A/N This takes place early in the second season

A Glancing Blow

It had all happened so quickly that she only had time to react, not feel. Kate Beckett heard two gunshots then a beat later Ryan yelled "Clear! We're fine." She saw Ryan ushering a stunned Castle out the door, clutching his arm, while she and Esposito struggled to subdue the second suspect. Back up had already been en route, but Ryan had called to make sure that included an ambulance. It was less than a minute later that he rushed back in, assuring himself that the shooter was dead. Becket immediately called out to him, "Castle?" to which Ryan replied, "Grazed, shocked mostly." She nodded and remained focused in cop mode to avoid the distraction of feeling the weight of loss the moment could have held. She'd reflect long and hard later, but for now she had her part to play.

"Beckett, I've been shot!"

Castle was sitting on the edge of the ambulance, in his undershirt, adrenaline surging through him. Kate approached him using her most intentionally patient tone. "Yes, I can see that, Castle." She placed her hand on his shoulder to quiet his jittery movements then peered over to assess the damage. She looked at the medic skeptically "Seriously? Are stitches even necessary?"

The man just shrugged, "Just a couple should do it."

The graze just below his sleeve was barely deserving of a bandage, much less stitches, but she knew that this was a cop's rite of passage – the first bullet. Although he lacked the official credentials, she couldn't begrudge him the rush of pride that he did indeed defend and protect - never mind that he was told to stay outside, or that he was foolish enough to rush into a building unarmed. He was incorrigible, but valiant and that smile . . . well, that alone was worth it.

Detective Beckett questioned her partner with the same tone she used when she caught him flashing her badge in the squad room when he thought no one was looking. "Castle, what were you thinking?"

His eyes grew wider as words spilled out. "Well, I was outside, like you told me. But, Beckett, I saw a second shooter sneak around the side. I had to warn you so I went in the front of the building, and I saw you and Esposito with your guns trained on the suspect, Grant, at the back of the room, but Ryan was off to the left, his back to where the second guy was coming in and I called out to warn him. The guy switched his aim and shot me while I was diving for cover behind a desk. Next thing I knew Ryan was pulling me up and leading me out here to wait for help. He said he took down the shooter and you were cuffing Grant, so mission accomplished! That was soooo cool! Rook is SO getting shot in the next book."

He must have caught the reproof in her gaze because he started backpedaling sheepishly, " . . . or not."

Before she had time to give him "Castle standard lecture #4" about staying where he was told, the boys walked up and the giddy agitation began coursing through her partner once again.

"Guys, I was shot! Look!" He was now the proud owner of 2 superfluous stitches and a standard sized band aid.

Ryan stretched out his hand for a fist bump. "Way to take one for the team, Castle. Thanks for the head's up in there." Ryan was playing it cool but moments before he had been addled at the thought that the team favorite, the only one with a kid waiting at home, risked his life to have his back.

Esposito clapped Castle's good shoulder and said, "Nice one, Bro. Maybe next time you gently nudge yourself into the path of a speeding bullet they'll spring for a Superman bandaid. Seriously man, I've had paper cuts worse than that!" The warm smile he offered conveyed his pride through the insults.

Beckett wasn't going to let the bromance surrounding her go to Castle's head. She rolled her eyes then stepped back in, "Yeah, yeah, we're all impressed that Castle got shot, now back to work both of you. You'll be handling Grant's interrogation." After one last manly nod the duo walked back to where the cuffed suspect was being read his rights.

Beckett had her eyes trained on Castle who was just starting to stand. He still couldn't help but smile and her sharp look softened considerably. She reached for his discarded dress shirt and assessed the rim of blood around the hole and with light sarcasm asked, "You sure you're not suffering from blood loss?"

He deftly took the shirt from her hands, making sure to brush her fingers in the process. "I will not swoon, Detective, if that is what you're worried about, or if I do it will have nothing to do with blood loss." He lifted an eyebrow for emphasis.

She rolled her eyes.

As they walked to the car he had willed himself to keep quiet, which lasted exactly thirty seconds into the car ride. "This is so awesome! I just can't believe I've been shot!"

"It may not be the last time, Cowboy." He behaved himself the rest of the drive.

Castle refused to go home and change. His stated reason was so that they could wrap up the investigation quicker, but Beckett knew it was so he could show off his wounded bicep. She honestly didn't mind seeing him in his upscale fitted t-shirt so she didn't push. The rest of the day she had been stealing glances at her partner, who seemed to be showing no signs of stress, only bubbling excitement over what had happened at the crime scene. Most people, would be somewhat traumatized by being in the line of fire and she was just hoping that he really was as okay as he seemed. Her scans, which he interpreted as reproach, did not escape his notice so he tried to respectfully tone down his enthusiasm, at least when she was listening.

When the boys finished with Grant they were determined to not let up on their slightly wounded friend.

Ryan headed to grab his backpack and said, "Last one who got shot buys drinks, right, Espo?"

Esposito grabbed his coat and replied, "Yeah, and let's see it was Roberts, me, Ford, then Beckett, Vasquez, Sanders but then Roth, although does a BB gun accident in the back yard count? Well, anyway, we're all off the hook now that Writer Boy here was grazed today. " He had turned walk away saying, "See you at 7!"

Kate? Esposito? It was as though all the adrenalin and pride were drained from his body the instant the man spoke the string of those who had taken one for the team. He had grown accustom to the whole cop way of coping with things by making light of seriously bad situations, but he hadn't realize that advertising his slight brush with death as though it earned him some cub scout patch might be seen as minimizing the sacrifices that so many cops had made without being able to walk away. He reprimanded himself for acting as though he were "one of them." He was a writer at heart and he thrived on new experiences, but to all those surrounding him, taking a bullet was no accomplishment, but rather a brutal reminder of all they put on the line and could lose. He had been treating it as though it were his first pony ride.

He pined for a clean shirt to cover the shameful reminder of his insensitivity.

Kate noted his deflated posture and understood it, but knew that he meant no disrespect and that no offence was taken at any corner. She picked up his shirt and gently inspected the hole and dried blood surrounding it. "All that laser tag with Alexis really paid off today, huh?" No quick-witted comment followed.

He hesitated then asked soberly, "Kate, is that true? You've been shot? I mean, for real shot?" She could almost see him mentally kick himself for not knowing this about her before.

She nodded then pointedly replied, "Yes. Just like you were 'for real' shot today." He rolled his eyes.

"This," he motioned to his arm, "hardly counts. What happened to you, if you don't mind me asking?" Castle rested his elbow on her desk and leaned towards her slightly.

"Since when do you ask permission to ask questions, Castle?" He shrugged. She shook her head at his demoralized expression. "It was years ago, when I first started working with Esposito." As we were securing a crime scene we both heard the click of a revolver, which the perp had trained at my head. Espo reacted right away, calmly addressing the guy. Smooth talking has always been one of Javi's strengths." They shared a slight smirk. "We both thought the suspect was talked down when the he started lowering his arm, but when I went to reach for the weapon the guy panicked and squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit me square in the ribs." Seeing her partner flinch, she quickly assuaged his anxiety. "I was wearing a vest."

She reflexively moved her left hand to feel her lower right ribcage and straightened. Castle's eyes followed her hand's movement just as involuntarily. He stilled his fingers, which were eager to prove that her ribs were sound. Instead he cleared his throat. "Were you okay?" His expression and voice laced with concern.

"Aside from some bruised ribs, I was fine. I had to take a few days, but there was no blood, no scars, just a lot of ribbing from Esposito and the rest of my team at the time. Yes, Castle, the pun was intended." The corner of his mouth twitched. "I went to the firing range and listened to the bullets and shot some rounds just to make sure I wouldn't be skittish afterwards. I was fine, though. Espo, well, it took him a little longer to recover from witnessing it. He joked and made light of it, much like he did to you today, but afterwards he was very vigilant about my welfare. It really was sweet, but I'd never let on that I noticed."

"Were you there when he was shot?" She broke eye contact.

"No, that was a battle wound of the Middle Eastern variety. He doesn't like to talk about it, but I know it was no graze. I was surprised he even mentioned it today since only a few of us even know about it." Castle's brow was furrowed. Kate knew he was still feeling unworthy.

She placed her hand on his shoulder garnering his full attention. "Castle, this isn't a competition. It's a good day to be a cop when there are no gunshots fired and a better one when you have a chance to realize that your team has dodged a bullet that could have altered everything. I kept the vest I was wearing the day I was shot to remind myself of that." She glided her fingers down his arm, pausing at the bandage. Her eyes flitted to his wound before she removed her hand and ceremoniously bestowed him with his dress shirt-turned-battle-trophy.

"Tonight is not a mockery, it's a celebration. One of our own is not dead or hospitalized." She put her hand up at the start of his protest, "You are one of us. Without the badge, gun, or pension, granted, but you had Ryan's back today. You're in." She picked up a pen and while she kept her eyes trained on the document she added, "In case you haven't noticed, you've been in for quite some time." She added her signature then closed the file.

He carefully folded his shirt, placed it in his bag, stood and offered her a hand up. She allowed the small display of gallantry. While he wasn't quite himself yet there was a shade of her partner's normal demeanor surfacing in his expression. As they ambled towards the elevator she added, "Of course that does not mean that there won't be mocking . . ." She nudged against his arm and he jerked slightly, his hand darting up to cover his band aid.

"Careful, Kate, I've been shot!"

Yeah, he'd be fine.