"How beautiful you are! You are more beautiful in anger than in repose. I don't ask you for your love; give me yourself and your hatred; give me yourself and that pretty rage; give me yourself and that enchanting scorn; it will be enough for me."

-Charles Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood

"You'd better listen and listen good."



Absolutely deadly.

Beckett's hiss echoes in the empty corridor, her hand fisted in the front of his shirt as he backs into an alcove, drawing her with him.

"If you ever do that to me again, we are done. I don't care if the president himself asks me to take you back."

His heart thuds dully in his chest, his mind racing with images of life without her. Life without their daily coffee ritual. Life without her teasing eye rolls. Life without her dazzling smile and her flashing eyes.

"Beckett, I-" he begins.

She cuts him off, pressing him further into the recess of the wall, her knuckles digging into his chest. "Whatever you're going to say, don't. Just don't even bother."

He nods carefully, tries to let his eyes convey his remorse.

"I don't need your help," she rants on. "Not like that."

He opens his mouth, closes it again at the arch of an imperious eyebrow that dares him to dig himself into a deeper hole.

"You think you can just smile and those pearly whites will get you what you want," she rumbles, crowding him against the wall. "And if that doesn't work, surely your big blue eyes will do the trick. Isn't that right?"

It might have been rhetorical. He thinks it was. But then her eyes narrow even further, sparking with undisguised anger and impatience.

"No, Beckett, I-"

She growls. Actually growls at him. Feral. Dark. Dangerous.

His heart stutters to a stop, jumpstarting again when he feels her fingers clenching tighter in the fabric covering his chest. Of all the days not to wear a jacket, he had to choose today, so she couldn't even grab his lapels, had to go straight for his shirt.

"You don't listen," she whispers fiercely. "I tell you a thousand times not to do something, and you ignore me."

He shakes his head, begging for her to understand, to let him explain. But she doesn't.

"Do you not respect me?" she asks, and this time he knows he isn't supposed to answer. "Do you think I don't know what I'm doing?"

He widens his eyes, pleading with her.

"Do you not trust me?"

No. That's not it. She has to know- God, he's going to be sick. Is this what she thinks?

"Kate, no-"

She shoves him, his shoulder blades crashing into the brick behind him, lightning strikes of pain shooting through his arms.

"I'm the one who's trained for this, Castle," she mutters, almost more to herself that to him. "It's my responsibility."

In unison, they speak- "You're my responsibility."

And then she's gaping at him, pure fury flaring in her eyes. She forces him back, hard, jars his internal organs as his body impacts with the wall.


Her single word answer ignites a fire in his bones, lets loose an inferno that licks at his veins, his muscles, his skin. And he's had it. He's done. Enough.

She gives him one last push and starts to turn around, but he catches her wrist, reels her back to him, isn't going to let her get away this time.

"Castle, what-"

He spins her, finds that she fits neatly into his niche, pleased to discover that his frame is large enough to prevent her escape.

If he wasn't absolutely terrified at this moment, he might be amused at the look on her face – a blend of shock and ire and chagrin that he can toss her around so easily. He's a little taken aback himself.

But her throat is working, jaw clenching, and if he doesn't speak soon, she's going to eviscerate him, word by ferocious word.

"I'm your partner," he snarls. "You *are* my responsibility."

She twists her wrist out of his grasp. He'd caught her more by surprise than by force, didn't want to hurt her, even in his frustration.

"I'm a cop, Castle," she reminds him, none too gently. "This is my job."

She leans toward him, hands on her hips in a pose that radiates exasperation and do-not-touch and get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-now. But he doesn't step back.

"It's not your job to get shot," he points out.

She shrugs, apparently unwilling to give an inch. "I was wearing the vest. Besides, it's not exactly your job to get shot either."

"He wasn't aiming for your chest, Kate," he practically yells at her, his stomach dropping as she flinches back. "He would've…and I can't-"

"Can't what, Castle?" she bellows.

He turns, but this time it's her grip on his arm, halting his retreat, her voice softer when she repeats the question. "Can't what?"

He lifts a hand to his head, running his fingers through his hair. He's angry still, furious. But now it's muted by the what ifs, the slow-motion horror of that moment.

"I can't let someone take you from me," he breathes, bringing both hands to his eyes, pressing back into the sockets until stars pop and the sudden moisture has disappeared. "I can't."

He opens his eyes to find hers closed, squinted tightly shut, heavy lines etched across her forehead. She opens her mouth, lets out a quick breath and takes in another in a rapid staccato. "Now you know how I feel."

He sighs, grasping all too well the truth in her words. He's not the only one in over his head. But she needs to know, needs to understand this about him.

"I'll do it every time, Kate," he whispers, leaning toward her, closing her in with his body.

Her hand rises to his chest, unerringly finding the place where his heart beats strong and constant. He'll have to get a new vest. They left the other behind so CSU could fish out the bullet and compare ballistics.

"I don't want that," she groans, and he hates the brokenness in her voice, hates that he put it there. "I don't want you to do that."

He presses his forehead to hers, feels the warmth of her breath on his lips. "I don't care."

Her fingers pull against the fabric of his shirt again, but there's no anger this time, not really. Just resignation and need and an odd blend of scorn and tenderness when she speaks. "I will kill you if you die on me."

He smiles, presses his lips to her forehead, trailing across an eyelid to her cheek, pausing before he reaches her waiting mouth.

"I know."

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