A/N: Sorry that it took so long to update! It was the week before vacation at school; you know the week that every teacher thinks it's a good idea to give a test? I'll try to be better at updating. Please review (It shall be your Christmas present to me). Everyone have a merry Christmas!

. . .

"What happens now?" says Martha. The spark in her eyes has flickered out, leaving space for only exhaustion.

"Usually, when a patient gets an infection like this, we place them in a coma and they wake up a few days later and they're back to normal. But since Mr. Castle's body has been through so many traumas in the last few days, the outcome of this situation is much more uncertain."

Alexis' voice is hoarse from crying when she asks, "Is he going to be okay?"

"Since Mr. Castle is healthy, we think that there is a good chance that he'll make a full recovery."'

"What does 'a good chance' mean?" Beckett asks; a hard edge visible in her eyes and tangible in her words.

"Well-,"

"I want a percentage."

The doctor opens his mouth, the glances down at the chart in his hands, his eyes narrowing at her. "Are you even a relative of the patient's? Visiting hours are over. You can't be here."

Beckett stares him down as she pulls out her badge. "I'm NYPD. Answer the damn question."

The doctor exhales sharply, "There's a sixty percent chance that he'll even wake up."

Kate nods, lowering her gaze to the ground. Those aren't the best odds, but they're not the worst, either. She can hear Martha asking the doctor more questions, but as much as she tries to concentrate, she finds that she can only think about the numbers. There's a forty percent chance that she'll never see his face light up as he concocts a story again, and that they'll never kiss for real.

Beckett can feel her heart start to pound against her chest, like it wants to escape the pain of the last week, of the last twelve years really. It feels like she's not going to be able to control it, like every negative thought floating through her mind is going to come surging up her throat, but she knows that you cannot get rid of the evil so easily.

Then his words pierce through the dark-

I love you, too, Kate.

It calms her, but only for a moment, because she can picture the joy on his face being washed away as his eyes roll back and his body seizes. Beckett squeezes her eyes shut and forces the memories away for now. She looks up to see the doctor walking away. Martha turns and embraces Alexis, then turns to Kate and almost smiles.

"Kate, darling, I would never survive in an interrogation room with you."

. . .

The three women return to Castle's room and Kate stops when she sees him, staring at him with wide, scared eyes. His attached to twice as many machines as before. He has a tube in his throat to help him breathe and there are so many monitors around him that she hasn't seen nearly enough medical shows to know what all of them are. Without missing a beat Alexis and Martha move to his bedside, not questioning their place in this room.

Where does she belong?

She feels like she shouldn't be here. He got shot because she was chasing after her mom's killer. There would be no reason for him to even be putting himself in these life or death situations if it weren't for her. There should never be a doubt in his family's mind that he won't come home one day. She wants to be here with him, but if she should be anywhere right now, it's at the precinct helping to catch the gunman.

She takes a step forward, "Do either of you need anything?"

Alexis looks at her quizzically, "You're not going to stay?"

"No," she says weakly, because she doesn't want to go anywhere, she just wants him. "I have to go to the precinct and help Ryan and Esposito look for the shooter."

Martha thinks for a second and then shrugs, "No, I think we're alright."

Beckett nods and as much as she tries to swallow the urge, she moves over to Castle's bed. Carefully, as to not disturb any of the wires around him, she brushes he hand through his hair. Her hand comes to rest at his cheek as her fingers stroke over his skin. She leans down and places a soft kiss to his cheek, resting there for a beat longer than she intended. Reluctantly, Kate pulls back. After murmuring a quick goodbye, she is about to leave when Martha stops her and wraps her arms around her shoulders. Even though she tells herself she shouldn't take comfort in Martha's hug when she's the reason her son could die, but her arms betray her and return the sentiment.

The older woman releases her grip on the detective, and then says, "You can come back any time."

. . .

The chair beside her desk burns a hole in her chest as she files through all of the reports that Ryan gave to her when she got off the elevator. As proud as she is that Ryan and Esposito have basically been at the precinct since Castle was shot working as hard as they can to solve the case, she can't help but be discouraged because all of these reports are telling her that they're still at square one. CSU found the place where the sniper shot from, but the shooter left no evidence behind. All of the cemetery staff was accounted for at the time of the shooting, and even if they weren't, none of them have any serious financial troubles. Beckett closes the file and turns her chair to gaze at the murder board, her eyes immediately focusing on Castle's picture where it hangs next to the little information they have on the shooter.

She bites her lip and tries to read over all of the information they had before Montgomery's death, but she can feel the sympathetic stares of everyone in the bullpen trained on her back. As much as she wants to turn around and glare at them until they either scatter or offer their awkward but empathetic condolences. Straightening her back, she ignores them and focuses back on the questions listed under Castle's smiling picture on the murder board.

Why was Castle shot?

They know why Castle was shot; the sniper was aiming for her and he got in the way, as usual. But why had they wanted to shoot her in the first place? Montgomery sacrificed himself so that this could be over. So why are they still coming after her?

Next question: Who hired the shooter?

This is a harder question to answer. For twelve years she has been searching for the answer to this question, because the man who hired the sniper of most definitely connected to or is the man who ordered the hit on her mother. Maybe if they do a bit more digging, they could make a step closer to answering it, but only a step.

The last questions stares back at her, mocking her and daring her to answer it.

Who is the sniper?

They have absolutely no idea who the shooter is and maybe that's why she wants to know so badly, because they have no evidence. No clear direction, just an arrow on a broken compass spinning around and around, making everyone dizzy. Then again, it may just be the fact that this is the person who shot Castle. Whoever they are, they're the person who shot the man she loves and she wants to strangle them, lock them up and put a bullet through their heart to see how they like it. She knows that some mysteries aren't meant to be solved, but this isn't one of them.

Her thoughts are interrupted by Ryan clearing his throat. He stands next to Esposito with his hands in his pockets, and then elbows his partner in the side. Esposito narrows his eyes at the Irishman before turning his attention to Beckett.

"Anything?" She asks, a stubborn glimmer of hope that refuses to be trampled resonating in her voice.

Esposito's fingers drum on the file in his hand. "We have good news and bad news. There was a homeless man who saw a six-foot, white male leaving the cemetery immediately after the time of Castle's shooting."

"What's the bad news?"

"The homeless man has a history of mental disorders and hallucinations."

Beckett sighs and rubs her hands over her face. Ryan looks at her worriedly, "Beckett-,"

"I need some coffee," she says softly, not looking at either of them, and then she stands and heads for the break room. When she enters the room, however, she glares at the coffee machine and almost screams, because she's barely ever had to make coffee since Castle started shadowing her and she has no idea what to do anymore. The loneliness and helplessness envelop her and she can't help but wish that he was here with her, not just now, but all the time.

"Need some help?"

She turns to see Esposito shutting the door to the break room, looking at her delicately. She would slap that look off of his face if it wasn't exactly how she feels right now. She doesn't have to answer his question, he just moves over to the coffee machine and expertly flips switches and presses buttons.

After a comfortable pause, she says, "Thank you…for working so hard to help find the shooter."

He raises his eyebrows at her. "Are you kidding? Castle's a part of the team. He's my partner, too."

Beckett just smiles at him, but his expression grows more serious. "How are you holding up?" He asks, handing her a cup of fresh coffee.

"I just want him to be okay," she says. She takes a sip from the mug. The coffee doesn't taste like Castle's, but it's still good.

He just nods and pours himself a cup of the hot liquid, and suddenly she becomes aware of just how long he's been working. His eyes are dark and drained of everything but pure exhaustion.

"Why don't you and Ryan head home? You guys deserve it. We'll start fresh in the morning."

"Yeah, it's getting pretty late," Esposito replies, pouring the remaining contents of his mug down the sink. "Are you going to head home?"

"Soon, I just have to put some files away," she says as he heads for the door.

"Alright, sleep well, Beckett."

Too quietly for him to hear, she mumbles, "I'll try."

. . .

All she wants to do is collapse into bed and fall into a wonderfully deep sleep, but in reality the likelihood of that happening virtually nonexistent. Stepping off of the elevator, the sound of her high heels echo loudly in the silent hallway as she walks to the door of her apartment. Slipping her key into the lock, she pushes the door open, her mind on auto-pilot as her hand moves to turn the lights on, but before she can do it, someone else does it for her.

Her gun is out of her holster in a second, trained on the woman standing in her living room.

"Detective Beckett, it's been too long."

"Special Agent Shaw?" Beckett rasps, her jaw clenched as the adrenaline pumps through her. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I got a call concerning Mr. Castle's shooting," the FBI agent says, sitting down on the armrest of one of Kate's chairs like she does it every day.

"What does Castle's shooting have anything to do with you?" Beckett asks incredulously, lowering her gun to her side.

"My friend and I have devised a plan to keep you and Mr. Castle safe while also finding out the identity of the man who is behind your mother's death."

"How are you…wait, what friend?" Beckett says, tightening her hold on her gun as her body stiffens.

A man comes around the corner then, and if she didn't trust Jordan, she would have shot him in the shoulder by now. "Who is this?"

"You can call me Smith," the man says. He has silvery-white hair and a hardened face from what she assumes is years of dealing with high stress situations.

Beckett glances between the two people in her living room, still only half believing that this is happening.

Smith speaks again, "I'm a friend of Roy Montgomery's. Right before he died he sent me information regarding your mother's case. He has been using that information as leverage in order to keep you, your loved ones and his family safe."

Beckett laughs humorlessly, "Castle is lying in a hospital room because they were trying to kill me. I don't think that deal is working."

"Smith didn't receive the files until after the shooting," Shaw explains, "and they were trying to kill Castle."

"What?" Beckett says, her voice shaking. "I thought…"

"The sniper was going to kill you, but he was ordered at the last minute to shoot Castle," Smith elaborates."

"So you know who shot him?"

"Not yet," Shaw says, standing up and walking over to the detective, "if we're lucky, we'll find out soon. But that's not important right now. Right now we need you to come with us."