A/N: While I love exploring Castle and Beckett's relationship as much as the next girl, the relationship between Beckett and her boys, Castle and the boys, and the boys themselves have intrigued me just as much. Thus, the idea for this little collection was born.

This will be a collection of unrelated oneshots that focus on the fraternal bonds between Beckett, Esposito, Ryan, and Castle. Each oneshot will stand alone, and I'll write these as I think of them.

(Lost and Found is being a pain in the butt for me right now. It's so frustrating because I know what I want to happen, but I can't seem to find the right words for it. Gah. I promise I'm still writing it though.)

Disclaimer: As incredulous as it may seem, I do not make any monetary profit from this work of fiction about fiction. Castle and all affiliated characters, places, and things are the property of Andrew Marlowe and ABC Studios.

Characters: Esposito, Beckett
Summary: Esposito helps Beckett through her first kill.
Date posted: October 5, 2012

No man is an island
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

- John Donne, "No man is an island"


He finds her puking her guts out in the alley by the station.

Esposito doesn't really know Beckett all that well; she's a uni for Vice and he's on ESU, so it's not like there's much overlap there.

He's heard about her though. Yeah, he's heard a hell of a lot about Kate Beckett. Smart, driven, hot as hell, but…haunted.

Cops are terrible gossips, so he knows the whispers.

Beckett joined the force because her mom was murdered and they never found her killer. She worked her ass off during her time at the Academy to graduate top of the class. She's been rumored to be on the reckless side when it comes to street work, but there's never been any complaints about paperwork filed incorrectly or evidence mistakenly handled. Supposedly, she has great instincts, and the uppers are already talking that if she could learn to curb her brash tendencies just a bit, then she'll be on the fast-track for promotion.

A real rising star.

She doesn't look much like a star right now though.

Esposito wonders if there's supposed to be something ironic—or is it poetic? Hell if he knows; he's not a writer—about the fact that she's puking her guts out in an alley right now, when her mom was stabbed to death and left to bleed out in an alley four years ago.

Either way, it sends uncomfortable chills down his spine.

Esposito debates whether or not he should approach her. From what he's heard and observed about Beckett, she doesn't like being seen in her vulnerable moments, and this is most definitely a vulnerable moment.

But…this isn't something that anybody should be alone for.

A brief flash of anger courses through him for her training officer. He should be the one coaching her through this, but the last he heard, Michael Royce had put in his papers for retirement now that Beckett finally made it through the probationary period. There are rumors about the two of them, and Esposito'll be damned if he knows what the hell's up with all that.

But whatever the situation is between the two of them, it doesn't make it okay for Royce to let her deal with this on her own.

"It's different, isn't it? When you're close enough to watch the light go out of their eyes?" Esposito's a little surprised at himself that he spoke, but now that he has, he figures he might as well go all in. "When you're the one who took the light away."

Beckett tenses, wiping her mouth with jerky motions before she turns to face him.

Goddamn, she is beautiful. Her hair's a mess, her eyes rimmed with red, and her cheeks pasty, but damn it, she even pulls off the I just threw up my lunch look.

But she's so young.

This girl shouldn't be a cop. She shouldn't have to deal with the heavy weight of blood on her hands, even if that blood was a guilty man's blood.

"It's part of the job," she responds, and he's impressed with how steady her voice is. Nerves of steel.

Esposito shakes his head. "Naw. That's not how you get over it."

He can almost see her spine stiffening, the way she draws herself up and narrows her eyes at him. "I'm fine, Esposito."

"No, you're not. You're just pretending you are. You should never be fine after a kill. We're people, not machines."

She straightens up, her eyes dark pools in the dim lighting of the alley as she studies him. He gets the unsettling impression that this is what a bug under a microscope would feel like.

"You were Special Forces," she recalls from one of their few, prior interactions.

He grins wryly, memories of chaos and war easier to defeat with grim humor than languishing in the darkness of trauma.

"Yeah. So I should know."

They just stare at each other for a while, cop measuring up cop, and he wonders if he shouldn't just leave it at this. Truth is, it doesn't really matter what he says. It's always up to the individual to get over that first kill.

If she can get over it, she'll get over it, no matter what he says.

But something about her makes him stay.

She's too young.

Esposito was nineteen when he joined the Army, twenty-five when he went on his first tour. That was also the year that he first shot and killed a man. Twenty-five isn't much older than twenty-three, but he's thirty now, and twenty-three seems a lifetime ago.

There's just something about her makes him want to protect her even though he's known a couple of guys bigger than he is who've gotten their asses handed to them by Beckett on the mats.

She's strong enough to protect herself and then some, but maybe it's the prehistoric man in him that wishes she didn't have to.

"Does it get easier?" she asks, the husky edges of her voice slicing through the sounds of mid-afternoon traffic.

He shrugs. He's always preferred acting nonchalance. "Yes and no. The nightmares never go away completely, but the need to rub your hands raw eventually dulls. You learn...not to tune it out, but to live with it."

She nods.

They both know that any words absolving her of guilt are empty, so he doesn't bother giving her any. She did what needed to be done according to the rules, and in the eyes of the law, not only had she done nothing wrong; she'd done what was right.

It doesn't stop her from feeling sick to the stomach for what she had to do and will undoubtedly have to do again, though.

She gathers herself, brushing back her hair and straightening her uniform. Then she holds her head high and with deliberately measured steps, walks past him and back toward the rest of humanity. She allowed herself this moment of weakness, but no more.

She pauses, her face half shaded by the corner. "Thanks."

And then she's gone.

She isn't the first person Esposito has talked through their first kill, and with everyone else, he always makes sure to emphasize one point.

But with her, he doesn't even bother.

He can already tell that there's no fear of her ever dehumanizing the dead.

If anything, Beckett will always feel too much.

And she'll have to be so much stronger than anyone he knows to handle that level of empathy.

A/N: It's a bit different for me writing from a perspective other than Beckett or Castle's. Still, I'm rather pleased with how it turned out. Let me know what your thoughts are! Thanks!