AN: I'm going to start with an apology. For those reading my Bones fic, I'm sorry it's been some time since I last posted an update. I'll be honest, I've fallen out of 'like' with the show of late, and that's put a serious crimp in my ability to write about the characters that I love.

Fickle woman that I am, I recently discovered the fantastic show that is "Castle", and suddenly I feel like writing again. So I did just that.

This chapter is for the 'Castle Collective' (actually, I just made that name up). But they know who they are.

And thank you to JSQ79 for the read-through. Who knew that Americans don't use the term "lock-up"? Really, it's a minefield!

SN: This story is set some months after the Season 3 finale.

Chapter One: All that has Changed

Rick Castle watched as daylight cut across the study floor of his apartment. Inching closer, the light revealed each strand of the expensive tan carpet and specks of dust and errant fibres floated, swirling randomly in the air. He watched through barely open eyes as the misshapen rectangle of light touched first the fingers of his right hand and then crept up his arm. He wasn't to know that the light, when it climbed higher, couldn't penetrate the ugly shadows staining his face, because he'd long stopped hurting. He welcomed its warmth at first, until the light became too bright and closing his eyes didn't help. Then he wished for cold, for dark. He kept on wishing his wish until the sun sunk orange low against the skyscrapers and the city pulsed a little less strong.

Now, he watched the lengthening shadows as the light receded, swallowed into the indiscriminate ink blanket of evening. He didn't fight the darkness when he felt his body grow cold. What would be the point, knowing what he knew?

A whole day had passed. No one was coming, at least not in time.

He could hear himself breathe in the occasional pauses in the rhythmic traffic noise. And he wondered when he would stop. Would he feel his life leaving his body? Would it hurt? Would he be aware of the end? Or didn't it happen like that? Maybe, despite every certainty that it would find you, death was always a surprise.


Three Days Earlier

The moving head multi-coloured disco lights trailed across the packed dance floor and swept up the walls of the nightclub and then onto the ceiling. Just when he thought he'd worked out the pattern of the lights, the order changed. He was beginning to rue his decision to tag along to the club with NYPD's Finest – the place was jammed, hot as hell, full of people much younger than him (which lately seemed to piss him off more than ever), and he had the mother of all headaches.

It wasn't fun. It felt like work. Until it didn't.

His eyes widened as a blue laser scanned the crowd and picked out the glorious figure of his partner as she moved in time to the pounding synthesized music. He cocked his head to the side and continued to stare. Beckett could move. She was in total control of her body, her movements, and even though he knew that she was keeping a steady eye on their suspect, she appeared to be lost to the music, as he was most assuredly lost in her.

Bodies cut across his field of vision. Colours and shapes flashed, merged and then split apart, but he only had eyes for her. How did women move their bodies like that? Her movements were sinuous, sexy and hypnotic. It was an effortless, coordinated display of sensual, female magic and he didn't care that he was staring. He watched until she was lost again to the crowd.

Then he turned his attention back to the generous bar that wrapped around the east wall of nightclub and raised his hand; one of the barmen caught the action and walked over.

"What can I get you?"

"Another coke, thanks."

"Gee, just a coke, huh?" The barman shrugged and then dug around in some ice with a little more vigour than was necessary.

Clearly, the man thought him cheap. The truth was that he would kill for a double shot of scotch, but he was under strict orders from Beckett to stick to soda. He shot the other man an exaggerated smile and reached for his wallet. His fingers danced over the thick stack of $100 bills, and he made a point of tilting his wallet so that the asshole could see that he could afford to buy his entire stock. He slid a bill from the stack, folded it lengthways and handed it over. The barman quickly returned with his change and said no more.

He took a sip of the iced, sugary, and oh-so-virgin drink, shook his head at the unfairness of it all and scanned the crowd for another glimpse of Beckett.

Javier Esposito rounded the corner at the back entrance to the nightclub and narrowly avoided crashing into the assortment of garbage and recycling bins lined up next to the doorway. He was off balance, clumsy and slow. He needed to get some shut-eye. They'd pulled a twenty-hour shift trying to track down this jackhole, and he knew they were all feeling it. But, with Jimmy now in their sights, maybe they could get this whole thing wrapped up in the next couple of hours.

"Yo, Ryan. You still got eyes on him?" Esposito pushed the hidden earpiece in deeper so that he could catch his partner's reply.

"Beckett's about to make a move on him. Stand by."

Rain trickled down the back of his shirt collar, and he put the urge to wipe it away to the back of his mind. It itched like mad but lowering his aim wasn't the wisest move at that moment. A few more seconds passed, and despite knowing better, he allowed his arms to relax a little. But then Ryan's voice pulled him back to his previous state of high alert.

"She's got him. But a couple of his guys are headed your way! You got that?"

"Got it."

He steadied himself. Two uniforms on his left flattened themselves by the doorway, also poised to take down anyone busting through the back door. They didn't have to wait long.

"NYPD. Hands in the air! NOW!"

The two men who came charging through the door pulled up sharply when they saw the barrel of the assault rifle aimed in their direction. Hands quickly shot into the air, and Esposito breathed a sigh of relief as the two men pleaded with him not to shoot. He waited until they were cuffed and then he lowered his weapon, more than grateful that he didn't have to use it.


"Yeah...we got 'em, Ryan. See you out front."

Kevin Ryan watched, gun still in hand, as Beckett grabbed a fistful of material and pulled Jimmy Gantz, who was sprawled face-down on a booze-drenched table, roughly to his feet.

"Do you understand your rights as they've been read to you?" She said clearly.

Jimmy Gantz, drug-dealer, pimp and perennial bad guy, nodded, and she shoved him in Ryan's general direction. "Get him booked and set him up in interview room one, okay?"

"Sure thing."

"I'll meet you back at the station. I, um...need to get changed first."

Ryan smiled and purposely maintained eye contact as she reeled off a few more orders. His boss was a beautiful woman, and right now she was wearing six-inch heels, a figure-hugging, short black dress and more make-up than she needed. Yeah, he wasn't looking down.

"Before you seen Castle? He'll need a ride back."

"He was by the bar the last time I saw him."

"Did I hear someone mention my name?"

Castle sauntered over to the small group of uniformed officers and detectives, glass still in hand. Ryan noticed that he didn't take the trouble to look Beckett in the face. In fact, the other man was looking everywhere but.

"Fun's over, Castle. You can grab a ride with Ryan back to the 12th?"

"What about you?"

"Me? I need to change. I'll see you back there."

"Why would you need to change?"

"I would have thought that were obvious."

Castle smiled and made sure to hold her gaze. He'd been worried about her (he was always worried about her), but she was okay. He nodded his understanding and then bit down on the words that threatened to spill out. Instead, and he knew predictably, he offered a wry comment about how she was more likely to get a quick confession if she interrogated Gantz in her high heels and "sexy 'em up dress".

He watched as she rolled her eyes, content for now to play her part in their well-established routine. He knew that she understood why he had looked her up and down as he'd approached. He wasn't checking her out. He was checking her over.

Everything was different now.

AN: Thanks for reading. :)