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Hey everyone. Thanks for checking out my story. It's kind of a unique-ish concept, I think, so bear with me while I explain for a second.

I love all the main Castle characters, and I love doing pieces that are more of a character study in nature. So, through one train of thought or another, I got to wondering…what if we took cophood out of the equation? Eliminated the NYPD from the storyboard? What would happen if we took the one thing that defines our detectives and unites them on the show, and tossed it out the window? (Obviously this would mean that Johanna Beckett was never killed, among other slight tweaks.) Where would they all be, if they weren't cops? What would they be doing with their lives? Would they even know each other? And how would they cross paths with Richard Castle, if at all?

So, basically, that's what this is. It's going to be an alternate-universe fic (which is rare for me, I know), in which Beckett, Esposito, and Ryan have all taken a different route with their lives. But, as we know all too well, it only takes a short line to connect any two New Yorkers… ;D

This will be a story fic (not separate oneshots), and will heavily feature Alexis, Beckett, Ryan, Esposito, Castle, Lanie, and Martha. (Not sure about Captain yet.) The only characters whose lives I did NOT alter are Martha's, Castle's and Alexis' (meaning I changed Lanie's profession too, slightly, just because).

I do not own Castle or its characters. Without further ado, please enjoy. ^^

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"Kate…Katie, are you even listening to me? Earth to Kate, hello."

"Hm? …Oh, sorry. You were talking about that guy at the gym again." Katherine Beckett took another shirt out of her basket, peeled a static-cling-happy dryer sheet off of it, and started to fold while the fabric was still warm. She wasn't sure what she'd been looking at out the window there. Just the people, she supposed. The rush. Sometimes it was hard not to wonder where they were all going. Either way, Kate turned back to her best friend and smiled, jumping back into the conversation. "Remind me why you're here doing laundry on a Friday instead of jumping him?"

Reaching up to tighten the bandana she'd tied her hair back with, Lanie Parish let her eyes roll, reaching down to start unloading her dryer. "Girl, I can not ask him out."

"Well that's not what you tell me every Saturday night. And most of those guys are drop-down-drunk, so what are you trying to say about my love life exactly?" Kate teased, expertly folding a pair of socks.

"Can we focus please?"

"On what? Lanie, you're stalking some poor guy at your gym."

"I am not stalking, I am appreciating from a healthy distance and nothing more."

"You told me you followed him to the men's locker room last week."

"It's not like I went in. He dropped his iPod. I gave it back to him."

"Which you just happened to notice as you were 'not stalking' him - you see my point now?"

With a sigh fit for the Metropolitan theatre crowd - and Kate would know at this point - Lanie set her maroon laundry basket on the next dryer over, and hopped up backwards to sit at eye level. "Katie, honey, somehow I don't think you're comprehending my English, here. He's a service man. The chances that he's not dating some fine little hussy are extremely low."

"Oh, sure, she's a 'fine little hussy;' you're not jealous," Kate snickered.

"And besides, he always shows up and leaves at the exact same times every day - and it's right during my workout, which means I'm not stalking - so I know he's got places to be. And it's not exactly like I have time for a relationship, either. If I don't pass my residency by the end of next month, I'mma go crazy."

"Maybe he just likes routine. They're like that in the army, you know; five-thirty wake-up-calls, drills and stuff; they're used to it; and now we've reached the end of my military vernacular."

"Shockingly, I don't feel like any of this is helping."

"I'm trying, I just don't see why you need to come to me for help." Kate pulled a fresh, warm bed linen from her second basket, and motioned for Lanie to help her fold it so it wouldn't touch the ground. "Look, obviously you really like him - what was his name?"

"Javier," Lanie supplied, picking up a sheet corner.

"So, ask 'Javier' to go get a coffee. What's the most you have to lose? Five minutes' worth of dignity?"

"Mm, try a few weeks."

"Uh, no. He can't be that hot," Kate challenged, rumpling a couple of skeptical eyebrows.

Lanie simply bit her bottom lip, nodding in slow-motion, eyes bugging out to make a point.

Kate stared at her. "…No."

"Oh hell yeah."

"So, on a scale of one to ten - "

"Fifteen."

"Shirt on or off?"

"I stopped caring when he came back from the showers."

"Shut the front door."

"I wish."

Kate raised her eyebrows to her hairline in the universal expression of female approval. "Okay, so definitely adding 'transfer to the army' onto my option list…"

"Not an option right now, hon," Lanie corrected. When Kate gave her a curious glance, the shorter woman pointed to the clock on the opposite Laundromat wall. "Aren't you s'posta be at the theater in twenty minutes?"

"…No, that's at three-thirty…right? I wrote it down…"

"I'm pretty sure I remember you tellin' me one-thirty…the dress rehearsal?"

This was the part where Kate felt the realization rushing at her like a bus. She rummaged through her purse almost manically, not stopping until she came up with her cell phone, and speed-scrolled through to find the calendar. Which was when she literally smacked her own forehead, shoving that hand back through her hair before rushing around to gather the last of her clothes. "Crap, crap, crap! I've never been late before; Eric is so going to kill me…" Eric was her current director, and he had a habit of being even more of a diva than some of the actresses he worked with. "Why didn't you remind me sooner?"

Lanie shrugged, plopping another folded pair of scrubs into her laundry basket. "I'm sorry, Katie, you know I don't speak Clock once we start talkin' about fine boys. That would require a much more rational train of thought than I'll admit I have," she joked. "You gonna be able to make it on time?"

"Long as I'm not afraid to make a few enemies on the subway," Kate batted back, already halfway out the door, basket balanced on her hip. "Thanks Lanie! Call me later!"

With that, the rising star was swallowed into Manhattan foot traffic, leaving the residential nurse behind in front of a washing machine, shaking her head in what was sure to be eternal amusement.

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Describe in under 300 words Charlotte Brontë's views towards women's validity as expressed through her main characters.

Alexis Castle nibbled thoughtfully on the eraser end of her pencil as she re-reviewed her response to the essay question. Was she thorough enough? Then again, you probably weren't expected to get too thorough when you were only allowed to use three-hundred words or less. She'd counted right, right? Maybe it would be a good idea to count again, just to make sure.

Finally, after another five minutes of poring over answers she'd already written, Alexis managed to satisfy herself that she hadn't made any sloppy mistakes. Not that she was worried about the outcome of this test - she'd studied all weekend, and dad and Gram had even helped her for some of it - but she always hated not checking her work. That was how she got B-pluses on things that were supposed to be A's. Hence not making a habit of it.

Grabbing her paper, the teen slid out of her desk and crossed to the front of the room. Her teacher must have heard her coming, even with the mouse-quiet footsteps she was trying to take, because he took his feet off his desk and put down his copy of Love In The Time Of Cholera. Knowingly, he leaned forward and held his hand out, smirking just slightly.

Alexis smiled brightly back at her favorite teacher as she handed him the test. Sometimes she wondered if he was psychic. It was probably more like, he was good with logic, but her dad would've said that that was way too boring an answer.

"Thanks Alexis," he whispered, trying not to disturb the other twenty-six students who were still testing. She settled for an enthusiastic nod back, and turned around to go back to her desk, pulling some AP Trig homework out of her backpack that hung there. There were still thirty-one minutes left in this class, and she definitely intended to make use out of every one of them.

The final bell of the day rang before Alexis even knew how much time had passed. Looking up with wide blue eyes, it took her a few seconds to register what the sound meant: …Oh. School is really over, dummy. Everyone else is leaving. You probably should too. Unless dad calling the police again sounds like a good idea. He'd really done that once. Okay, so Alexis had been in third grade and missed the bus home because she was getting multiplication help from Ms. Dooley, and hadn't called, but that wasn't the point. She had a cell phone now. All disasters could be averted with that. Besides: today, she had somewhere to go after school, and it wasn't anything extracurricular. Well, not technically.

As the rest of her AP English Lit classmates funneled out the door and stampeded into the halls of Marlowe Academy, Alexis was just standing up, hurrying to shuffle her books and notes back into her bag. She wasn't worried about getting a taxi, though, so she decided to give the wildebeests out there a little more of a head start. It would be a lot better to wait five or ten minutes so that the front of the school wasn't so crowded. In the meantime she could get a soda from the vending machines or something.

She was just about to walk out the door when she heard her teacher's voice calling her attention back - though, he never sounded too much like a teacher in the first place. He was young for a teacher, and always sounded more like a mentor-ly friend who just happened to legally have to assign homework now and then. "Hey, Alexis! Can you wait up a sec?"

The young Castle turned at the sound of her name, then re-shouldered her backpack and walked back toward the desk that her teacher was now sitting against the edge of. "Yeah, sure."

He waited for her to come back before launching amicably into his question. "So. Feel okay about this one? How do you think you did?"

Alexis had to grin. It was just like him to pull her aside and just talk, even though she was sure that was showing favorites. It never ceased to amaze her how he was always rooting for her to excel, but for whatever reason he'd taken an interest in her, she was definitely glad. He was a great teacher, and she admired him almost as much as her slightly-nuts novelist of a father. Which was a high compliment in the Castle family book.

"Well, I could really tell you weren't the one who wrote it, Mr. Ryan. You'd never make us 'translate the psychological nuances perpetrated' by Heathcliff," she joked.

"Nah, that's more the department's style than mine," he agreed with a smirk, but then gave her an amused little look that said he knew she was dying to answer his first question.

"I feel really good about it," Alexis gushed, right on cue. "I mean, the 'nuance' thing and part of the prompt for B, those were a little confusing," she backtracked hurriedly, "but all the other prompts were really straightforward and I just found myself writing, even when I thought I didn't really know the answer that well; it just started coming out, so I'm hoping that means that I knew the material really well and not that I'm stress-writing or rambling without making any sense or something…"

"Whoa, whoa; Alexis," Mr. Ryan laughed, holding up both palms in surrender. "I'm sure you did fine," he said more gently. "Not like you've got a lot to worry about there. You know you've got a hundred percent in my class. And I think you really took to the material this time."

"I did, I really did. I love the Brontë sisters' novels," she confessed.

Mr. Ryan leaned toward her a bit, pretending to fight against the appearance of a broad smirk across his face. "I do too. Don't tell any of the other faculty you heard that." Alexis grinned, and he leaned back, he folded his arms over his sweatervest and asked, "Got a favorite?"

"Book or sister?"

"We'll go with sister."

"Emily."

"Good choice. Me, I always liked Charlotte."

"Uh-oh - you're not going to make me switch out of this class for liking the rival sibling, are you?" Alexis teased.

Mr. Ryan laughed. "No, but you might suddenly have a few unexplained essays for over the weekend."

"Ah. I wonder if Heathcliff ever had to deal with that kind of discrimination?"

"Something tells me the poor guy's had enough already." They shared a chuckle over that, and then Mr. Ryan tipped his chin at the doorway, indicating the outside world. "How's everything else going?"

"Pretty good," Alexis nodded. "I mean, we finally got my dad to remember the difference between microwaveable and un-microwaveable dishes, so, it's been quieter."

The teacher's eyebrows flicked north for a second. "That is always a plus…"

"Anyway, I should kind of get going; I still have to stop at my locker," the girl nodded, adjusting her backpack with apologetic eyes.

Mr. Ryan dismissed the thought with a wave. "Oh, no, yeah, go ahead. I'll see you Monday, Alexis. Have a good weekend."

"Thanks Mr. Ryan," Alexis smiled back. "You too."

With a swish of red hair, she was out the door and striding down the middle of the oak-paneled hallway, flipping her cell phone out to check the time. Three-sixteen sharp. Gram's play didn't start until four, so that gave Alexis enough time to visit with Paige for a few minutes before she absolutely had to catch a taxi…maybe if she called one in advance, that would be better…

And, of course, naturally, who would expect anything different: two seconds after Alexis rounded the corner, she walked straight into a wall. Actually, it wasn't a wall, because it was a he; he was just a lot taller than she was and obviously a lot stronger because he wasn't the one who dropped his backpack. He wasn't even carrying a backpack. He was carrying a stack of papers, which - naturally, of course, why not - ended up fluttering down to the floor. Well, great.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, I wasn't watching where…here, let me help…" Flustered, Alexis bent over and started scooping up what looked like pamphlets into a disorganized armful, which she kept trying to re-organize by tapping into a neater pile. She hadn't even noticed that the man had crouched next to her - helping her gather and picking up her backpack, too - until he spoke.

"Hey, take it easy, you're just fine." His voice was somehow smooth and rough at the same time, and it caught Alexis' attention. Looking up, she realized for the first time that he was in full military uniform, even decorated with a few ribbons she thought she recognized from her AP Government class. He even tried a joke out: "Let that be a lesson to me, not to take the long way to the cafeteria."

Tucking a loose piece of hair behind her ear, Alexis smiled as they stood up, handing his pamphlets back to him with a surprisingly minimal level of awkwardness. "Well, if it helps any, you're almost there. Just take two lefts and then - "

"A right at Ms. Caffrey's science lab," he finished with a nod. When the teen gave him a curious look, he grinned. "I've actually been here most of this month. The recruiting table at all the lunch periods and after school? Yeah, I'm that guy." He held up the pamphlets. "Just needed more copies," he explained.

The lightbulb of recognition dinged over Alexis' head. "Oh, yeah, I have seen you around…sorry," she said sheepishly.

"No need to be; I appreciate your help though." Switching the stack from one hand to the other, he freed one to hold out to her. "First Sergeant Esposito."

"I'm Alexis," she returned, shaking his hand impressively - or at least she hoped so. She'd really hate to look like a wimp after she'd already made herself look like a klutz. "Not as interesting a name as First Sergeant, I guess, but it's worked for me so far…"

The recruiter laughed. "Javier," he supplied. "Nice to meet you Alexis."

"You too…I'll let you get back to your…pamphlet-restocking."

"I don't s'pose I'd be able to interest you?"

Alexis rumpled her nose up like a bunny, shaking her head. "Oh, no, no no. I don't think I'm really cut out for anything in the army." Instantly, that sounded stupid and offensive in her head, and her eyes widened, as if that could help her get the words out faster. "Not that there's anything wrong with it or that I think I'm above you guys or anything; I mean, I really admire what it is that you guys do, I totally have nothing but respect, it's just that I don't really think it's for me, that's all."

Apparently her babbling was sufficient, because the sergeant just laughed again. "No worries, I get what you're sayin'. But, hey." He held out one of the pamphlets to her, and she took it, looking up at him. "If any of your friends are into it, give that to 'em, and tell 'em to come find me and we'll talk. I'm here all week and through part'a next month. Okay?"

Grateful for the resolution, Alexis nodded, happy to help. "Okay. Yeah. I will."

"Now I'll hold you to that…"

"I will, I promise," she grinned.

"A'right then." It was then that he must've remembered that he'd picked up her backpack for her, because he held it out to her. Alexis took it and slung it back across her shoulder with an appreciative smile, and Sergeant Esposito moved around her, calling back as he went on his way. "Good lookin' out, Alexis."

"Yeah, you too."

For a second, she just sort of stood there, shaking her head with a hint of a smile. He'd been nice…especially considering she'd made a super first impression by plowing him over. Note to self: don't do that to anyone when you start college interviews… But then she remembered to check her phone…and, yep, it was now officially three-twenty-one.

Risking being busted by one of the janitors for running on freshly-waxed, post-school-hours floors, Alexis stuffed the flyer into her backpack and ran through the halls, cutting both corners to her locker and rummaging through that like she was running from the law. Not that that did her any favors. By the time she made it outside, her suspicions were totally correct: traffic was rushing by like a trout spawning, and there were no cabs to be found…

Except for the one partway down the sidewalk, having just been hailed by a familiar figure in a vest and tie. He must've caught sight of her in his periphery, because before she could register it, he was waving her over. "Alexis!"

Letting a woman on a cell phone with a stroller go first, the teen cut through pedestrians with a few yelps of "Excuse me, pardon me," and came to an out-of-breath stop by the teacher's side. "Did I forget something, Mr. Ryan?"

"No, not at all - you've got a ride, don't you?"

"Oh sure…well…" She nibbled her bottom lip. "Not really. At best, I'm going to be late for my grandmother's play, and at worst I'm going to get run over by one of these guys on a Razr scooter."

Something in that seemed to surprise Mr. Ryan. "Your grandmother's play?"

Alexis nodded. "Gram's doing Life With Father at Webster Hall in…" she checked her phone again, "thirty-four minutes."

She knew her teacher believed in serendipity, but apparently she'd underestimated it before. Mr. Ryan broke into a wide grin and stepped aside, allowing her access to the open back door of the taxi that'd been idling. "Just so happens I'm headed there myself - what do you say we share a cab? My treat."

The teenager blinked. "Really? And…oh, no, Mr. Ryan, I couldn't…"

"Yes, really," he laughed, "an old friend of mine happens to be in it and I promised that my fiancée and I would catch a matinée. And yes, you can. Getting a cab is hell at this hour. Now c'mon. Hop in."

Gnawing thoughtfully on the inside of her cheek for a moment, Alexis weighed the options. Finally, she came up with the perfect compromise, and beamed at him in thanks. "How about only if we split the fare?"

With a glint in his eye that would've made Ron Clark jealous, the young teacher held the door for her and nodded her in. "You make a reasonable negotiation, Ms. Castle. Let's go catch that play."

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So! I do believe that's enough of a glimpse into their new lives for now. ;) Oh: and if anyone thinks I went out-of-character by making Kate a stage actress, let me just explain my rationale by saying that she's obviously taken some theatre in school, and the show makes it clear that before her mom's death, she was a bit of a Wild Child; theatre seemed like a good natural progression from that. ;) So, hope that makes a little more sense now, if you were skeptical.

As I say on all of my new stories: if anyone (ages 14 and over) is interested in joining a free, writing-based Castle roleplaying forum, check out the bolded paragraph in my profile - thanks!

Reviews are hugely important to me, you guys, and it really does make my day to hear your favorite parts or what you liked best, so please don't hesitate to take a second and leave a review! It means a lot! ^^

There is absolutely more of this to come. Want to find out how everyone comes together? Stay tuned. ;)

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