She's so fired.

She checks the clock on her father's bedside table. Already half an hour late. She places the thin cotton blanket over her father and brushes her lips over his cheek. She grabs the empty bottle of bourbon that sits on the floor and tosses it in a recycling bin on her way out. The sound reverberates through the hallway like it does almost everyday, sometimes more than once. She shivers.

She shucks her jeans and pulls on a pair of cutoff shirts and her faded Lobster Shack tee shirt. She pulls an elastic around her long brown hair a few times, spinning it into a bun. Pocketing her cell phone and a stick of blistex, she shoves a pair of white socks into her blue keds. After checking on her father one last time, she jogs out of the house, feet pounding against weathered wood, shoes in hand.

The screen door slams behind her as she winces in the face of the blistering sun. She tiptoes gingerly on the blacktop before her skin meets the sand. She sprints down the beach, passing hoards of teenage girls sunbathing on their plastic beach chairs, tabloids in hand. The sea air stings her face as she does her best to ignore the whiny children, nagging their parents with sticky fingers from their drippy popsicles the ice cream truck brought.

"Katie!" She whips her head to the right and throws a half-hearted wave to Mrs. Steiner, ignoring the pit in her stomach at the use of the nickname. She's old, doesn't know any better, Kate tells herself.

She makes it to the run-down restaurant, breathless and weary. She grabs a worn black apron from the hook by the door and wraps it quickly around her waist, tying it with ease. Her stomach rumbles as the scent of shrimp fills her nostrils. She really should've eaten something today.

"You're late!" Her boss calls to her from the bar, filling a glass with beer from the tap.

Kate makes quick work of her socks and shoes and slips behind the bar, grabbing a tray.

"This is the third time this week, Beckett."

"I know. I'm sorry. It won't happen again." She knows it will, knows she can't make those kinds of promises.

"That's what you said last time." He sighs. "It puzzles me because you're a really hard worker otherwise. I can't really figure it out." There's no inflection in his voice, but the question is there.

"I've got everything under control, Mike. Really." She forces a smile.

He frowns. It's not what he wants to hear. "I've been trying to give you a break because of what happened to your mother, but enough is enough, Kate. If you can't get your act together, you're outta here."

She swallows hard. He shakes his head and reaches for a few drinks that sit on the bar. He lifts the tray onto her palm along with the beverages.

"Table three," he says roughly before brushing past her. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She makes her way over to a small group of young men who laugh raucously, empty baskets and bottles littered across the table.

"Miller Lite?"

"That's me, sweet thing." Kate suppresses an eye roll before handing the drink over to a Casanova in a black t-shirt. He leers at her, taking the drink from her hand. She clears her throat, shakes him off.

"Coors?" The man to Casanova's right raises his hand, takes the drink from her with a nod.

"And…scotch." She sets the glass down in front of the third man, startled when her eyes meet a pair of familiar blue ones. She hears herself gasp a little, closes her mouth quickly when Richard Castle smiles, eyes twinkling in amusement.

Damn. She's given herself away. She straightens her spine, tucks a strand of loose hair behind her ear.

"Can I get you guys anything else?"

"Your number." Casanova winks at her. She rolls her eyes. Casanova grunts in pain and rubs his leg, throwing a glare towards Castle. The corners of Kate's mouth twitch in amusement.

"We're fine for now." Castle says roughly, glaring back at Casanova before throwing Kate a reassuring smile. She nods, allows herself a small smile, and turns back towards the bar, nerves fluttering inside her stomach.

Richard Castle in New Jersey? She shakes her head, biting her lip. She remembers reading on the inside of one of his book jackets that he was from Manhattan, just like she was.

She mixes a few drinks behind the bar, lost in thought. A throat clears. She startles a little, spilling vodka on the bar.

"Here. Let me help you." She looks up to find him grabbing a few napkins, wiping the alcohol hastily. He throws her an apologetic smile.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

She shakes her head, waves him off. "It's fine. I've got this, though." He nods, backs off a little. She grabs a towel from below, notices him still standing there. "Do you need something?"

"A glass of water?"

"We don't have anything bottled and I'm not sure I'd recommend drinking from the faucet." She wrinkles her nose a little.

He laughs. "That bad, huh? Thanks for the warning, uh…"

"Beckett." He raises an eyebrow. Interesting first name.

"Kate Beckett, actually. Sorry. Habit."

"Well. Thanks for the warning, Beckett." He teases.

She chuckles. "Anytime, Mr. Castle." She freezes, replaying what she just said. Great. If he didn't know she was a fan before, he certainly did now. She blushes a little.

He smirks. "Always nice to meet a fan."

"I never said I was a fan," She shoots back defensively. He nods, smirk never leaving his face. He doesn't believe her.

"Mm-hmm," he hums, placating her. She rolls her eyes.

"I should let you get back to work," he says, eyes on something down the bar. Her brow furrows in confusion. She follows his gaze. She sees Mike throwing her a glare while he takes someone's order. Shit.

She clears her throat, flustered. "Yeah, I should get back to work." She grabs a few things and places them on the tray carefully. "It was nice meeting you." Her eyes flick to his quickly, a curious expression on his face. She brushes past him quickly.

"You, too." She hears him say softly. She pauses in her tracks a moment, smiles to herself.

Five hours later, at closing time, Castle and his buddies are still there. She doesn't really have the heart to tell him that he has to leave, but Mike's getting impatient, pursing his lips while he wipes down the bar. The other waitresses have long gone home and Kate should really check on her dad.

"Hey, guys. I hate to break up the party, but we're closin' up."

Castle glances at his watch, raises his eyebrows. "I didn't realize how late it was. Come on boys." He claps them both on the shoulder.

"Rickyyy, we can't leave yet. I never got her number." Casanova slurs.

Castle frowns. "Probably for the best."

"How can you say that? Have you seen her ass?" His eyes rake over her unabashedly.

"Excuse me?" Kate folds her arms her chest, daring him to say it again.

"That's enough, Greg. We're leaving," Castle says firmly. He looks at Kate gently, apologetic.

Casanova slams his hand on the table, shaking the empty glasses that sit atop it. He gets up from his chair, knocking it to the floor. He reaches for Kate, a twisted smile upon on his mouth. She grabs his arm and spins him, planting his face on the table, arm twisted behind his back.

"I believe Mr. Castle said it was time to go." She hisses. She glances up at Castle, an expression of awe and curiosity written all over his face.

"Beckett! A word?" She hears Mike bark. Shit. She lets Greg go forcefully and makes her way towards Mike.

"What the hell was that?"

She stares back at him, incredulous. Seriously? "He's been putting the moves on me all night. Enough is enough," she says indignantly.

"He's a customer."

"And? You were practically shooting daggers at me to get them out of here."

"Get them out of here, not beat them up. Christ, Beckett," he grates, brushes a hand over his stubble.

"I'm not wrong here."

"Either apologize to him or you're fired."

Her mouth drops open. "You can't be serious." He folds his arms across his chest, challenging her. She scoffs, shakes her head. She tears the apron from her waist and throws it on the floor. She stalks out without so much as a glance back.

"Beckett!" She hears a voice, his voice, call after her. She doesn't stop, though. Doesn't want to talk to him, hear him make excuses for his friend. She tears the elastic band from her head, lets her hair down to whip angrily in the wind.

She hears him call after a few more times before she gives in. She sighs, waits for him to reach her. Her breath catches in her throat a little as the moonlight hits his face just right.

Jesus. The man knew how to make a girl swoon, she'd give him that much.

He finally reaches her, huffing breathlessly, palms poised on his thighs, head dipped towards the sand. She chuckles to herself, low enough for him to miss.

"What is it?" she asks, feigning impatience.

"I'm sorry. He was out of line."

She raises an eyebrow. You think?

"Completely out of line. We don't hang out much, so I've never…" he trails off, noticing the look in her eyes. She isn't interested in excuses.

"Your friend cost me my job, Mr. Castle," she says coldly.

"Maybe if I talk to your boss?" he asks.

"I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."

"I'm sure you can, but—"

She cuts him off. "I've gotta get home. It's late and I'm exhausted. It was…interesting meeting you. Maybe I'll see you around." She shrugs before backing away, leaving before he can say anything else.

She doesn't miss the wounded look on his face, though, which festers inside her all the way home.

She walks into the old house quietly and switches the kitchen light on. She tosses her phone onto the counter and grabs herself a plastic cup from the cupboard. She looks up at a bottle of vodka that sits perched on a shelf. She reaches up, wraps her long fingers around it and pours some into the cup. She stares at it for a moment, reaches for it, pulls her hand back again.

With a sigh, she grabs the glass and dumps the contents into the sink, tossing the cup in with it.

She walks down the hallway slowly, and pushes gently on her father's bedroom door. He snores, clad in the same clothes he had on earlier. Only now, a new bottle of bourbon sits on the floor beside him. She shuts the door and presses her forehead against it, tears pricking her eyes.

Forty-five minutes later, Kate steps out of the shower, limbs heavy with exhaustion. She wrings out her hair and pulls on a long tee shirt and a pair a of basketball shorts. She runs a comb through her hair and shuts the light off, shuffling towards her bedroom.

She's just about to crawl in bed when she hears a loud knock on the door. She frowns, heavy eyes checking the clock. 1:00 a.m. She makes her way down to the stairs to hear two male voices speaking to each other. She immediately recognizes both of them. One of them belongs to her father, and the other one belongs to a man she met for the first time mere hours ago.

"Dad," she says gently, "Why don't you go back to bed?" She kisses him on the cheek.

"I'm not a child, Katie." He scolds her before brushing past her.

She glares at Rick. "What are you doing here?" She steps out onto the porch, shutting the door behind her.

"I know you said to leave it alone, but I couldn't, Kate. I had to make things right." She lets out a disbelieving breath. "I spoke to Mike, explained a little. He said your job's yours."

She doesn't say anything for a moment, isn't sure how to respond.

"Again, I'm sorry." His sincerity is too much for her to handle, too much to ignore.

She shakes her head, biting her bottom lip. "Thank you," she says softly. He nods, smiling warmly at her.

"There's something else."

She rolls her eyes. Of course there is. "What is it, Castle?"

"Go out with me."

Her heart stops. She definitely wasn't expecting that. "What?"

"It doesn't have to be a big thing, Kate. Just dinner and a movie." His eyes glint hopefully, daring her to deny him.

"I don't know, Castle…" A relationship is really the last thing she needs, the last thing she should be getting into.

"Can I at least call you?"

"What, so you can woo me over the phone?" she teases. He laughs.

"Something like that." She decides she can at least grant that request, reciting her digits as he scrambles to save them in his phone.

"I'll call you tomorrow," he promises. She narrows her eyes curiously, decides that he's telling the truth.

"Good night, Castle."

"Until tomorrow, Kate."

It's different, I know. I had to give it a shot, though. Most of the backstory is the same and will be revealed in later chapters. Let me know what you think.