[Author's Note: Hey, guys. I'm kind of new to the fandom, and this is my first story for Castle, so please be gentle! That said, constructive criticism is always appreciated, as are any and all reviews (except flames, which kind of terrify me, but you get the picture). Anyway, this takes place immediately after the scene transition in Kill Shot, and it's what I always imagine happening just after Kate runs out of the hotel lobby. I guess that about sums it up! Please read, review, and share if you feel so moved. Without further ado, enjoy.]

[Disclaimer: Unfortunately for me, I don't own any aspect of Castle in any way, shape, or form. Trust me, if I did, hiatuses would not exist. All the credit (and the awards) to Andrew Marlowe and the rest of the cast and crew.]

Make it stop. Make it stop! Everything will be fine if you can just make this- make her- stop. Kate is the one who is supposed to be in control. This is her crime scene. Yet there Castle was telling her they had to get inside: actually get to the crime scene itself. There he was telling her that she couldn't stand outside, staring up into the city, vision tunneling, eyes darting between every flash of light- every reflection- being thrown from one of those buildings and out into the sky.

And now here he is still. She can feel him standing behind her, though she isn't sure how. All she can hear is this woman- this young woman, this girl- screaming from the gurney to which she has been confined. Horrible screams, not unlike what Kate's would have been when she was in the girl's place, had she even been able to scream. Who is this girl asking these questions: what did I do wrong? Why is someone after me? How can I be safe when he's still out there?

Kate's questions.

It hasn't been more than a few seconds. Thirty, maybe? But in each instant, the screaming gets louder. The noise. It's coming for her: getting closer, louder, swallowing her whole.

At first glance, she tensed, fighting for air, her hands trembling. The shaking spread outward, radiating through her body as she approached the young woman, introduced herself.

But the screaming: it is so loud, so sharp, so painful. And all of a sudden the girl is touching her: frantically clutching her arm. And it is all too much. Her vision blurs, the field narrowing. Something in her brain fogs over until everything spins in circles and nothing makes sense.

There isn't a word for it; it's like nothing else in the world, not really. Maybe something like having a wave break over you. Not just any wave- the huge ones, the ones at high tide on a beach completely exposed to the open ocean. You see it coming, but you can't fight the tide fast enough. And it will be so much worse if it hits you while you fight in vain. So you grow more still, trying to hold your breath- brace yourself. And it crashes. Mist sprays your eyes, and you shut them against the coming wave. One last, desperate attempt to suck in air. How long will you be under? Water droplets choke you, salt stinging your mouth and throat. Suddenly you're encased in foamy white, and before you register the change the full force of the wave is on top of you. Pushing you down. Pulling you back. Time means nothing. Space, distance, direction: all nothing. The sound of the crash is deafening. Then you're under, and sound is muffled, meaningless, ethereal. And there you are in the middle, fighting, but unsure which way to fight. The water fighting back, twisting you. Like it takes some sick pleasure in watching your disoriented attempts at finding the surface: the safe place.

And, just as suddenly as it began, it's over. The wave has passed. You rocket to the surface. Sucking in as much air as you can. Hungry, greedy for it. Your head spins with the panic, the lack of oxygen, the pain. But it isn't really over. Oh, no, it's just beginning. Because now that you know- firsthand and for yourself- what it is to be taken by that wave, feeling it crash down onto you- into you- everything is a threat. And it's more than you can handle to float there, just waiting for that next wave.

And, suddenly, she can't do it. She tells the EMT to take the girl away without even thinking about it. And still Castle is there, and he's watching her, and he's so worried for her. But even now she doesn't really see him. She just feels him, and she needs him, but she can't.

She can't.

She can't let herself want him, much less need him. She has to do what she's done for years: she has to hide from him. So, in an attempt to hide, she tries to take a deep breath, push the panic down deep into that hole where she hides all the pain, all the fear, all the needs: the hole where she hides herself.

But it isn't working. And the screaming isn't stopping, and everything is still blurred, and she sees her mom's face, and her own face, and a flash in the distance before she feels a jolt. Her heart slams against her ribcage, and she must be having a heart attack, and the images keep coming. The shaking won't stop, and her knees are about to buckle, so she turns to run before they do, and Castle slowly takes a step toward her, gently saying her name. "Beckett…"

So she wants to blame him for her coming undone. But it isn't his fault. And she still runs. She doesn't know where. But she sees a door, and no one is going in, and no one is coming out, and why, why, do her lungs not work? She falls against the door and pulls it open as the blackness seeps into her vision. "Kate!" She starts to pull it shut, meeting his eyes: making sure she has pushed him away before he has had the chance to decide, rashly, to follow. Then she's alone, and the door against its frame sounds like a gunshot, and there still isn't air, and it's only getting hotter.

The jacket comes off. She can't do it fast enough, and, much like the gloves, it doesn't help. The badge, the gun, anything she can get off fast to get rid of weight- any weight- just enough to keep her knees from giving out. She won't need them anyway. She's done with this case.

Done with this job.

Done with this life.

She nearly collapses, leaning forward against the wall, trying desperately to remain cognizant. Fight. Stay awake. Stay alive. And somehow she feels that if she tries to stand still for even one more second, she will shatter- right then and there- into a million irreparable pieces. Her head spins. Her stomach muscles clench. The cut on her right wrist screams.

It's too much. All of it is too much, and she can't think, or see, or hear, or feel, but then maybe she can because something burns in her chest, and she can't be imagining that ripping, searing feeling where her heart should be. She's still wheezing, gasping for air, and she can taste blood in her mouth. Her face feels wet, and she hates herself for crying: hates herself for being weak. But maybe it's just sweat. Her whole body feels slick, clammy. And the shaking. If only she could stop that awful shaking. The scar running up her side pulls as she leans back to bring herself away from the wall.

I tiny sound escapes from the back of her throat: a moan that wanted to be a scream before it got caught there. And now she's definitely crying, but she can't stop.

I can't.

Over and over again: I can't.

Everything is so wrong, and she doesn't even have the energy to tell herself to calm down: to put the walls up, to be 'okay' in spite of the fact that she isn't. She isn't at all, and she can't pretend anymore. She collapses, slowly dragging her legs out from their position folded underneath her and bringing her knees to her chest, clinging to herself because no one else is there. They never are.

She doesn't let them be.

But all at once someone is there. He is there. She doesn't see him or hear him, but she feels him, and he's with her now in the narrow hallway. So, she needs to stop crying and make herself breathe. Now. She needs to pull herself together before he sees her like this because she can't need him.

And he can't know that she needs him.

And he can't know that she wants him.

She will not- does not- want him.

He can't know that there are nights she sits huddled in the corner of her apartment, trying anything to block out the noise, and the light, and the heat, and the pain, and she almost calls him. But she doesn't because she does not want him. She will not let herself want him. Because that would mean letting herself feel again.

And feeling it all at full force would only serve to make the pain so much more excruciatingly unbearable than it already is.

When he steps around the corner, she is curling in on herself, moaning, wailing; trying not to want him, trying not to need him. "Kate…" he whispers, and that's all he says. He kneels next to her, and he waits.

He doesn't talk.

He doesn't push.

He simply waits.

He waits for her.

And she cries because it hurts, and because she can't hide anymore, and because she can't block out the agony. She cries because she is terrified and so, so ashamed.

And she cries because he understands.

He understands, and no one has ever understood. But then she met him, and he did, and he loves her, but he doesn't know that she's aware of it. She cries because she can't love him: can't put herself through that again. The last time her heart was broken, she was lucky: she was able- just barely- to force the pieces of herself back together: to push it all down, and tuck it neatly into one of the many, thoroughly compartmentalized sections of her consciousness, and make herself 'okay'. Whatever 'okay' meant anymore. But even if 'okay' isn't really okay at all, next time she won't be so lucky. She can feel it.

But Castle isn't going to go away. He's not like every single other person she's ever known, so he won't allow her to push him away and block him out. Suddenly, she's jolted by a shock of contact as his hands come to rest, one on her back and one on her waist, gently, cradling her. She gasps, panicked, at the sensation of it. "Shhh…" he soothes. Having already sat down, he pulls her toward him, closer, delicately pressing her up against his side; massaging gentle circles into her back; tucking her into him, her head resting on the smooth, muscular plane of his chest. And she needs it. For so long she has needed this.

Slowly but surely, he brings her back to the present. Little by little, her vision clears, and her breathing begins to deepen. Her hysterical crying gradually becomes quieter. "I can't…" she cries hoarsely, her voice barely more than a whimper.

"Shhh…" he placates once again, gently un-tucking her to sit up a bit straighter. Guiding her left hand with his right, Castle presses her fingertips to her chest, right over her heart. Right over the small circle of mottled scar tissue, had he been able to see it. "Feel that?" he whispers, looking into big, hazel doe eyes deep and watery with misery. "No matter what these people have done- and they have done horrible things- they couldn't take that from you. And as long as I'm here, they aren't going to. No one is." She smiles weakly, finally feeling the coolness of his hands spread through her and calm her, reminding her that he's right: she was born a fighter, and this is no exception. "No way would I make anybody do that much paperwork," Castle finishes.

She laughs a little, but mostly she chokes on the lump in her throat. Tears still falling while she softly nestles her cheek and temple against his shoulder, she asks, "Not even Iron Gates?" He removes his hand from hers, which she lets drop feebly to her lap. He brings his hand to his chin while he scrunches up his face, looking exactly as he does when he's trying to figure out which person in their new case is the CIA agent.

"Not even Iron Gates," he decides. He slips her badge back onto her waistband for her. After standing up, he helps her to her feet, as well. He collects her jacket and gloves from the floor along with the gun, then stands patiently by as she rubs the moisture and tearstains from her face. He offers a small nod of reassurance to indicate that she has done so sufficiently. "I mean, I'm already walking on pretty thin ice. She'd never let me back into the precinct if that happened."

"Shut up, Castle," she says, taking and holstering the gun while rolling her eyes, more quietly adding, "And thank you."

"Although, if I didn't have you to chase around and annoy, I wouldn't have much of a reason to spend all my time there, would I?" He shakes his head. "Nope, either way, I guess I better make sure you stay alive. Besides, Motorcycle Boy would probably reappear to track me down seeking his revenge. I ever tell you he tried to punch me out while you were in surgery?"

"Are you done, Castle?" she asks as she rounds the corner. "Come on. Your war stories can wait; we've got bad guys to catch." She is already out the door now, but from behind her, she can feel him smile. And she trusts that he feels her smile in return.