idk what this is but it's been half finished in my drafts for like a month

The Absence of Blame: A Castle Fic

Prompted by @inkstainedcoffeecup: In 8x12 ‘The Blame Game’, one of them is injured in the final room.

It goes wrong so suddenly that she doesn’t even notice. 

She’s too focused on getting the gun away, on subduing Brandon before he can do something to hurt one of them that the ding of the bullet against metal escapes her entirely. The groan of pain is muffled against her struggle for the gun, the thud of a body onto the floor disguised by Brandon’s own trip onto the unforgiving concrete. 

It’s only the flare of surprise in the mastermind’s eyes that alert her to anything being amiss, that bright flicker followed by a twinkle of pleasure that sends her stomach rolling with anxiety. 

Training demands that she keep the gun pointed on her suspect, just as it begins to bleed through the rush of adrenaline at living to survive for another day and tell her that something has gone horribly, drastically wrong. 

The absence of movement, the gasping intake of a breath, a groan that isn’t quite muffled enough in the room. The dark, wet patch that teases at the corner of her vision, a steady spread over one of countless dress shirts that her fingers have touched over the years. 

Her heart leaps into her throat, panic at war with the rest of her. Instinct and fear for her husband demand that she put down the gun and rush to his side, but her training won’t allow it. She cannot be a wife, not yet. For a few minutes she has to be a cop, to neutralize the threat and give herself and Castle the best chance for survival. 

Not that it stops the whimper from slipping out of her mouth. The tears are still pricking at her eyes, a swell of regret and guilt held in the whisper of his given name on her lips. 

This is her fault. She should have been faster, should have lunged sooner and grabbed the gun before Brandon could ever fire off a shot. 

The guy is still sitting on the floor, docile and content. The horror rises up like a tidal wave, crashing into Kate with a force that’s replaced with swift rage. He’s grinning, eyes riveting to the man bleeding out from a wound that she’s not quite managed to look at. He’s grinning and proud of what he’s done, proud that he’s managed to hurt at least one of them. 

She lifts the rifle before it’s really a conscious thought, anger slicing her open with white hot fingers that are insistent on meeting violence with violence. She could pistol whip him in a second, leave him out cold and buy herself time to attend to her husband. For that matter, she could shoot him point blank and ensure no one has to deal with Brandon again.

Kate resists both ideas, ignoring the tug that demands retribution and the steadily growing grief of a wife who might be forced to watch her husband slip away. 

She won’t think about it. Can’t think about it. This can’t be where it ends, with the two of them locked in a room with a sociopath with a perchance for mind games while they’re still separated and, by sheer avoidance towards the subject, on the path to a divorce in the minds of most people. 

It can’t end like this, not when she has so much to make up for. Not when they have so many things left to share. 

“Get up,” she growls, kicking out towards Brandon’s feet to urge him from the floor. His hesitation snaps the fragile band of her patience, further tests her tolerance about manhandling the man that shot her husband, and she reaches out to haul him from the floor herself, adrenaline and sheer strength ensuring that he rises to his feet with relative ease. “You walk over there and you stand with your back against the wall.” 

The push is unnecessary, but it makes her feel better nonetheless, that physical display siphoning off enough of her rage that Kate can find her focus. Brandon goes without complaint, those eyes still fever bright when she kneels beside Castle, fumbling with one hand to loosen the belt that’s fastened at his waist. 

It tugs at her heart that there is no wry grin or teasing come on about where her hands are while they work at undoing the leather strap. Rick should be smiling at her, those gorgeous blue eyes sparkling with that ridiculous combination of mischief, love, and lust that always manages to do it for her.

She tries not to think about how pale he is, how still he remains as the pool of blood grows while she works the belt through the loops, freeing it from the constraints of his pants with a bit of pushing and shoving. There is some comfort that there is no blood underneath his body, the bullet plugging the wound that seems to be embedded in his shoulder. Not life threatening, not unless he bleeds out before help comes. 

Help has to come. It has to. 

“Turn around,” she orders to Brandon, gun in one hand and the belt in the other. It takes another shove with the hand containing the accessory to get him to turn, the man’s chest smacking with a bit too much force into the wall. But Kate ties his hands with the belt, wrapping and knotting a configuration that would take some work to get himself out of. 

He sits without being instructed, back to the docile person that he’d pretended to be before the final room and their complete disregard for his rules. 

Maybe, on some level, that’s who he is. The man underneath all the damage and anger over the choices his parents made. 

She can’t focus on it. There just isn’t enough room in her heart and her mind to worry about the actions of a man who will soon spend the rest of his life in some form of imprisonment, be it Rikers or a mental facility. All she can think about is Rick, of how he’s beginning to stir from his spot on the floor, mouth contorted in a pain that she understands far too well. 

“Hey, babe, it’s okay,” she’s kneeling at his side in an instant, fingers gentle and soothing through the mussed strands of his hair. “I’m right here, you’re gonna be okay. Just stay calm….help is coming, Rick. You’re gonna be fine….” 

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