Love without shadows stirs now
beginning to awaken
William Carlos Williams
He stands just to the side of the podium, listening as his partner speaks kindly of their lost friend. The words are lies; a choice she made because the truth would devastate a family and ruin a good man's reputation.
His heart is breaking just a little bit more for all that she's lost. It seems so unfair that a life marked by such painful losses has to endure one more, but he admires her more for how she's handling it.
He catches the glint of light reflecting off metal out of the corner of his eye. His eyes scan the crowd, the trees beyond, searching for the source. What he sees makes his blood run cold. A gun, pointed at his partner.
He doesn't stop to think, because he knows he might choose differently if he does. He dives for her, grabbing her shoulders as he pushes her out of the way, just as the crack of the rifle being fired reaches his ears.
Searing pain tears through his chest as he lands inelegantly on top of her. He can't move, can barely breath, as the pain fills his consciousness.
One moment he's staring at grass, and then the next gentle hands turn him and he can see the sky. Then her face swims into view. Her lips are moving, but it's like his ears are stuffed with cotton, so he can't quite make out what she's saying. And things have started graying at the edges.
He knows he should be worried, but this is so surreal that he's finding it hard to concentrate. The cold of the grass begins to seep into his bones, and he wishes briefly that he'd known that sooner. It would have made all the death scenes he's written so much more real. The cold steals over his body, and he knows it's because he's dying.
His heart fills with regret. There's so much he wishes he'd done, but right now, his only thought is her. He wishes they'd had more time. He wishes he'd told her how much she means to him. And then her words filter into his pain-fogged brain.
"Don't die, Castle," she's begging him, tears welling in her eyes. "I love you. You can't die."
It's a supreme irony that she says the words before they can even form in his mind, but he's glad he heard her say it just once. He loves her, too. He knows that like he knows his own name. He just wishes he had told her sooner.
The world starts to fade around him, and he can feel her tears on his face as she leans over him, but he can't hear her over the sound of blood rushing in his ears. And as the world goes dark and he slips into that blessed peace of death, he's glad it's her face that's the last thing he sees.