she's been lying to herself too.

"I really… don't know."

He lets that sit there. She knows what he's thinking – "You do know Kate. You know why you said you didn't remember. Because that was easier. Because remembering makes you accountable. And you're not ready for that."

This is what goes down in her head during the silence. He's a good doctor, she thinks. Gets her to confess all this in her mind.

"I know we've done this before, but let's go over what you experienced that day. This time, tell me everything."

She takes a deep breath. Air is the only thing she has to prepare herself for the wash of emotion that comes with dredging up these painful memories.

"I remember… standing at the podium. It was hot. I was in my uniform. God… it felt… suffocating." She yanks her shirt sleeves around her wrists as she recalls the feeling of standing in front of everyone. Standing up for her mentor, the one man she looked up to. One of the many men who ultimately let her down.

This was one of the realities she was hesitant to come to terms with. Someone she had put a lot of faith in, who fit in with the image of her life perfectly, had turned out to be a bad guy. And that partner, the one who so clearly did not belong in her life, he was the one who'd been the true hero. Her hero.

"I was just trying to stay calm. I didn't want to get upset. His family was there. They didn't need to see someone else getting emotional. That was their day. Their time to grieve their loss."

"It was your loss too."

Suddenly annoyed, Kate springs up to pace the room, shaking her head no. "He was their husband, their father. I needed to be there for them, not the other way around."

"You keep being there for everyone. Who's there for you?"

It's on the tip of her tongue but she stops herself from saying his name just in time. It's so clear to her, but somehow, she just can't bring herself to say it out loud.

A few years ago she might've said her dad's name. More for his sake – because that's what he'd want to hear. But the truth is those roles had been reversed long ago. Child had become parent and vice versa. She might have said it, but she wouldn't have really meant it.

She was in her early twenties the last time she remembered the comfort that comes from knowing someone is there for you. Knowing the world around you is just and fair, and the ones you love are safe.

All that was blown away once her mother was taken from her. Collapsed like a papier-mâché tower in a windstorm.

So she soldiered on, taking care of everyone around her as well as herself. And she liked it that way. Uncomplicated. Clean. Controlled.

But her relationship with Castle? That was new. A completely fresh dynamic. And she was illequipped to handle it.

She was smart enough to know she needed him. But it made things messy. And unclear. She could no longer look at herself as the end of the line, the one who would always supply support and never require it.

She now had her own personally assigned ally.

She hadn't asked for him. He just blew in one day and refused to leave. And she'd adapted. Because he made things fun. It brought some levity to the day to day. And she'd been surprised by how starved for levity she was.

It didn't hurt that he made time fly – evaporate even. So if there was a moment to stop and consider this new relationship, she didn't have to. She could just sweep it under the rug. But now, now the rug could barely contain all that she'd shoved under there.

Hence why she's at her therapist's office on a Thursday afternoon instead of work.

"So you're at the podium and then what?"

"I heard Castle moving toward me. He'd figured it out before I had. I would've seen it too, I was just… so worried about the speech. It took me a second to register what had happened."

Pride won't let her confess she completely missed the glint of sunlight as it kicked off the sniper's gun. Sure, some part of her subconscious immediately registered danger. But she was numb that day and it took an extra half-second for her body to react.

Castle, however, pounced immediately. He was on her in a flash. Drawing her down to safety. If he'd been a half step closer he probably could've prevented the bullet from hitting her altogether.

"And he pulled you down?"

"Yes, but I had already been hit."

She rubs her fingers over her scar, feeling the sting of where the bullet pierced her sternum. Like a tiny pinprick with the power to suck all the air out of her lungs.

"You didn't black out?"

Kate just shakes her head sadly. "I felt the bullet hit and there was this pain but then it was gone and I was just… trying to breathe."

"Shock will do that. Your adrenaline runs so high you don't feel anything. It's probably what kept you conscious."

She nods, already knowing this but not in the mood to correct him. Let him think he has something to teach her. It buys her time, time from having to get to what she's really there to talk about.

"You told me you blacked out before the ambulance arrived. Did that not really happen?"

She can't blame him for pressing her. It's what she showed up for after all.

"Many officers who get shot don't like to admit that they remember what it felt like. Makes it hard to imagine putting yourself back out in the field, where it could happen again."

She knows where he's going. He's giving her an out.

"Is that why you lied?" He offers.

"No." She's stalling.

"If you aren't ready to talk about it yet…"

"He said he loved me."

"Who did? Castle?"

"Yeah. Yes."

"And how do you feel about that?"

"If I knew the answer to that, I wouldn't be here." Her tone, sharper than intended, surprises her.

"It bothers you?"

"Yeah, it bothers me." Her voice raises a pitch. She's just starting to scratch the surface of how she feels about this and she's kick starting it with anger. "What was he thinking? I mean out of all the inappropriate moments. Who does that? Who ambushes someone with that information right after she gets shot?"

"I think he may have been trying to tell you something important before he lost you."

Ouch.

Well, that's why she came here. For someone to slap her with a little reality, call her out on her bullshit. She knew she was behaving badly. Immature even. But she needed to. It was the only acceptable way to get at everything that was needling her. Now that she knew, for a fact, how he felt about her.

Deep in the middle of the night, when she was locked in a nocturnal cage of insomnia, she would let her mind wander to that kind of moment. Where Castle told her exactly what he thought of her.

She had trained him to keep his true feelings about her a secret. But in the safety of her bedroom she would let herself explore how it would feel to know a man like that was completely invested in her.

He knew everything and still, he chose to stay. Not only to stay, but to love her, despite all her flaws. It was so good, it was hard to take.

"May I make a suggestion?"

Kate lifts her eyes – suddenly not sure she can last the rest of the session. The room with two doors growing ever more claustrophobic.

"Sure."

"Start writing some of these thoughts down. It may help to see them on paper. One, it'll get them out of your head. Two, they may not seem so bad in black and white."

Kate nods. The advice is sage, but the last thing she wants to do is put any of this in writing. Then it would be real.

Then she'd never be able to sweep it under the rug.