Disclaimer: The only part of Castle that I own is the TV on which I watch the show.

It's tough to carry a name like Dunwittie—so close to Dimwitty, an easy taunt for an easy target. But not for Alison Dunwittie, not even on the playground or the school bus. Nobody ever dared, because from the moment of her birth, Alison was drop-dead gorgeous. She'd never had baby fat or knobby knees, never needed braces or glasses, and even in high school she was zit-free.

Alison Dunwittie has the unattainable beauty of a Charlize Theron, to whom she bears a strong resemblance—one she is cultivating assiduously now. For though Alison is still a 10, at 41 she's worrying about the inevitable diminution of her beauty. She detects the tiny cracks in her own façade: she found her first gray hair three years ago, and she wonders how long can she call her nascent wrinkles laugh lines. She lived and traded so well on her looks that it had never occurred to her that what her mother called The Grim Slide would happen to her. She divorced her first two husbands, trading up to someone richer and more powerful on both occasions, but spouse number three dumped her for a 23-year-old. Furthermore, the marriage hadn't lasted long enough for the pre-nup bonanza to kick in. In other words, his lawyer had been smarter than hers, and she's no longer rich. Or at least, nowhere near as rich as she once was and would like to be again.

She lived in Chicago for two decades, but during her recent divorce she realized that she needed newer, bigger pastures. She considered and rejected Los Angeles because in her experience women over 35, even a Charlize Theron lookalike, were all but invisible there, and began entertaining the idea of moving to New York City. And then one cold winter day—and lakefront Chicago winter days are cold and unforgiving, especially to the newly self-acknowledged middle-aged—she happened to see Richard Castle on a morning news show. "Son of a bitch," she said, standing in front of her TV in nothing but a terrycloth bathrobe and a boatload of Botox. "It's Ricky Rodgers."

How had she not known this? How had it escaped her notice that this guy with whom she'd had a one-night stand during her freshman year in college had become a gazillionaire best-selling mystery writer? She doesn't remember much about their conversation and she'd never seen him again—they were at different schools—but she still remembers the sex. Best guy she's ever had, which is saying a lot. But even at 18 that hadn't been enough: he was good-looking, but he didn't have a dime and didn't seem like someone who ever would, and she'd written him off. She knew from other kids that he didn't know her last name, that he was looking for her, that he had it bad for her, but she was setting her sights higher. More to the point, richer. Well, shit, look at him now.

She had started her research that day, and several weeks later had moved to New York. That was six months ago, and thanks to the work of a very pricey, very discreet private detective and to her own digging, there's very little that she doesn't know about Richard Castle now, including his finances, his living arrangements, and his marital and otherwise romantic/sexual history. She has forced herself to read every one of his two dozen novels. She has learned that a homicide detective in the NYPD is the model for his Nikki Heat; she knows that he appears to be crazy about her, but they've never dated. Furthermore, this Nikki—Kate Beckett—had been shot, nearly died, and is still away recovering from the heart surgery that saved her life. Rick and Detective Beckett do not appear to have communicated since then.

So: Rick's available, Alison's available, and she's hot on the trail. She still has enough wherewithal, as well as enough contacts, not only to find out the date and location of the launch party for his latest book, Heat Rises, but to land an invitation. When the day arrive, she goes to her hairdresser for a cut and highlight, has a mani-pedi in the afternoon, and finally slips into a new, killer dress and shoes. She's going to blindside him.

The party is in some trendissimo restaurant in the Meatpacking District. Alison sits (stands) through the drinks, halfway listens to the too-clever remarks by the publisher (Rick's second ex) and starts making her move. Literally, her move, as she stalks/glides across the floor and taps him on the shoulder in the microsecond between the departure of one fawner and the arrival of another.

"Excuse me," she says, using her best faux-Charlize body language, which she has skillfully adopted from a recent Dior commercial. "Ricky? I mean Rick?"

She watches his standard charming smile shift slightly. She can tell that he's processing, that he's running a memory check. His eyes change, widen. She knows the moment that he knows, that he's got it. Her. And she thinks she may already have him.


"Yes! I'm amazed that you remember." Good thing she'd applied the blusher so effectively.

"Of course I do. My God. I. Of course. Wow. You look so—"

She tosses her head lightly. "So do you, Rick," she says, touching her fingertips lightly to the sleeve of his Armani jacket.

"I. Wow. Did you know that—God, I can't believe this. Did you know that I looked for you for a year?"

She sees that people are anxious to interrupt, but her unapproachability is still intact. No one dares. There's a golden-aired space surrounding the two of them. She allows a tiny frown—it's all that Botox allows, too—to surface. "You did?"

"Yeah, I did." She watches his eyes dart to her left hand, register the absence of any ring. "Listen, would you like to get a drink? I mean, after this? Unless your, uh, date."

"I'm here all by my lonesome." She smiles. "And I'd love to. But Rick, I can see that a lot of people want to speak to you, so I'll just sit over there in that chair until you're ready. Use the time to start reading your fabulous new book." Which will bore me as much as all the other ones, she does not say.

"Great. Wonderful. Shouldn't be more than about half an hour, okay?"

"Perfect." She makes her way to the chair, opens up the book, and is very pleased to see that it is not dedicated to Detective Kate Beckett.

Forty minutes later, after she's made her way through the same five pages countless times without registering a word, they're walking to a bar he knows, a few blocks away. It's nine o'clock and the late-summer heat is clinging to everything, but she puts her arm through his and can tell that he's happily surprised.

He orders Scotch, she has a Cosmo. "Very cornily Sex and the City,' I know, but here I am living in New York, it seems right." She looks at him over the rim of her glass.

"You live here?"

"Moved in the spring. After my divorce." She unnecessarily waves her unadorned left hand. "Wanted a fresh start and I've always loved this town." She takes a sip. "What about you, Rick? Married?"

"Um, no." He looks into his single malt. "No. Divorced. Twice. But I have a fantastic daughter, Alexis. Super smart, starts her senior year in high school in a couple of weeks."

"Do you get to see her often?" As if she didn't know chapter and verse on the kid.

"Oh, yes. Daily. She lives with me. I've had full custody since she was a baby. Her mother's an actress. In L.A."

"Sounds as though you're a hell of a dad, then."

"I don't know about that," he says, and laughs. "But somehow she has turned out incredibly well. What about you? Any children?"

"No, never happened. Still, I'm enjoying my, what do you call it, freedom. Trying to find my footing here, on my own."

There's a little silence. She's made sure that her shoe brushed his once or twice, that her thigh touched his on the stroll here. "Maybe I could help," he says.

"Maybe you could." She takes another sip of her pink drink.

"This will sound nuts, but I don't know your name. Your last name, I mean."

"Oh, I went back to my maiden name. For a clean break."

"That's what I meant. I didn't know your name in college when we, when. I didn't know your last name, and that's why I couldn't find you. That whole year."

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I had no idea. Really, you didn't know my last name?" Since I never told you.

"No." He shakes his head emphatically. She notices how thick his hair is.

"I just figured that was it. When I didn't hear from you, I figured it was just a one-time thing. A lot of guys…" She lets her voice trail off. Summons up a bit of girl-done-wrong sadness in her eyes.

"No, no, no! You must have thought I was such a bastard. Seriously, I couldn't wait to see you again, and not just because of the— After that night, you know."

"Oh, I know." Girlish giggle. "I never forgot that, believe me."

His face explodes into a grin. "Really?"

"Really." That's the truth. "And it's Dunwittie."


"Dunwittie. My last name."

"Dunwittie. Okay, Alison Dunwittie. I've got to get home to my daughter now, but what do you say to dinner on Saturday? See if we can begin to find your footing."

"I'd love that, Rick."

He's found them a cab and she wonders if he'll kiss her when he drops her off. He does, on the cheek. "Pick you up Saturday at eight, Alison Dunwittie."

"See you then." She has to hand it to him: he hadn't blinked at her name, and the man does love word play.

The next morning, Kate Beckett is sitting morosely at her desk and the Twelfth. It's her second day here, and she can't get her gun back until she requalifies. Jesus, this new Captain is a hardass. Requalify? She can't wait to get to the range later today, put a whole clip through the heart of the target as she mentally superimposes the face of Victoria Gates over it. But her real sorrow is rooted in something else: the absence of Castle. Espo and Ryan had filled her in, told her how Castle had showed up day after day, week after week, sometimes falling asleep late at night at her desk, trying to find some leads on the sniper who had shot her. Until finally Gates tossed him out.

The boys had been shocked when she told them that she hadn't spoken to Castle, that he hadn't called her. When she confessed that she had told him not to, and had never gotten in touch with him, they were appalled. She doesn't blame them. She gets up and goes to the ladies room, shuts herself in a stall, and cries for the third time today. It's her fault. It's all her fault. She doesn't dare call or even text him after so much time, but as she goes through yet another Kleenex, she comes to a decision. She'd seen a sign in Barnes and Noble: he's signing Heat Rises there tonight, and she's going to show up. Set things right.

She drags herself through the day, though she does briefly feel some satisfaction at shoving her perfect-score target across Gates's desk, and holstering her gun immediately afterwards. There's just enough time for her to go home and change, put on a little more make up, before she goes to the bookstore.

It's past seven, and she's been standing in line for an hour. She's close enough now that she can hear him greet his fans, say something nice to even the worst gigglers. She's trying not to look, but she's up next, and she does. He's thinner. The blue-and-green plaid shirt looks great on him, though. And there she is. "Kate. You can make it out to Kate."

He looks up, and he's so angry.


A/N Though Alison Dunwittie is my own character, her genesis is in Alison (no last name), who was briefly mentioned in 2x15, "Suicide Squeeze." Castle told Alexis, "My first year of college I went to a party, I met this girl Alison. In the space of six hours we met, we talked, we danced, we fell in love. Next morning she was gone. I spent a year trying to find her, but I never learned her last name. There's not a week that goes by I don't think about her."