This takes place after Headhunters and before Undead Again. It's AU because, let's face it, Beckett is not going to know who arranged her mother's death anytime in the near future, and she's certainly not going to find out like this. I'm sure it will be epic and dangerous and blah blah. But thanks to the muse wanting them to deal with this now, in their current state of limbo, here we are. I'm purposefully vague about most of the details—I don't want it to be the centerpiece of the story.

For any of my italicized lines in the beginning to make sense, you may have to Google "Samuel Beckett's The Lost Ones" and read Wikipedia's synopsis. Or you could just ignore them. All quotes are from Samuel Beckett's The Lost Ones or Antoni Libera's analysis of The Lost Ones called "The Lost Ones: A Myth of Human History and Destiny." Obviously, I am not intelligent enough to have written either of those, so they do not belong to me.

Begrudging thanks to Cartographical. Thanks because she is wonderful at beta, and begrudging because she nagged me in bold capital letters until this was done. Also, something about promising to post once a day. So. I'll update every day, I guess. Ugh.

In the very beginning, all the inhabitants were in motion: "all roamed without respite" but finally, after a long period of constant bustle, the first body ("the woman vanquished") gave up. What was the reason? Was it due to the lack of force or rather to a lack of belief in the existence of the exit? We have no direct answer. However, the fact that the observer names the still bodies "the vanquished ones" and their attitude "abandonment" suggests that it was the second case, a failure of belief.

Rick Castle knows moments.

He knows how to write them: how to create them with words and cadence, how to paint a picture with the curves and lines of letters and symbols.

He knows how to live them: no one who knows him would disagree that he's had his fair share of living, and though sometimes he regrets it, and sometimes he wishes his daughter had inherited more of his sense of adventure (he just doesn't want her to grow old and feel like she missed out), he feels content knowing that he's lived almost every moment he could have.

He knows how to let them go; he's let plenty of them go. He let Kyra go when she whispered in his ear, and that moonlit ride in a gondola in Venice that made him want to move to Europe, and the bright eyes and soft paws of a stray kitten he found and then had give up because his mother is allergic.

What he doesn't know, apparently, is how to wait for them. Ask him a month ago, and he would've told you that he is, hands down, without a doubt, the master waiter. After all, he has waited four years for his beautiful partner to be ready, waited less than four years but still a significant amount of time for himself to be ready, and he has withstood handsome robbery detectives and hulking GQ surgeons and snipers and damn it, he never thought it would be her that made him stop waiting.

So, he supposes he waited incorrectly, perhaps by waiting in the first place. All this time he has misread her and them and the promise he thought for sure was looming on the horizon. Somehow, he has gotten their moments wrong. Or she has. Or they both have.

What he knows for sure is that this case, the one he's got up on his Smartboard right now, has eaten way too many of his moments. Before, he didn't mind. It was insatiable, but he didn't care, because the way he felt about her was insatiable too, and so it was a nice pairing. Now, though…he can't get over her if he's immersed in the definition of who she is, can he?

He puts the files on a flash drive, stacks all the papers, makes a nice little bundle for Ryan and Esposito. That's when he sees it. An hour and three phone calls later, he knows it'll be over soon. Maybe he should feel bad about it. About not calling her, or involving her at all. He chalks it up to one last gallant effort to protect her. His final gift. The next day, he meets Ethan Slaughter, and in the days after that, he forgets what he did.

And then another moment knocks. It's Saturday morning. He's looking over her case in his office one last time, because he can't stop thinking about how she put her job on the line for him. She shows up at his door, leather jacket he gave to Slaughter folded over her arm, demands to know what hell has gotten into you, you insufferable jerk. He ushers her into his office and away from a stunned Alexis, and while they're in the midst of fighting and he's in the middle of ripping her to shreds for lying, she freezes, staring over his shoulder. He turns, confused, stops dead when he realizes he left her case up on his Smartboard. It's all over after that, because he's a hypocrite and she's half heartbroken, half furious at his betrayal, but she's still a liar and really, when did they get to this place?

And then, suddenly, her phone rings, and she answers, and nothing matters anymore. Nothing except the way she breathes what? and the way her face grows pale, the way she collapses into one of his leather chairs.

Kate, he says. Gets on his knees in front of her, because something is wrong, he knows his partner and she doesn't make faces like that unless…unless…Kate.

Her hand is over her mouth. He thinks for sure she's stifling a sob. When she hangs up, she reaches out, grabs a fistful of the fabric of his shirt on his shoulder. A barrage of horror rollercoasters through his brain. Esposito got shot. Ryan and Jenny were in a car crash. Her father is dead. Something horrible, something…

"They broke my mom's case."

He can't breathe.

Nothing really matters after that. It's hard to be mad at Kate Beckett when she's trying not to cry and asking if you'll go with her to see the man behind the deaths of her mother and her mentor.