DISCLAIMER: "Castle" is copyrighted to ABC Productions. I retain rights to the plot, but not the characters. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only. No infringement is intended.

AUTHOR: Katrina

TIMELINE: Picks up at the end of Season Two finale, "A Deadly Game," then goes AU from there.

SYNOPSIS: Castle leaves Beckett and the precinct but is everything really as it seems?

REGRETS

"See you in the fall?" Detective Kate Beckett asked as she watched the famous crime writer, Richard Castle, walk away from her with his ex-wife, Gina.

The brunette cringed inwardly as, even to her own ears, it sounded as if she where actually saying, "Call me?"

It took him a couple of seconds to look over his shoulder and respond. "See you in the fall," he confirmed softly with a smile before turning away.

She watched him and Gina continue down the corridor until they reached the elevator, then looked away. Head bent, she internally berated herself as she willed her tears not to fall. How could she have taken so long to see what was right in front of her all this time?

Goodness knows enough people had told her that Castle cared for her but she'd refused to listen.

She looked up along the hallway again, but Castle had gone. For how long though? That was the question that kept spinning around and around in her head. Was he really coming back in the fall?

Or had he just walked out of her life for good?

Xxx xxx xxx xxx

Richard Castle stepped into the elevator and let out the breath he hadn't realised that he'd been holding. He jabbed the button for the ground level, then leant back against the cold metal wall and turned to his ex-wife, giving her a small smile.

"Thanks for helping me out, Gina," he said as he leaned down and gave her a soft peck on the cheek. "I owe you one."

"Just finish this book, that'll be payback enough," the blonde informed him wryly. She moved away and pulled out her phone to check for messages. Task done, she looked over at her ex and, at the sight of his downcast face, she felt a pang of pity tug at her heart.

"I thought the way I held possessively onto your arm was a nice touch," she suddenly commented with a chuckle as she tried to lighten the atmosphere.

Castle looked up at her and gave her a smile that didn't quite reach his blue eyes. "You've still got a strong grip, I almost couldn't shake her hand."

"Yeah, well, it had to be believable otherwise what's the point, right?" she said with a shrug of her shoulders. "You wanted me to play the doting girlfriend and I did. Now, are you going to tell me why? Was it just to make Beckett jealous or have things got a little too personal between the two of you and you're running away in true Castle fashion?"

Castle stared at his ex-wife in irritation. "I'm not running away, it's just a…a strategic withdrawal," he explained brusquely. At the blondes' challenging glare, Castle visibly deflated and admitted quietly, "I just couldn't spend another day watching Kate and Demming fawning all over each other, OK? Not when I…"

He stopped and looked away, unable to finish the sentence out loud. He'd barely had a chance to put a name to the emotion that raged through his system as it was, let alone admit such a thing to his ex-wife of all people.

If he hadn't realised the depth of his feelings before Demming had come along, he was in no doubt of them now. And with that knowledge came an urge to do the honourable thing and stand aside. It was then that he'd known exactly how far deep in he was because it hadn't been something he'd ever been prepared to do for either of his ex-wives or any of his other, and there had been many, relationships.

'The heart wants what the heart wants,' was a saying that he often spouted never realising that it'd one day apply to him. Unfortunately, Beckett's heart wanted someone else, which was why he'd ended up calling Gina. He just couldn't resist trying one last time to see if Beckett would say something to him, anything that might give him some reason to stay.

But she hadn't.

He'd hoped that he'd be able to spot some kind of jealousy or, better yet, she'd see him with someone else and suddenly declare her own undying love for him. Alas, apart from looking surprised at seeing Gina, it'd just been the normal pleasantries that you'd say to any work colleague when they left. Then, when she'd called after him, it'd taken all of his composure to school his features to a nonchalant expression before turning to agree that he'd see her again in the fall. He honestly didn't know if he would go back but he couldn't resist that one last look at her before he left.

A little bell dinged to announce their arrival at the ground floor and the elevator door slid open. He pushed away from the back of the car and looked over at Gina who was eyeing him consideringly. He knew he'd given himself away but was too tired to try and hide it any longer.

They headed out of the precinct and into the warm night air looking for a cab.

"You know, if it's any consolation, Rick; Beckett did look quite upset to see me," Gina told him with a small smile.

"More like shock," he corrected wryly. "I haven't exactly kept it a secret that we didn't get along, but I appreciate you trying to make me feel better." He shrugged. "I just hoped that you'd be her wake-up call like Demming was to me. I guess I was wrong."

"I'm sorry," Gina said, sympathetically.

Castle smiled and leaned in to give her another kiss on the cheek. "Don't be. Silver lining is that I'm going to the Hamptons and finishing the book. A little broken heart will only fuel the creative process."

"Good," replied Gina, taking his cue and becoming all business again. "Because if it doesn't, I may well have to join you in the Hamptons after all."

Castle looked horrified at the thought. "I'll have a full draft to you in three weeks, I promise," he swore, hurriedly.

Gina merely smiled and shook her head as she climbed into the cab that had just stopped for Castle's hail. "I'll call you soon," she told him before being sped away.

Castle stared after the cab then turned and looked back at the precinct. He raised his gaze to the floor that Beckett and the team were on and stared at the lights shining from the windows for a long moment before slowly walking away.

Deep down he knew he'd return eventually. No matter how much he railed against the notion that he'd go back, he knew it was a lost cause. Like a moth to a flame, he wouldn't be able to keep away from her no matter how much he got burned.

He was in love.

He didn't have a choice.

Xxx xxx xxx xxx

In the hallway, Kate Beckett turned and looked at the four sympathetic faces that stared back at her from the briefing room where they'd just had the small leaving party for Castle. Her work colleagues and friends had just witnessed her stuttering attempts at trying to reveal her feelings and she found their pity more than she could bear.

With a brief smile of acknowledgement, she straightened up then turned away and walked back over to her desk where she sat down. After shuffling a few papers on her desk, she picked up a file and opened it to read. Work would be the best thing for her now. Work always helped when she had to deal with anything vaguely emotional in her life and today would be no different.

Except it was.

Try as she might, her mind kept replaying what Castle had said to her when he'd delivered the shocking news that he wanted a break…

"I thought that this would be our last case."

The words, coupled with his deadly serious expression, had almost taken her breath away at the time and now they returned to haunt her. He'd made it sound so…final. She hadn't known how to respond then and she still didn't know what to make of it all now.

Everything had happened so quickly.

Her colleague, Javier Esposito was the first one to place doubts in her mind that Castle would return. He'd pointed out that the author had done more than enough research for his books and hinted that the writer was leaving because he didn't want to see her with another man.

But it was her boss, Captain Montgomery, who had been the one to inadvertently open her eyes to her own feelings by commenting on the case they'd just closed. He'd said that it was sad that a man had to die just because people were too scared to say how they really felt. It had struck a chord within her and when she'd spied the handsome author walking towards her seconds later, she'd suddenly realised that she'd been doing exactly that with Castle.

She was scared, plain and simple.

Scared of letting him get too close.

Scared of admitting to herself that she harboured such strong feelings for him.

Scared that if she did let him in…he'd end up hurting her far more than any other man had ever done.

And that's why she'd hooked up with Demming. Handsome, easy going, dependable…nice. The other detective was someone who'd never hurt her because she'd never let him get that close. And he was the type of man who'd be happy with that…unlike Richard Castle, who would probe and pry and push every damn button that she possessed until he found everything out about her and then some.

The thing was, once she knew that the writer was leaving, the fear of never seeing him again suddenly made all her other fears crumble to dust. She'd made the decision to break up with Demming then tell Castle how she felt.

But she'd been too late.

He was back with his ex-wife, Gina. How the hell that had happened she still didn't know. They didn't like each other then, after one conversation, they're suddenly in love again? It didn't make sense but she was too tired to try and figure it out.

A shadow fell across her desk and she looked up to see her best friend, the local Medical Examiner, Lanie Parrish standing there.

"You OK?" her friend asked without preamble.

"I'm fine," Beckett replied automatically, as she returned her attention to the file she was holding.

Lanie watched the detective apparently become engrossed in her paperwork and let out a harsh sigh.

"You know, it is OK to be upset," the Medical Examiner pointed out archly. "Hell, I'm upset that Writer Boy is back with his ex and I'm not even in love with the man!"

"Who said anything about love?" Beckett exclaimed in surprise.

"Uh, you do, every damn time you look at him," Lanie chided lightly.

Giving up the pretence, Beckett put the folder down and looked up at her friend. "It doesn't matter, Lanie, he's back with Gina now," she said in a defeated tone.

"Oh, please," the Medical Examiner scoffed. "Honey, there's a reason she's his ex! They won't last a month. Besides," she added as she turned to leave, "he's only with her because you were with Demming. Once he knows that's over, he'll be back here quicker than I cut up a corpse."

"Nice," Beckett commented as wrinkled her nose a little in disgust.

Lanie merely grinned and walked away, leaving the detective to ponder her friends' words. It was all very well saying that Castle would return if he knew about the state of her relationship, but could she actually do that to him? He was obviously trying to make a go of it with Gina again. He hadn't wanted to come between her and Demming, so she could at least afford him the same respect, however much it pained her.

There was also still a tiny part of her that couldn't help but be fearful of the possibility that if she did let him know that she was unattached, he still wouldn't return…and that was something, she found, that she just wasn't ready to risk. She wanted to keep the comfort of thinking she still had a chance with him.

No, if or when, as Lanie seemed to think, it didn't work out, he'd return and then she'd say something.

She could wait.

She didn't have a choice.

END CHAPTER ONE