Kevin never imagined he’d be standing against Beckett like this, but he knows that if he would do it for anyone, it would be Javier.
Beckett’s an intimidating woman, and in most situations, Kevin might find it difficult to defy her like this, but not even his respect for her is going to stop him from saving his partner.
Even if it may be at the expense of someone’s life.
The instructions were simple. Choose one to live and one to die and he turns himself in, or they both die and he disappears forever.
But they don’t even know who ‘he’ is - only that he’s playing a game, and they’re playing by his rules. There’s no other choice. The investigation led to a dead end; they have no leads and no idea who or where this person is.
Kevin and Beckett have known from the start that they can’t win; they can’t save both of them.
Right now, they’re not thinking like cops. They’re not thinking about a way to outsmart this guy, to beat him at his own game. They’re only thinking that losing both of them is too much. They’re only thinking about who means the most to them.
For Kevin, it’s almost too easy. Castle’s a friend; a good friend. But Javier is his partner.
At first, when Kevin was just the new guy from narcotics, it was -- difficult. Javier was still hurting from Ike, but the distance closed quickly, and partners always stuck by each other.
“He’d do it for me,” Kevin says quietly.
“So would Castle,” Beckett retorts.
“No. He’d do it for you.” Kevin fixes her with a steady gaze. “Like you’d do for him. Like you want to do for him right now. But I can’t do that.”
“Because of your feelings for Esposito.”
Kevin doesn’t say anything.
“I’m not blind, Ryan. We all knew.”
“Don’t talk like you didn’t do the exact same thing with Castle,” Kevin finally loses his composure, spitting the words out through clenched teeth. “Don’t you dare tell me I was too obvious when you were even worse.”
Beckett’s about to snap back at him when her phone rings. They both stare at it, knowing that it can only be one person calling.
“Time is running out, Detectives,” the voice on the other end says smoothly, smugly, when Beckett hits the ‘accept call’ key. “I assume you’re having trouble deciding, so I have a little something for both of you that might help you along.”
Kevin and Beckett don’t breathe until he speaks again.
“Two minutes each with your respective partners, Detectives. And then you choose.”
The dial tone beeps, but only a few seconds later, both Beckett and Kevin’s phones are ringing, and Kevin fumbles his phone out of his pocket, answering at the same time that Beckett does.
“Hey, it’s me. It’s me, Javier, I’m here.”
“Bro, you have to listen to me. Me and Castle -- you can’t choose either of us.”
“You’ll just be giving him what he wants. He’s not going to turn himself in, Kev. You’re not gonna catch him.”
“But we could save one of you!”
“There’s no guarantee of that. You know not to take that risk. This is what he wants, for you and Beckett to turn on each other, and we’re not going to let that happen.”
“And I am not going to let you die!”
“We do this, and he doesn’t win. Neither of us walk away. We go out together.”
“That’s not the way it’s supposed to be,” Kevin whispers. “It’s supposed to be us. You and me.”
“I know, Kev. I know.”
Kevin can hear Beckett’s side of the conversation, and he knows she’s trying to convince Castle of the same thing. And still, the unspoken words hang over all of them, with only one minute to go.
“Take care of my mama, won’t you?”
“I will,” Kevin swears.
“And take care of yourself.”
There’s a moment of quiet. Kevin’s not sure that that’s a promise he can keep, not with Javier gone.
Javier will be gone.
In one minute, he’ll be gone forever.
“Javi. You know, right? You...you know...”
Kevin knows that Javier’s smiling when he says, “I know, Kev.”
Beckett was right when she said that they all knew, but he can’t find it in him to be angry at her for that jab.
“I know, but say it anyway.”
“I love you, Javi.”
It doesn’t matter that Beckett’s right there, that she can hear every word he’s saying.
It doesn’t matter, because Javier says, “I love you too, Kev,” and then the line goes dead.
Kevin never finds out if Beckett and Castle confessed too. He never asks.
Sometimes he thinks that it was all for nothing, because maybe the person who was only a voice on a phone really did win that day, because what happened that day only pushed he and Beckett apart.
At the funeral, they carry Javi’s coffin together, but Beckett will never forget that Kevin was ready to let the man she loved to die in order to save the man that he loved. And Kevin will never forget that she was ready to do the same.
Silent, they carry Javi’s coffin together, but Kevin almost resents her for it, just as she hated him being at Castle’s funeral.
They played the game, and they lost, and they’ll never speak a word.