Disclaimer: I don't even own the computer this is being written on, so I obviously don't own Castle.

A/N: this was inspired quite a while ago by Skygirl55's story Timer, and specifically chapter 4, set at the end of The Limey. I thought of a more angsty version, so I asked Skygirl55 if she was OK with me writing one, and she agreed. Then I lost the half written story until last week, when I decided it needed to be finished otherwise it would just haunt me. So credit goes for the idea first to the movie Timer, and then Skygirl55's wonderful fic series based on it (which you need to go and read if you haven't already), and finally my angsty brain that wanted it darker. Huge thanks to Kiara for her insightful beta services, the story is much better after her efforts. I hope you enjoy.

No TiMERs in Vegas

Lanie almost had a heart attack when she entered her morgue at 7am, a week after the Boylan Plaza case. Kate Beckett was sitting at her examination table, swinging her legs and chewing on her lip, obviously lost in thought. Lanie wasn't expecting any of the living at that hour of the day, so she was understandably surprised. After looking at her friend for a minute, she deduced it was writer boy trouble. Kate had been deliberately vague about her partner in the last week, but it was clear to the ME there was something going on. As she had no pending autopsies, she decided to wait her friend out.

Kate looked up, noticed Lanie had arrived, and, without preamble, launched into her rant.

"He's different, Lanie, I am sure of it now. We almost had a moment during the bombing case, but then Ryan interrupted. I hoped we could finally move forward together, but then by the end, he was cold and withdrawn. He hasn't been in to the precinct since, and when I call him for a body drop, he tells me he's busy. And Martha told me he went to Vegas for the weekend. I just don't understand it!"

Lanie had front row tickets to the dance Castle and Beckett had been doing for the last 4 years, and sometimes she wanted to bang their heads together to make them see sense. They were both obviously in love with each other, but neither of them were willing to admit it, and now maybe Castle had had enough of going around in circles. With the way Kate was hot and then cold towards him, she couldn't exactly blame him.

Kate was still looking at her for an answer, so Lanie tried to comfort her friend.

"Maybe he's just still upset about that bombing case. I told you he forbade Alexis to come back to complete her internship, and you know he would never prevent his daughter from doing what she wanted unless he felt really strongly about it. He just needs some time to get back on an even keel and he will be back to annoying you again in no time!"

"I don't think that's it, Lanie. It's just me he's shrugging off. The boys got invited to Madden last night, but they were surprisingly tight lipped when I asked them about it. And Vegas? He hasn't been that guy in years. I just wish I knew what I did."

"Well, did you have an argument about anything recently? Maybe he's holding a grudge, although that doesn't seem like Castle."

Kate thought for a moment, rehashing all their recent conversations, but could only come up with one thing.

"That stupid TiMER! I swear he asks me at least twice a month why I still don't have one, and he keeps offering to pay for it."

"So, what's the problem, Kate? Why don't you get one just to shut him up?"

"I ... I can't, Lanie," Kate replied very quietly, hiding behind her hair and again abusing her lower lip. Lanie knew a girl talk was warranted, but not in the morgue, so she grabbed her handbag and dragged Kate out the door.

"Where are we going?" Kate asked, although she didn't resist the forward momentum.

"We're going out for breakfast. And you are going to tell me what is really going on."

Once they were settled in at Lanie's favourite cafe and ordered, Lanie grabbed Kate's hands across the table, nodding for Kate to continue. Kate hesitated, because this was something she had not shared with anyone else. But this was her best friend, and currently she didn't have anyone else she could trust.

"My parents didn't have TiMERs, but they - and I believe they - were soulmates anyway, and my father broke when she was murdered, as you well know. I just don't think I need a device implanted in my arm to tell me when I will meet my match."

Lanie could see there was more, so she prompted Kate. "What if you have already met him?" she asked slyly.

"And what if it's not him, Lanie? His TiMER has been blank since he got it, meaning his match could already be dead!"

"Or, she could not have a TiMER yet, like you, pointed out Lanie, the ever-present voice of reason.

"But I am so far gone about him I am ruined for anyone else, and if I get one and we don't match, it would absolutely kill me! I can't watch him be with another woman, I'd rather die first!"

"Girl, the only way to know for sure is to get one. And even if you are not a match, who's to say he has a match, or that you do? As you said, your parents didn't have one, and they still found each other. Javi and I both have TiMERs that show zeroes, but we have a great time. We don't worry about the future, we let that take care of itself. Looking at the two of you, any fool can see you are crazy about each other, so why delay the inevitable?"

"I'm still scared, Lanie. What if this coldness means he is moving on, that he doesn't love-" Kate stopped herself, but it was too late.

"Kate Beckett, what were you going to say? That Castle doesn't love you anymore? Now what would put that thought into your brain? I mean, I can see he does, but you sounded so sure just then."

Kate was silent for a long time, and Lanie thought she may not answer, but this was one question she was not allowing her friend to side step. Finally, Kate seemed to make a decision, took a deep breath, and began.

"When I was shot at Montgomery's funeral, while I was bleeding out on the grass, Castle begged me to stay with him, and told me he loved me." She was interrupted by Lanie's excited squeal, but she shook her head in sorrow, and Lanie waved for her to continue.

"You're only the second person I've told this to, the first being my therapist. I had to go for compulsory assessment after I came back, but I have been going on my own account since, working through all the issues from that day. Lately, all we seem to talk about is Castle."

"He came to my hospital room after I got out of surgery, and he looked so hopeful, but I just couldn't deal with any of it. I still had Josh hovering around like a mother hen, so I told him I didn't remember any of my shooting." She ignored Lanie's harsh intake of breath, and ploughed on, determined to get it all out now that she had started.

"When I came back to the city, I found him and he was so angry, but we have been slowly getting back to normal in the months since. I'd hoped he would say it again - in a non-life threatening situation - or we would just drift together without any need for rehashing the past. And I thought we were so close to that, until this week."

"Kate, I cannot believe you. The man who has been loyally by your side for almost four years tells you that he loves you, and you go running for the hills. And even when you return you don't tell him you feel the same? Don't blush now, girl, you know you do. I'm not surprised if he is pulling away, and I don't blame him."

Kate stared at Lanie in shock, then her face crumpled. "What do I do, Lanie? How can I fix this?"

"You go out, get your TiMER, and then go see him. Show him you two are meant to be, and don't ever let him go."

Kate thanked her friend, put some cash on the table for their breakfast, and then returned to the precinct. Before she got stuck into paperwork, she made an appointment at the local TiMER store for that afternoon. She felt lighter and breezed through the rest of her day. Ryan and Esposito were cheered up to see her a little happier, although they were puzzled as to the cause. They knew Castle was still in Vegas - and that he had been avoiding Beckett - so this sudden turnaround was mystifying.

Kate left the precinct promptly at five, and had her newly implanted TiMER by half past. She was excited to see the zeroes display when it calibrated, which meant she had already met her soulmate. She wondered if Castle's unit also changed, if he had noticed it, and what he may think of the change, as she made her way to the loft.

The universe obviously had other plans though, because a block away, just as she started looking for a park, her phone rang with a new murder from dispatch. She sighed, but sent a text to Castle anyway with the address of the crime scene. In the middle of a bunch of cops was not her ideal place to find her TiMER mate, but then when had things ever been conventional for the two of them?

Pulling up to the sleazy hotel car park, Kate wondered if Castle would turn up, but then put it out of her mind, pulling her Detective Beckett armour around her. She was just walking towards Lanie at the ME van when she heard tyres screeching, and watched Castle's Ferrari pull into the car park. She smiled for a moment, but then realised he wasn't alone, and the blonde with him was certainly not one of his family members. She heard Lanie's indrawn breath as her friend recognised the same thing, and then felt her arm be pulled back, giving her a moment to gather her bearings. Castle's companion had come around the driver's side, tottering on her high heels, and Beckett could hear her breathy giggles as well as Castle's instruction that he would call her in an hour. Only when he had closed the door after her did he look up and around, his eyes landing on Beckett for a second - who happened to be looking back at him with anger and something else he couldn't identify on her face - when all hell broke loose.

A high-pitched alarm filled the enclosed space of the hotel yard, bouncing off the walls and reverberating until both Beckett and Castle had to put their hands over their ears. Only then did they realise their arms were positively vibrating with the sound, which was coming from their TiMERs. Everyone else was standing stock still; none of them had ever witnessed a soulmate match before, and therefore had no idea where the noise was coming from. Only Lanie had a clue, and she had a satisfied smirk on her face. Time to sit back and enjoy the show.

Castle was the first to move again (once the sound cut out), looking at his TiMER and then bending down to the blonde, asking her to wait a minute. Once she nodded, he strode over to Beckett, who watched him approach with a nervous look on her face. While she waited, she glanced at her TiMER, and sure enough the date 9 March 2009 was now blinking in green. She raised her eyes just as she noted Castle's feet come to a stop in front of her. He made an obvious effort to control his emotion before he spoke.

"I see you finally got a TiMER, Beckett. Thought you didn't believe in them." His face was locked down, his tone cold, just as it had been for the prior week when he had to speak to her.

"Yes, I did. I-"She wasn't sure what she was going to say, but he didn't let her continue.

"Why now? After the last four years of me nagging you about it, why did you decide right now was the best time to get one?"

Beckett would have loved to continue, to tell him exactly why she didn't want one, and why she now had one, but she suddenly remembered they were in the middle of a crime scene, surrounded by cops and other homicide personnel, and of course he had a blonde in his car waiting for him.

"Castle, I am happy to answer those questions, but not right now, and not right here." She looked around as she spoke, indicating to him her reason, but he was obviously not happy with that answer.

"Fine, put it off, shove it away, forget about it. That is what you do with everything, like freezer confessions, and alley kisses, and bombs. Well, I'm over it. Goodbye, Beckett." He turned and walked back to his car, getting in the passenger side – he let her drive his car? – And they drove off, more sedately than he had arrived. Beckett was left standing in the middle of the hotel car park, frozen and disappointed. He couldn't have interpreted that sound of the TiMERs any other way, surely?

Lanie walked over to comfort her friend, and waved her hands in a shooing motion towards the other people standing around. Once they were alone again, she spoke to Kate. "Honey, do you need to take some time?"

"No," Beckett replied, her Detective persona back in place. "I need to solve this case. Castle will have to wait until later." She strode up to the hotel room and began examining the scene, as if nothing had occurred in the car park.

Castle was sitting in the hotel bar where Jacinda was staying, on his second glass of wine. He would have preferred something stronger, but he still had to drive home. Whatever his thoughts – or Jacinda's – before they arrived at the crime scene, he was not going to enter her hotel room for any reason tonight. In fact, he would more than likely not be doing anything with Jacinda ever, beyond thanking her for her company the last couple of hours. (You really come into your own writing here, it flows so naturally)

Jacinda entered the bar just then, having changed out of her work uniform into an emerald green cocktail dress. Castle could admit she was gorgeous, but all he could see was a pair of green-brown eyes, sometimes with gold flecks, staring at him with hope and pain shining in them, and they belonged to a brunette, one he had tried so hard to forget and get over, with obviously no success. And now a new complication he hadn't foreseen or expected.

Jacinda could see his eyes looking towards her, but she could also tell that he wasn't seeing her, but beyond her at something in his mind. On reflection, she was sure it was that female detective at the hotel. There was only one way this was going to go, so she braced herself and walked over with a smile on her face.

"Hey, Rick, are you ready for dinner?"

"Um, Jacinda, I-"

"Rick, you need to eat, and I think you may need to talk as well. Listening is part of my job description. Come on." She gently took his arm and walked him across to the restaurant, putting away her hopes for anything more with this handsome and surprisingly sensitive man. Unlike most of the police personnel present at the car park, she had witnessed TiMER meetings a few times, and combined with what Rick had shared with her in their conversations, she knew that he was irrevocably in love with his detective. The fact that they were TiMER mates meant that no one would ever get a look in now. She just had to help him accept that, because he looked in shock right now. He had been convinced that she didn't feel the same about him, and was doing his best to get over her, so to be confronted with her being his soulmate was a lot to take in.

Rick offered his arm and they walked over to the restaurant. They were seated and had been perusing the menu for a few minutes before anything was spoken, and that was only a discussion of what to order. Once the waiter had departed to arrange drinks and starters, Jacinda took a deep breath and decided she would have to start the conversation, as Rick appeared to be in no hurry to relive the past hour.

"Rick, we have spoken about your detective, how you felt and what you thought she felt, but you didn't tell me she didn't have a TiMER. Did she ever tell you why?" Jacinda was trying to draw him into conversation, knowing enough that he would start talking and engage once he did.

Rick shook his head. "No, she never told me. It was the only real bone of contention between us, and it caused a few arguments. I offered to pay for her to get one, because I thought it would prove we should be together - especially this last year, when it seemed we were growing closer together - but she wouldn't have it, disparaging the whole idea of TiMERs and soul mates. But why get one now, after being so adamantly against them for so long? It doesn't make sense!"

"Do you think she sensed that you were pulling away from her, trying to gain distance for your heart to heal?" Jacinda knew exactly why Rick had gone to Vegas, and had looked forward to some light fun. She had read about his reputation in the papers, but the man she saw after his third whiskey was not that playboy, and now she was glad she hadn't initiated anything with him. Being observant, Jacinda also had not failed to note the bitter disappointment on the detective's face when Rick walked away from her after the TiMER alarms. She would bet her next pay check the woman was just as far gone as Rick was, but why he didn't know that, she couldn't understand.

"Oh, yeah, she knew; she is the best detective in this city for a reason," Rick eventually responded, bringing Jacinda back to the present. Despite his anger and shock, she could still hear the note of pride in his voice.

"The couple of times I couldn't avoid her presence, I saw the hurt in her eyes when she thought I had already turned away. But she was probably just upset her trusty sidekick was no longer at her beck and call." The latter was said with bitter self-recrimination, and Jacinda understood at last just how insecure Rick Castle really was. She imagined that like a lot of celebrities, he had lots of so-called friends who hung around for the money, his name, or the reflected fame, but not many real friends who appreciated him for himself.

"Do you really think she is like that, Rick? Nothing else you have told me about her suggests that." Jacinda had to tread carefully here; she didn't know the detective – didn't really know either of them, if she was honest – and the last thing she wanted was for Rick to think she was on the other woman's side. Despite being blonde, and in a less than cerebral profession, Jacinda was smart and had served as a sounding board for many a lovelorn friend, and some few passengers on long-haul flights. Although she had not formally studied any sort of psychology, she had always been sensitive to others' emotions, and knew that an objective third party could often help when passion or pain clouded judgement. For the good man in front of her, she would apply all her knowledge, and then only slightly regretfully fade away from his life.

"Honestly, I don't know any more. I thought I knew her, and she has always been honest and forthright in all her dealings, with everything. She is blind justice personified. But why else would she pretend she didn't hear me in the cemetery, and continue to lie to me for almost a year? I like to think we were good enough friends she could have told me she didn't feel the same, and I would have understood and we could have continued working together. But to keep me hanging with a hope of something that could never be… I just don't understand."

"Rick, did you recognise what that sound in the hotel car park was?" Jacinda asked, after the plates had been cleared away, and they were alone again.

"Yes. I'm not stupid. It was the soulmate tone. And my timer now displays the date of our first meeting, 9 March 2009, just as I imagine hers does. Another joke on me by the universe, making my soulmate a woman who can't, or won't love me."

"Well, I don't know the detective at all, but the look on her face was not distaste when the tone went off, but rather pleasure and relief, at least until you left her there."

Rick had snapped his head up to look at her then, because he had not actually thought Jacinda was paying any attention to the detective. He gazed at her a moment longer and Jacinda took that as an invitation to continue.

"I think you are wrong about what your detective feels about you, and her reason for getting a TiMER now, but the only way you will get the truth is by talking it out with her. Using actual words, Rick, not assumptions and innuendo which you tell me the two of you are so good at. But before that, I think you need to decide what you want to happen. Will you let her explain, and maybe patch things up, or do you want to sever all ties no matter what she tells you?"

Rick winced when she mentioned severing all ties, and knew that he couldn't do that, not if there was any hope for them. Maybe he had jumped to conclusions, overreacted to what he thought was another betrayal by a woman he loved. Now, with the comfort of distance and a friendly ear, he could at least admit his actions may have been rash and ill-advised. And turning up to her crime scene with another woman? Yeah, he wasn't going to live that down. But he was very grateful to have found Jacinda, and not some real bimbo, who would have no doubt taken advantage of him, as so many others had before. He thanked Jacinda profusely for her company, and her advice, then walked her back to her hotel lobby. Once she was safely in the elevator, he returned to his car and drove home, still deep in thought.

Kate had said she wanted to solve the case, and deal with Castle afterwards, but her conscience wouldn't leave her alone and she felt that time was running out if she wanted to make things right with him. He had left the hotel with the blonde, and god knows where they may be now, doing who knows what. She shuddered, not wanting to think about the two of them together. She fervently hoped he wouldn't sleep with her on the first date – if he hadn't already – because regardless of who was at fault between them, she didn't think she could forgive him for that.

So, it was with heavy step that she made it to the loft late that night, hoping he was at home, and alone. She nodded to the doorman, who didn't move to stop her, which may have been a good sign. She paused at his door, clutching all her courage close before she knocked. It was a few minutes before she heard footsteps approaching, a slight pause before the door opened.

"Beckett. What do you want?"

"I would like to talk to you, alone." Kate didn't want to mention the other woman, but there was no way she could say what she wanted with an audience.

Castle seemed to think for a while, which was another sign of their recent disconnect. He would never have hesitated before the last week, but since the bombing case he hadn't wanted anything to do with her at all. Something flickered in the back of her mind, but she couldn't catch it and then Castle stood aside from the door, allowing her entrance while not directly inviting her, and the moment was lost.

Kate walked to the centre of the loft, looking around, while Castle walked past her to the lounge.

"Jacinda is not here, if that is who you are looking for. I left her at her hotel."

"Oh," was all Kate could say, wondering what had happened before he left the hotel. They had certainly had plenty of time… She shook her head, then took a seat opposite him, girding herself for the conversation they had to have.

"Castle, I..." She paused, before continuing, "Rick, I am so sorry for whatever it was that caused you to pull away from me. When we spoke on the swings after I came back from the cabin, I thought you understood that I needed time to get back to being myself, and to be ready for a relationship with you."

"With me?"

"Yes, of course. I wanted to be worthy of your love, and I wanted to give you all of myself, not just the broken pieces I was trying to hold together. I wanted to be able to say it back to you, without fear. I've been seeing a therapist all year, working on getting better."

"You wanted to have a relationship with me?" Castle asked again, seemingly stuck on that one fact.

"Castle, what's going on with you? I thought that is what you wanted too? Or at least, I did, until you got all cold and remote, went to Vegas and then turned up with a blonde in your Ferrari."

Rather than answering her question directly, he asked one of his own.

"Do you remember the Boylan bombing case, when you were interrogating the pickpocket, Bobby Lopez?" Kate shook her head, so he continued. "He was trying to avoid your questions, by saying he was traumatised by the bombing. You told him you had experienced trauma, and remembered every second of it." His voice had returned to that cold detachment he had used for the previous week, and suddenly Kate knew exactly what had caused it.

"Oh god. Oh, Castle," she sighed, and moved towards him, but he put his palm out and shook his head. They stared at each other in silence, until Kate couldn't stand it anymore. "Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you confront me?"

"Because confronting you just pushes you further away, and you know we don't ever actually talk about the really important things." His voice was resigned now.

"I wish you had, Castle, I really do. At least then I could have told you the truth without all this pain for both of us."

"Why didn't you tell me before? I would have waited for you, knowing there was something to wait for."

"At first I thought I had made it clear, there on the swings that I was working towards us. And then, as we got closer, I didn't want to go backward; I hoped we could just move forward from where we were. But I never realised you were unsure about my feelings. For that, I am truly sorry, Rick."

"And the TiMER?"

Kate knew it was time to tell him the whole story, and so she did, starting with her parents, and explaining her reluctance and finally her determination to show him how she felt. Castle listened, then stood and moved to the kitchen to make them a drink. Kate wasn't sure where he went at first, but then she heard his coffee machine, and a smile crept onto her face.

When Castle returned to the lounge, he sat much closer, and offered her the cup, finally with a real smile on his face.

"Your coffee, Detective?"

"Thanks, Castle." She beamed at him, allowing all her love to show on her face, and finally he started to believe there was a future for them. There was just one more thing he had to say.

"Kate, I am sorry for my own part in this, for treating you so horribly and running off to Vegas. I'm not proud of my behaviour over the last week, in light of the fact it was all based on miscommunication. Can you forgive me?"

"Do you promise not to ever bring another woman to my crime scene, Castle?" she asked, and there was a twinkle in her eye.

"I promise. From now on, I'm a one detective guy." Castle's smile reached his eyes this time, but he only had a moment to put his cup down on the table before he had two armfuls of Kate as she hugged him, and then lifted her chin so she could kiss him. There was no reaction from their matched TiMERs to their first kiss, but even an earthquake wouldn't have disturbed the pair of new lovers, lost in each other.