a/n: I just have so many feelings for this show. The characters are well-developed, believable, and usually crack me up every single episode. Castle and Beckett are just too cute, honestly. I'm waiting for them to get together, but I don't think it's quite time yet. Anyways, got this idea for a multi-chaptered fic. I figured that nothing like this had been done, so why not write it? Lol. Reviews are always appreciated. If you have flames, please just don't even bother. Please, if you really didn't like what I wrote, just tell me politely. I encourage constructive criticism. But I'm blabbing. Onto the story. (:


Her footsteps echo against the ground: staccato, uneven. Legs wobbling, the young woman hurries forward. The area behind her eyes is pulsing uncontrollably and everything is coated in a sickly red. Wheezing, she plants her hand against the graffiti-splattered wall to her left and bends over, eyes bugging and chest heaving. She chokes on an empty stomach, on acid, on oxygen. The sides of the thin alley seem to spin all around her. Old newspapers and dirty napkins wind around her legs, trapping her with their might.

"Please, somebody," she whimpers, tears trailing down her cheeks. "Daddy. Daddy."

Her feet hurt. Her limbs feel as if they are on fire and her fingers are twitching. Underneath her rib-cage, her heart beats a frenzied pattern. She can't breathe. She can't breathe. Falling to the ground and rolling over on her back, the woman lets out a piercing scream. Lights flash on in the building to the left, feet clattering down a rusty stairwell soon following. The girl's hand flops over her dark face and she brushes it against the drops of sweat on her forehead. Red pulses in her brown eyes, bulging, crashing. Blackness settles in as she chokes.

"Daddy," she whispers.

"Oh God," a lady cries. "Honey, call 9-1-1. Can you hear me?" There is a pressure on her wrist, but she can barely feel it. "Hey. Open your eyes. It's going to be okay. John, there's barely any pulse!"

She wants to open her eyes, but can't. Too heavy, too painful. Her head is tipped back and liquid trickles down her throat.

"I called," a man says. "They said an ambulance would be along soon." More fingers, on her wrist.

The woman is speaking again, but it's muffled. "Hold on," the woman pleads. "Hold on."

Hold on. Hold on. Everything is black. So black.

"John, there's no pulse!"

"Here, let me see." A fluttering on her chest, her head tipped back, fingers in her hair. Borrowed air follows the liquid into her mouth. "Breathe, damn it!"

Breathe. First everything blurs. Then it all goes black. Her hand drops a little white paper. She feels so light.


"And...time." Richard Castle taps the little blue hourglass with his pointer finger and grins as he looks up at his mother. "My turn."

"Polar bear!" Martha yells, her face growing more and more furrowed as Alexis gestures at her neck and then pretends to scribble something on a piece of paper. "Pirate! Tr-wait, that's a treasure map, isn't it?" She points at her granddaughter.

"Are you sure she isn't mimicking your acting career?" Rick jokes, drawing a hand across his own throat and winking when his mother gives him a dirty look. "Hey, I thought I raised you better than to cheat," he tells Alexis, trying to sound like the authority figure.

Both women ignore him. Typical.

"You're close," Alexis says, wincing. "Well, kind of close." She puts her hand over her heart and moves it up and down.

"The End of Love," Martha shouts.

Both Alexis and Rick look at her, confused.

"What?" she asks. "It was a terrific script written by my friend Nicholas about the hardships of a love shared between a guard and a young girl in a concentration camp. Quite moving. I'm surprised that he didn't go farther." Waving her hand, Martha adds, "But that is neither here nor there. Where were we, darling?" She glances over at Alexis, who has burrowed her way into the couch in the living room by her dad.

"Losing," Rick says, "to me." He smirks. "You guys went like two minutes over."

"I hardly think it was that long," Martha mutters.

"Oh, it was that long," Rick answers, shaking his head.

"For Pete's sake," Martha says, throwing her hands up. "Back in the day, these games used to be about enlightening the individual."

"Mother," Rick says, "we are in the twenty-first century. Be a good sport and tell your son that he's the brightest star you've seen since Woody Allen."

Martha waves him off, saying, "And inflate that big head of yours even more? I think not." She turns away from him. "What was the answer, Alexis?"

"Umm," Alexis says, glancing down at the card. "Euthanasia."

Martha begins to sputter once more about the "poor quality of games in this century" and "who, in God's name, allowed Euthanasia to be permitted in Taboo?" while making her way towards the bottle of wine on the marble countertop. Rick's cell phone begins to vibrate in his pocket and he pulls it out, looking at the harsh lines of Beckett's face with a wry smile.

"Another case?" Alexis asks.

"Oh darling," Martha groans. "Not again. Tonight is family night."

Rick presses the green button and holds it up to his ear. "Mother, I just played eighteen rounds of Taboo with you. I think that's all the family time I can handle for awhile."

Martha frowns, then reaches for a slice of lime sitting on a paper towel next to the sink.

"What?" Kate Beckett asks. He can imagine her trying not to smile at his ridiculousness.

"Nothing," Rick answers. "There's a case?"

"Yeah." She sounds more tense than usual. Something's wrong. "I'll pick you up in ten minutes."


She hangs up before he can ask if she's okay.

"What happened to leaving the precinct?" Martha asks the moment he hangs up. She's smiling at him in that "I-have-a-shoulder-for-you-to-cry-on-when-you-finally-leave-Beckett" way and it's making him uncomfortable.

"She...I," Rick stumbles, finally shrugging. His eyes soften as he looks at the two other women he loves dearly in his life, now shoulder-to-shoulder on the counter-top. Alexis looks sympathetic as well, but at the same time she seems to predict what he's going to say. "I love her, mother."

As expecting, both women begin to coo over him and his feelings. So he does what Richard Castle does best: avoid the topic at hand.

"Guess what I have here?" he asks, heading over to the side table by the front door and picking up a thick stack of crisp white papers bound in a reddish-black temporary cover.

Martha claps her hands together. "Is that what I think it is?" she cries excitedly, stretching her hands towards it as though the manuscript will levitate towards her. "I thought you were experiencing writer's block."

He had, in fact. But he doesn't really want to vent to his mother about the countless hours he spent typing each chapter and wondering what the hell he was doing. It was a totally new angle, this book, and while still a part of the Derrick Storm series, it focused more on the character development and psychological compartmentalizing than any of the other books. He'd meant it only as a way to get his feelings out at the time, but it had evolved into something he couldn't just let sit.

"I was just trying to find my inner mojo," Rick tells his mother.

She smiles knowingly. "You mean Beckett."

"Everything is not about Beckett," Rick argues, picturing the slim brunette in his mind. She'll probably be wearing a leather jacket with a turtleneck and jeans, appropriate for a crime scene at night, professional, yet not outdated. Her hair will be pulled back into a ponytail, the way she always wears it when she's really worried about something.

"In your world it is," Martha murmers, chuckling as she and Alexis trade another one of their psychic girl looks.

He briefly wonders how the topic managed to get back to him and Beckett.

"So what's the title of the new book?" Alexis asks, saving him from having to give a feeble excuse and running off.

Rick clears his throat dramatically. "Silent Night," he says in his author voice.

"You stole that from Jesus," Alexis says.

"God's message is open to anyone," Rick retorts.

Alexis shrugs, reminding him very much of himself right then. "You'll probably have to deal with copyright," she says, pulling out a package of carrots from the fridge and rinsing them under cool tap water. "Don't say I didn't warn you."

"It means a whole lot more than you think," Rick tells his daughter.

She looks at him for a long moment, then nods. "I believe you," she says. "You're actually serious for once."

He swats at her and she shrieks playfully. There is a knock at the door.

"Oh darling, it's so good to see you," Martha trills when Kate Beckett steps through the doorway wearing a red turtle-neck, leather jacket and jeans. Her hair is back in a bun. Almost got it in one.

Kate smiles politely. "Always a pleasure," she says, waving at the two women. The lines on her forehead deepen and it's obvious that she's trying to keep herself from falling apart, but no one wants to point it out. When her caramel eyes meet his face, Rick feels himself melt a little. "We should probably go, Castle."

"Yeah, we probably should." Rick sets the Silent Night manuscript back onto the nightstand and gives his mother and Alexis a warning look. "Don't you dare read it until I get back," he tells them, knowing that the moment he closes the door they'll be upon it like deranged Twilight fans. "I want to see the looks on your faces."

"Don't you dare miss another game night," Martha warns her son.

"Be safe," Alexis says. He walks over and pulls them into a hug. From his peripherals he can see a gentle smile on Kate's face.

"A new story, huh?" Kate asks as Rick closes the door behind them and they head down the hall. "I'm surprised you still have anything to write about." She almost looks guilty, a little sad too. Shadows play across her face. "The series must be almost done, I presume. It can only go on so long." Her eyes study him again and when he glances back, the air between them heats up. He ignores it. Her lips part a little.

"They're living the story," Rick tells her, softening his voice. "It isn't close to ending."

Her face lightens just a bit. She understands.

"So where are Ryan and Esposito?" Rick asks, changing the subject.

Kate's face tightens again. "Ryan's at the crime scene," she answers briefly.

"What about Esposito?"

"He, um, didn't think he could handle this case," Kate says. Her fingers brush his and instead of yanking away, she takes his hand and squeezes it, hard. "To be honest, I'm not so sure I can either."

Rick stops and faces her. "What's going on?" he asks.

She takes a deep breath. Rick imagines cupping her face in his hands, but knows that it will only end with a slap on the cheek.

"Rick," Kate says, lingering over his name. Her lips shake. "They think the victim is Lanie."