A/N: I guess this could be considered an insert as well as a post-ep of sorts for 7x06, The Time Of Our Lives. Picks up from Castle and Captain Beckett's 'date' at the bar.

"It's just pure luck that it brought me here when it did."

"Or fate."

Richard Castle is definitely different than she would have imagined, different from the man she met for a split second all those years ago on a book tour. He's odd, a tad worrisome when it comes to the state of his mentality maybe, but at the moment he seems sane enough, sitting across from her at a small table in the middle of a bar with a knowing hint of a smile on his face that she doesn't understand. He claimed to know her, to spend mornings in bed with her, and the look in his eyes tells her he still believes that despite his tale about basing a book character on her.

Agreeing to drinks with him was probably a bad idea. Esposito had shaken his head at her when she had walked out of the precinct with the semi delusional man, but Ryan had given her a thumbs up in encouragement. The boys were always looking out for her, always hoping that one of her throwaway boyfriends might finally stick around for more than a couple of months, but she's married to her work, dedicated to doing what she can from her office to find the kind of justice she could never achieve for herself for those who have suffered the same kinds of tragedy she has.

A tragedy she usually never even mentions, especially not on first dates, but when she reveals that the case that made her want to become a cop, her mother's case, is one she never ended up solving, the blue pools of his eyes ripple, that same unsettling knowledge flashing in their depths, and she shifts in her seat, tries to pin the attention back on him.

"Anyway, back to you. Why did you kill off Derrick Storm?" she questions, closing her fingers one last time around her mother's ring before forcing her hand to drop to the table.

"Well, it's complicated…" His sentence trails and she follows his line of sight, sees him tracking a sport's logo on a man's shirt, and realizes with startling disappointment that this isn't a date at all. He's still working the case.

She doesn't know whether to be impressed or infuriated.

She slams the door hard enough to send vibrations reverberating through the walls when she finally crosses the threshold into her apartment. He doesn't know her and how dare he try and make her feel as if she's done less than her job, as if she didn't live up to his version of her. Compromised? She hadn't compromised. They had won, she had done everything in her power to wrap this case up, and it was enough for her.

Wasn't it?

Kate growls and presses her back against the door, buries her face in her hands. He was right; she did miss the streets. She missed the adrenaline rush of chasing down a suspect, she missed the burst of pride that came with making a collar, she missed the satisfaction that use to fill her every time she found justice for a victim and their family. She missed being Detective Beckett.

"Fuck," she whispers, fingering her mother's ring again and tilting her head back against the doorframe.

She had been fine, everything had been fine, until Richard Castle showed up.

The knock of the door causes her to jerk, her heart skipping harshly in her chest, and she doesn't even have to check to know who it is.

"Did you follow me?" she demands as soon as she swings her front door open.

He doesn't even have the decency to look ashamed.

Castle shrugs and pushes his hands into his pockets. "Nope. I already knew where you lived. Although, in my world, you just sold this place."

She blinks, but he only offers her a quirk of his lips.

"You already knew where I lived?" she repeats. "Have you been stalking me?"

He groans. "No, Beckett. I already - you know what, never mind. Can I please just come in for a second?"

"Why?" she snaps, crossing her arms over her chest and using her body to block the entrance. "So you can tell me again how I don't measure up to your delusional version of me?"

Castle's hand lifts from his side, as if he's about to reach out to her, before quickly falling away along with the fading light in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to hurt you by saying those things," he murmurs, shuffling his feet in her hallway, but holding her gaze with his own, too much unexplainable sorrow lining the dimming blue orbs. "I just - I know the kind of person you are, the potential you have, and I know how… how extraordinary you can be. I just don't know if you do."

She swallows at that, an unwelcome wave of modesty washing over her, and she has to remind herself again that he doesn't know her. He thinks he does, but he really has no idea.

"What is there left to talk about?" she says instead, biting the inside of her cheek while she waits for an answer.

"I didn't want us to part on bad terms," he explains, too hastily, and she wonders if he's coercing her into helping him solve a closed case for the second time tonight. "If I wasn't going to see you again, I didn't want it to end that way. And I'm sorry I kinda ruined our date."

Her eyebrow arches at its own accord and she cocks her head to the side.

"It wasn't a date, it was your own version of an undercover operation," she reminds him, finally relenting and stepping aside to allow him inside of her apartment before one of her neighbors comes out and spots her speaking with him.

"It could have been a date though. We could even try going on another date," he suggests, strolling inside, scanning the walls of her apartment, something sad and reminiscent filling the deepening lines of his face.

Kate closes her door and steps around him, heading for the kitchen and the leftover Chinese takeout in her fridge. "I thought you were trying to get home. Doesn't that leave little time for dating?"

It's meant to be a joke, but the smile he responds with is strained. "I don't think it's possible for me to get home right now, but Kate, you're still-"

"Castle," she warns, because she doesn't want to hear anymore about what kind of relationship they may have in the world of his head.

"You're my home," he says anyway and she tightens her grip on the handle of the refrigerator. "And I know you don't know me here and that I probably seem like I belong in a mental ward." She cracks a small smile at that. "But even if it takes some time, as long as I have you… as long as I have you."

Meeting his gaze causes something warm and unfamiliar to unfurl inside her chest, something no other person has ever evoked before. He's looking at her with so much care, so much hope and love and promise shining in his eyes, but he isn't looking at her, not the real her. He's seeing someone else, some alternate version of her that he's apparently loved in another life. No one has ever looked at her the way he is right now, she doesn't think anyone ever will.

"Well, I don't mind being friends," she tries to deflect, returning to the task at hand and retrieving her late meal from the middle shelf of her fridge, transferring it to the microwave.

"We would never stay friends," he picks up easily, plopping down on her couch, but still following her every move. "Your desire for me will soon overcome you, believe me."

The incredulous expression that claims her face must amuse him, because his smirk blossoms into laughter, and she rolls her eyes.

"You really do belong in an institution," she mutters, digging around in her silverware drawer for a fork.

They're quiet while she heats up her food and pours a glass of red wine for herself, deciding with a huff to pour him one as well when he continues to stare at her like a lost puppy.

"The staring is creepy, you know," she mumbles after a bite of still too hot orange chicken.

"You'll get used to it," he assures her, making room for her on the couch, and she's thankful he gives her the space without her having to ask. She'd like to keep as much distance between them as possible.

"I don't think so."

"You got used to it back then. It only took about… two, maybe three years? I think you secretly started to like it actually," he remarks, taking a long sip of his wine and she drops her fork in the takeout box, sits back and gives him her best interrogation glare that used to have suspects cracking in seconds.

"Prove it."

"That you like when I stare at you?"

"No," she says slowly. "Prove this theory to me about your world and your version of me. Prove that it isn't just some crazy story you made up."

He perks up at the challenge, setting his glass down on her coffee table and turning towards her with determination overflowing in his eyes.

"And I want something concrete," she adds, crossing her legs and settling back against the couch. She has a feeling she's in for one hell of a story, she might as well get comfortable. "Something you couldn't just guess or learn elsewhere. Something only I would know."

It takes him hardly a second to get started.

"Well, first of all," he begins with the practiced ease of a storyteller. "We'll start off with some physical evidence. In my world, we've been together for a while, so naturally, I've seen you naked." Her jaw clenches without her permission and a blush that her hair blessedly hides climbs her neck, burning her ears. "So I know that you have a tattoo, right below your left hipbone that someone who's only seen you without clothes on would know about."

She resists the urge to place her hand over the covered jut of her hip when his eyes flicker down to the spot where he somehow knows her skin is stained with ink.

"Not good enough," she argues, quickly regaining his attention. "It wouldn't be easy, but it's possible you could have found that out from someone else without ever actually knowing me."

She had expected some type of protest, some kind of argument in return to refute her flimsy excuse, but he doesn't look the least bit deterred. Much to her chagrin.

"Okay then. I know that your favorite color is purple, that you own a '94 Harley Softail, which nearly gave your dad a heart attack when you were younger. I know that when you spent your first and only year in Stanford, you used to dress up as your favorite television character from that god awful show, Nebula 9-"

"Hey," she starts, earning a smug grin in return that has her lips pursing tightly.

"I know that you used to dream of becoming the first female Chief Justice. I know why you changed your mind."

Any halfhearted indignation on her part fades and she can read the apology already coming together in his eyes, can already sense what he's going to say next before the words even form on his lips.

"I know your mother was murdered when you were nineteen years old. I know that it drove your father to drink and you to become a cop. I know-"

"Stop," she whispers, not even bothering to conceal the gravel in her throat. "You've made your point."

Kate leans forward on the couch, stabbing her elbows into her knees and scraping her fingers through her hair. She has to be missing something.

"None of this makes sense. Not unless-"

"Unless I'm telling you the truth?" he supplies and she bites down on her bottom lip, hard enough to draw blood. She was once the star detective of the NYPD, she would know if he was lying and she would also be able to solve this mystery. Maybe… maybe she just needs all of her facts in order first.

"Tell me the whole story."

Three hours later, he's still on her couch and she's immersed in a world he almost makes her believe she can belong in.

"So the wedding was ruined?" she murmurs, curling her knees in closer to her chest when he nods, his mood gone somber, and releases a sigh that's heavy with burdens unspoken. "And you were just… gone, for two whole months?"

"And I can't remember any of it." His face is shadowed with anguish and the hands clasped between his knees clench hard enough to whiten his knuckles before he loosens his grip. "It hurt you and for a while, I even worried - I thought you might want to leave, to finally call it quits with me, but you were so strong the entire time, Kate. You had more faith in us, in me, than I could have ever asked for," he recalls, a wistful longing swirling along the corners of his downturned mouth. "But I just keep disappearing on you."

"You didn't choose this," she points out, ignoring the fact that she's indulging his delusion, but he just looks so heartbroken, so lost. And it is a pretty compelling recount of the last six years…

One of her hands ventures across the space between them and drops to his knee, squeezing the bone in innocent comfort, but she realizes the mistake she's made too late, and he coils his fingers around hers before she can steal her hand back.

"In your world," she tries, hoping to distract him long enough to retract her hand, even if the warmth of his encompassing palm does feel nice against hers, and he raises his brow at her brief conceding to the existence of an alternative universe. "We solved my mother's murder?"

"We did, but it's... there are a lot of consequences for what I did, for opening up her case after you told me not to," he confesses, his face suddenly growing dark, darker than she's seen throughout this entire ordeal. "You almost died. A sniper put a bullet in your heart and I almost lost you."

Her chest tightens out of reflex at the information and with his hand slack over hers, she withdraws her fingers, places them to the middle of her sternum.

"Maybe I was right all along," he murmurs, more to himself than her as he rises from the sofa. "I'm not good for you."

She doesn't know what makes her go after him, doesn't even recognize the foreign pang in her stomach at the thought of him leaving so dejected, but it pushes her off the couch, propels her towards him before he can reach the door.

"Castle, wait."

"I'm sorry I disturbed you, Captain Beckett," he says, voice so hollow, and he attempts to go around her, but she stops him with a hand to his chest, splaying her palm over the expanse of his pectoral muscle.

The touch isn't meant to elicit any sort of spark, but her body still tingles with electricity and really, the spark was ignited the moment he walked into her precinct this morning and starting solving their case with her.

"In your world, I sound happier," she admits, allowing her hand to migrate to his arm, resting on his bicep in something she hopes he'll take as a friendly gesture, nothing more. "And not just because I got justice for my mom, but because of you. It sounds like you make me happy."

For the first time since he burst into her life, he turns his gaze away from her.

"Are your mother and daughter at your loft?" she asks, involuntarily starting to sweep her thumb back and forth over his arm.

He sighs, the question seeming to send him even deeper into distress.

"Yes, but they're… they're not the same. Nothing is the same and I don't know how to get back to them, to you."

"But you will," she insists, finally snagging his eyes once more. "If anything, you've proven that you're too persistent not to."

A gentle smile laces along his lips and he tilts his head slightly to one side, studying her with an affection that awakens a pleasant fluttering in her chest.

"So you believe me? About everything?"

She shrugs, already cursing herself for what she's about to say. "How can I not?"

His face brightens with joy, pride filling the apples of his cheeks, and it makes her feel lighter inside, to have put that look on his face. But she tenses when he lifts a hand to her cheek a second later, cautiously brushing a strand of hair behind her ear and causing her stomach to flip. His fingers are smooth, thick and warm, and they linger on her skin, thumb tracing the porcelain shell and dusting along her jawline before his hand drops back down to his side.

"Sorry," he says with regretful smile. "I should go, maybe do some more research on how I ended up-"

"You never told me why you killed off Derrick Storm."

Intrigue flares in his eyes, a contrasting light in the slowly darkening irises.

"To put it simply, he was boring," Castle shrugs. "I wanted to enjoy writing again and the only way I made that happen after killing Storm was by meeting you. That's why my writing plummeted in this world. I didn't have you to inspire me."

She would scoff at him if it weren't for the sincerity in the statement. She sighs instead, rests her back against the door and tries to quell the indecision waging in her mind.

She's blocking his exit and in order for him to leave, she needs to move out of his way, but despite his earlier words of departure, he doesn't try to get past her and she doesn't make any move to shift to the side.

"What if I stayed? Here with you tonight?" he muses and she tugs her bottom lip between her teeth.

The idea appeals to her, he appeals to her, but that's what scares her. She's only known him for a day, but it feels like years, like the years he just told her all about. If his other world is real, if he does find his way home, where does that leave her?

"I don't think that's a good-"

The kiss he presses to her lips is soft, a barely there touch that infuses her with warmth she hasn't felt in such a long time.

"Okay," he concedes, pulling away all too soon, brushing his fingers at her jaw once more before they reach for the door handle. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She catches him by the collar of his shirt and brings him back to her before he can even touch the door or venture a step away, cupping his cheeks in her hands and lifting on her toes to meet his mouth for another kiss. His body surges into her immediately, pressing her back against the door, and she groans at the contact, at the onslaught of pleasure and the rainstorm of sparks.

He paints her lips with his own, bold strokes that leave her breathless and craving more, and she tries to draw him closer with her fingers at the back of his neck. Castle answers her urgency with his own, pinning her to the door with his hips, evoking a mewling noise she's never released for anyone but herself. The initial chemistry that had bubbled between them at the precinct had done nothing to prepare her for this.

She nips at his bottom lip to draw a moan from deep within his throat, and laves the swollen flesh with her tongue before slipping inside the warm cove of his mouth, exploring and inviting him to do the same.

"You taste like home," he rumbles, his voice a mixture of crumbling relief and need, not giving her a chance to reply, to think, before his mouth has her drowning in sensation again.

Desperation makes his lips rough and frenzied over hers, but she doesn't stop him, doesn't try to slow or gentle him. She lets him take what he needs while her hands dig into his shoulders, holding on through the crashing force of his love for her.

Her elbows jerk and crack against the door when his knee slides between her thighs, a strangled gasp breaking past her lips as he moves onto her neck, trailing his tongue along the taut skin beneath her jaw, suckling with reverence at the stampeding throb of her pulse, traveling lower until his tongue is dipping into the hollow of her throat and his mouth is whispering across the skin between her breasts.

He pauses there, panting, and she slits her eyes open, glances down to see him studying her unmarred flesh with wide eyes and she remembers, she wasn't shot here. In his world, she has a bullet scar stamped over her heart.

She cards her fingers through his hair, combing her nails along his scalp and giving him a moment to take in this unscathed version of her body, wondering if it makes a difference for him at all.

His hands slide beneath her thighs seconds later, and she hooks her legs around his waist, humming at the solid breadth of his chest sealed against hers as he carries her away from the front door. She isn't surprised when he navigates his way to her bedroom without a moment of uncertainty, as if he's already memorized the path, not even having to look where he's going, allowing his attention remain intent on her instead.

It has her growing impatient, just as desperate to have him, and she smudges a kiss to his throat, feeling his pulse thriving beneath her lips and his hips jerk when she adds a scrape of her teeth.

"Kate," he growls, clenching his fingers around her thighs, but she only grins and rediscovers the newfound beauty of his mouth while her hands feather and curl at his ears.

He lowers her to the bed slowly, his body following hers to the mattress, and she allows him to undress her while she works at ridding him of his shirt. He disposes of his pants once she's left in only the black lace of the matching underwear set that soon ends up on the floor with his boxers.

She doesn't believe in soul mates, in fate or destiny; she stopped believing in those things a long time ago and she's definitely never put any faith in alternative universes, but as he travels across the plains and valleys of her flesh and the ridges and curves of her bones with his hands, his mouth, she allows herself to believe for just a split second that he's made the magic of those myths real.

There's no other way he could know how to touch her like this, how to ignite fire in her veins that spreads to her bloodstream and steadily consumes her from the inside out, how to read her body like Braille and make love to her like they've done this countless times before.

It's her first time experiencing him, but it's definitely not his first time with her.

"I love you, Kate." He imprints the words against her skin, whispers it against every place he touches, and she lets him, lets him love her, lets him take her apart piece by piece. Maybe she isn't the same version of herself that he was in love with, but she could try to be. She could try for him.

Beckett wakes at dawn to him mapping her skin with his fingertips, tracing her bones and warming her blood. When he senses her emerge into consciousness, he urges her closer, weaving his limbs around her, and she thinks she should feel smothered, but the cocoon of his body only has her curling further into him.

"Did you sleep at all?" she murmurs, peeling her eyes open to see him bathed in the soft glow of early morning sunlight.

"I didn't want to sleep," he replies, trailing a hand down her spine just like he had a couple of hours ago, the comforting brush of his palm threatening to send her back into the arms of sleep. "Didn't want to waste any time."

"You must be disappointed," she yawns, opening her eyes again just in time to see his brow furrow. "To still be here."

For a brief moment upon waking, she had wondered if maybe it had been a dream all along, from his time in her precinct to his time in her bed, but the heat of his presence and the tangle of his fingers in her hair had proven her wrong within seconds.

"I'm with you," he says, as if no further explanation is needed. "I could never be disappointed."

Words have never meant much to her, actions always proving to hold more truth, but somehow Richard Castle has the ability to use them like a sledgehammer against the walls that have always been erected around her heart for as long as she can remember.

"Castle." He angles his head to look at her, so close their noses clash and their lashes nearly twine, and she doesn't think she's ever allowed anyone this far into her personal space. "If you things don't work out, just know that you could have a home here, in this world."

His eyes soften, shining a glittering cerulean and no longer drenched with despair as they had been the night before, and she hopes that she's helped ease his homesickness in some small way.

"And you were right," she breathes, turning her nose into his neck. "We do make a good team."

His chuckle is low, husky with sleep and sex, and his lips press against her temple.

"Oh, Kate. You have no idea."

She curls a leg at his thigh. wraps an arm at his neck, and rolls him onto his back.

"Then give me an idea, Castle."

She's witnessed shootings before, witnessed people she's known die right in front of her, but it's different when it's him. It's worse.

"No, please don't go. Stay with me," she murmurs, pleads, feeling his pulse dying beneath her fingertips, watching his eyes close and his breath slow. "Stay with me, Castle."

He had made it clear from the minute he got here that he didn't belong in this world, but she hadn't expected to lose him like this. She hadn't expected her heart to crack when he was finally gone.

She camps out in the hospital waiting room throughout the night, meets his mother and daughter around four hours into his surgery, and when the doctor finally emerges from behind those two swinging doors and announces that he pulled through, that he'll live, her heart slows and her lungs loosen with relief.

Alexis and Martha go to him first when the surgeon gives them the all clear, but his raven haired daughter with the sparkling sapphire eyes that match his comes to fetch her twenty minutes later, and at last, she's allowed to see him again.

"Hey," she rasps, entering his room with caution. He's been out of surgery for a while, but she's unaware of the state he's in, if he's up for company or conversation with her at all.

Hazy but familiar blue eyes blink and settle on her, but there's no spark of recognition, no affectionate smile or welcoming grin. He looks at her as if - after all they've been through in the span of the last 72 hours - she's a stranger.

"I hear I saved your life?" he croaks, confusion creasing his brow.

Kate takes a hesitant step deeper into his room and then another, until she's finally at his bedside, close enough to touch, but not daring to act on the urge.

"You don't… you don't remember?"

He must catch the hurt in her voice because he musters a look of apology for her.

"I'm sorry, really, but I can't remember much of anything," he confesses, allowing his eyes a brief roam of the hospital before returning to her face, and she can't help but think that he looks like a lost little boy all over again.

"That's okay," she tries to assure him even though it's not, not for her. "Memory loss is common after something like this, but Castle… what do you remember?"

Do you remember me?

"I was… I think I was trying to write a new story? The last thing I remember is sitting in my office, trying to create a new character, but the inspiration wasn't there. But Mother said that was last week."

She won't cry. She has no reason to cry over a man she knew for barely three days. The man who loved her with the entirety of his heart for three days; the man who's gone now.

"Hey, don't cry," he murmurs, managing to snag two of her fingers and she swiftly swipes beneath her eyes before the moisture can make contact with her skin. "Kate, right?" She doesn't lift her gaze from the scuffed linoleum floor, but nods at his question, assuming his mother or daughter must have told him who she was during their visit only minutes before she was brought in. "Obviously, I may not remember you, maybe not yet, so why don't you tell me? Tell me our story before the drugs take me under again."

She huffs a quiet laugh, smiling softly when he squeezes the fingers he still has a hold of.

"It's a short story," she informs him, but he still offers her a dopey smile of encouragement. "And it's pretty unbelievable."

"I'm very open minded, Kate."

She sighs and takes a seat in the chair closest to the head of the bed. This version of Castle doesn't know her, but even under the fog of morphine and painkillers, he looks like he wants to. He looks hopeful, and willing to listen to what she has to say, and if her previous meeting with Richard Castle has taught her anything, it's that maybe fate really does exist. At least for the two of them it must. And if Richard Castle loved her once in this world, she allows herself to hope that he can love her again. And maybe she can love him back.