A/N: I had so many feels while writing this. Knockout is my favorite episode and this idea just wouldn't stop running through my mind. Dedicated to Nina, as usual.

Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. Andrew Marlowe does an amazing job with them.

. . .

"Richard Castle has to be removed from the situation. We don't have a choice."

The young man stares wide-eyed at Senator Bracken. He hasn't been in this business for very long and he is still getting accustomed to the harsh reality of his current occupation.

He clears his throat, "But I thought we were going after Detective Beckett."

Bracken looks slightly aggravated to have this young, inexperienced boy on his service, but he is at a loss for the time being. If he went around hiring men left and right, too many people would know. Too many people who would end up in the ground.

The senator stands and moves to the window. "Coonan is dead. Lockwood is dead. Montgomery is dead. Countless attempts to get Kate Beckett out of the way: all foiled by that writer. He is the only reason she got out of the hangar that night. He may be a small player in all of this, but he has more influence that I originally thought. I didn't realize his presence would become so problematic. Once he is gone, we'll have a clear shot at Beckett."

"Can't we just go straight for the detective at the funeral? Like we planned?"

This kid just doesn't understand does he? Bracken turns and moves towards the younger man. "This way may be bloodier, but it will be easier for us in the long run. Enough bodies have piled up. What's one more? We do it my way."

"The plan-the details have already been worked out. The funeral is today, you can't just-,"

"I can and I will," Bracken growls, "You will obey my orders."

The henchman lowers his eyes in submission and says, "Yes, Sir."

Bracken grins, "Call Maddox."

. . .

The precinct is quiet when Castle steps out of the elevator. The bullpen is emptier than he's ever seen it. It vaguely registers that Ryan and Esposito are in one of the side hallways talking solemnly to some uniforms, but his eyes dart across the room in their pursuit of his detective.

She isn't your detective, Rick; the regretful voice in his head reminds him.

It feels like she is his though, not in an overly possessive way, just in a way that he wants to be hers, too. It felt like they belonged to each other that night in the hangar. The limp press of her body against his as he leans her on the car, the vibration of her cries spilling into his hand and the look in her eyes like every shred of hope she's ever had has been ripped apart.

He walks over to Kate's desk and sits down in his chair. His wandering blue eyes settle on Montgomery's office…or what used to be Montgomery's office. Castle rubs a hand over his face and sighs. He cannot even imagine having another captain. Roy Montgomery is his captain. Rick's sadness almost makes him feel guilty, because when he remembers how Kate must feel right now; having the man who trained her to bring justice to others when all along he could have brought justice to her.

The image of Roy before him with a gun in his hand, the sounds of a car filled with people who want to kill the women he lov-cares about very much speeding towards them and the Captain's voice yelling, "CASTLE! Get her out of here now!" comes to the front of his mind without his permission. Rick can still see the look in his eyes, the way Kate begged him not to-

"Hey, Castle."

Her soft voice yanks his out of the memory and he wants to thank her for it, but it's hard to find the right words.

"Hey," he replies, noticing the way she is pulling on her the white gloves that go with her uniform. The stark white fabric slides over her ivory hands, the hands that had brushed across his face as she struggled against the urge to fall apart.

"How are you holding up?" He's not just asking about Montgomery's death. He is also inquiring about the secret that is being kept between only four people, including him. He sometimes doesn't know how she isn't furious with Roy. She could be mad at him, but she is making a conscious decision not to be. He supposes that the anger dissolved when she discovered that Roy was going to sacrifice himself to save her, leaving her with only gratitude and remembrance.

Instead of the usual avoidance, she tilts her head and says, "As well as you'd expect."

The corners of his mouth tilt upward in a smile that he hopes is comforting. She tries to smile back, but she just glances down at the floor for a moment before lifting her gaze to his. It's easier to read her when her defenses are down, but it unnerves him how he can sense exactly what she's trying to tell him, that she's sad and completely sorry and breaking on the inside.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Here you go," he says, breaking the eye contact to hand her the cup of coffee that he's been cradling in his palm.

She takes it and gulps the beverage greedily. "Thank you," she murmurs. She looks lost, like she doesn't remember that you have to put one foot in front of the other in order to walk.

He stands. If nothing else, he will always be here to show her the way when she needs him to. "Are you ready?" He asks.

Beckett takes a shuttering deep breath, "As I'll ever be."

. . .

Kate is about to go up to the podium to give her speech, a paragraph that she composed carefully with everything Roy Montgomery taught her in mind, when Ryan and Esposito catch her attention and smile and nod encouragingly. She smiles at them and turns to Castle. He can sense her nervousness, so he reaches over and squeezes her hand compassionately.

"You'll be great," he whispers.

Even though she knows what the answer is going to be, a timid look pools in her eyes when she asks, "Will you stand with me?"

The two lock eyes for a second, then they rise and he follows her to the podium.

Castle stands a few feet from her and watches as her face and body shift, so that the entire crowd can see the strength she has within her, the strength that he admires so much.

"Roy Montgomery taught me what it meant to be a cop. He taught me that we are bound by our choices, but we are more than our mistakes." Beckett cannot help but notice that Evelyn Montgomery and her daughters are sobbing and for a second the memories of her mother's funeral come rushing back to her, but she surpasses them and continues, "Captain Montgomery once said to me that for us there is no victory; there are only battles. And in the end the best you can hope for is to find a place to make your stand. And if you're very lucky, you will find someone willing to stand with you."

Kate glances over at Rick for a fleeting moment, and he can hear his heart pounding in his ears, because she's looking at him like he's more than her partner.

The Detective turns back to the crowd, "Our Captain would want us to carry on the fight. He would want us to…" A flash of light in the distance bounces off of her iris and she blinks rapidly, and then squints, completely horrified, because she recognizes that glint.

Oh, God. It's aimed at Castle. She has to get him-

A shot rings out through the spring air.

"RICK!"

She launches herself at him and they fall onto a bed of soft green grass while screams pierce through the once quiet morning. Maybe he's okay, maybe he didn't get shot, she thinks frantically as she lifts herself off of him slightly to assess the damage. Her eyes fill with fright and her heart deflates when she sees the blood spilling from his chest. Her eyes dart to his face. His eyes are like an ocean of fear; he's so scared that he almost looks like a terrified little boy.

Castle tries to move, but he gasps in pain and opens his mouth like he wants to say something. Beckett moves her hands to his chest and puts pressure on the wound. The glistening red liquid seeps into her hands.

"Shh, Castle, no. Stay with me, Rick. Please," she begs, "you have to stay awake. You have to stay with me."

Tears are streaming down from his eyes, so she moves a hand to cradle the back of his head and shifts so that her face is closer to his.

"Kate-," he wheezes. She can see the blood surging into the back of his mouth.

He can't die, not now. Their story is not over, hell, it's barely started. He cannot die today. She hasn't told him how much he means to her yet, if he is going to be stolen from her, he needs to know.

Kate calls his name as she chokes on a sob and he immediately focuses on her. His gaze gives her the courage.

"I love you, Rick. I love you, okay? You need to stay with me so that I can love you."

A lump has formed in her throat and tears spill from her eyes as she the words flow from her mouth. The Detective can't tell if her mind is playing tricks on her or if it is actually happening, but she can almost see the ghost of a smile on his mouth.

Castle closes his eyes.