A/N: Have you met lalaurala-bones? For the last 2 years, I've had the pleasure of calling this enchanting, young woman from down-under my friend. It's fitting we begin this month long birthday romp today - Thanksgiving - because she's someone I am thankful to have in my life. This plot bunny is a year in the making and I hope you find it to be a worthy effort. I plan for it to be between 5-10 chapters (my muse is terribly fickle lately) with the final chapter posted on or around 26 December.

Laura - We may be oceans apart, but you're ("Your should be you-apostrophe-R-E as in you are. That's not even a tough one like when to use who or whom." Yeah, I've been watching way too much Castle... I'll be darned, I worked in Double Down after all!) a kindred spirit and sister in my heart.

Disclaimer: Unbetaed. All mistakes are mine. I don't own Castle.

Chapter One: Long Way From Home

It had been a long day. Too long. They had been shorthanded at work, so she'd had to stay late. Then she'd gotten a flat tire on the way home - in the rain, no less. Now, her brother and his girlfriend were making too much noise. Again.

Laura slips into her favorite pajamas - the ones with the cherry print that make her smile and think of Beckett - and climbs into bed with her remote. Patting the spot beside her, she encourages her little dog to join her. "Come on then, Fudge. There's a good boy."

Sighing, she settles against the pillows. She knows which disc is in the player and debates changing it. She knows this episode by heart and the ending always makes her cry. Then again, after the day she's had, maybe she needs a good cry. To hit the old reset button and purge the mess from her system.

Giving the dog's soft ears a scratch, she thinks about how much of an impact the show has had on her. The friends she's made. Her escape from the mundane day to day of her life - school, family, work - when things got tough for the familiar feel of the 12th and the loft. How, while she may never pen a best seller like Richard Castle, she's felt the joy of spilling her imagination through her fingerstips and onto the keyboard.

Clicking play, she joins the characters on what she knows will be a emotionally life changing part of their story. As the credits roll she wishes, just this once, for a different outcome...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Castle ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Laura feels disoriented. She hopes she's not coming down with something. The warm steam of the shower licks at her face and she drinks it in. For a brief moment, she's giddy thinking about using all the hot water and leaving her brother with lukewarm spray. But she's nice, far too nice sometimes.

Stepping out of the shower and mentally running down the list of all the things she needs to do before uni, things that will bring her one step closer to her beloved Castle, she reaches blindly for her towel as she pushes wet hair from her face.

Oh, God. Where am I? she thinks to herself when her hand comes up empty of fluffy terry-cloth. She cries out, "Mum!"

What the...? Her voice is not her own. The accent is distinctly American. Not only that, it's eerily familiar. Racing toward the mirror, she swipes the condensation from the glass and gasps. It's not just her voice that's changed. Her face has, too.

Mouth falling open, Laura stares into the fierce green eyes of Detective Kate Beckett. She touches the face she knows belongs to another woman and watches said eyes widen as her fingers glide over Kate's cheekbone. Looking around the room, she realizes she's not at home. Not her home anyway. She's in Beckett's apartment.

Locating a towel, she wraps it around her body and makes her way out to Kate's bedroom. She's startled by what she sees on the bed - dress blues and a few sheets of handwritten notes.

Her knees hit the hardwood floor, her hand fluttering up to the spot where she knows Beckett will soon have a scar. She swallows the bile rising in her throat. Today isn't what she was expecting. She certainly didn't plan to attend Roy Montgomery's funeral... or to get shot.

Kate's phone rings and Laura jumps as she's shaken from her thoughts. How did this happen? How was it even possible? Grabbing the phone, she looks at the screen and contemplates letting it go to voicemail. She knows if she does he'll just keep calling back.

"Need a ride?" he asks.

That voice. That rich, wrap you in a hug with his vocal cords voice. She feels lightheaded. Unsure what to say, she answers, "That would be lovely. Can you come straight away? I need to talk to you."

She flinches at his awkward pause. What would Kate say? "What I mean is..."

"Are you alright, Kate? You seem..."

"Castle!" There! That's better! It's more Kate.

"I'm on my way," he says softly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Castle ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Laura tucks Kate's hair up and finishes getting dressed. She opens the door at his knock and checks the hall before pulling him inside.

"Whoa!" he laughs trying to make light of the situation. "I know you want me, Kate, but is now really the..."

Her knees go weak. He's even cuter in person than he is on screen. But she isn't Laura. She's Kate. Now is not the time for a fangirl moment! Get it together! "Can it, Castle," she demands, proud of the bite in the words. Crossing her arms, she begins to pace. How do I explain something I don't understand? The truth, L! Tell him the truth!

His hand finds her arm and he strokes it with infinite care. "Hey," he says softly. "You know you can tell me anything..."

Laura's brow furrows and she glances up into his steel blue eyes. "I'm afraid, Rick," she uses his given name to make the words hit home, to let him know she's serious. It feels awkward, wrong, to call him anything other than Castle. "I'm afraid something's gonna happen today. Something that will change everything."

Castle sinks to the arm of the sofa, their hands clasped together. "They're gone, Kate. It ended in that hanger. You're safe."

Laura looks down at their linked fingers, admiring how the space between Kate's digits seemed to be made for Castle's hand to hold. Snapping back to what is now her reality, she scolds herself. Idiot! You can't tell him the truth. What are you thinking? The conspiracy theorist will go crazy!

"What if I'm not, Castle?" she breathes, her heart quickening. She leans down and brushes her lips tenderly over his forehead as she considers her words carefully. "I'm not ready," she tells him.

Brow knitted in confusion, he searches her eyes and she falters under the intensity of his gaze. "Ready for what, Kate? What are you saying?"

She smiles, trying to force a smile. "It's nothing, I..."

He cups her cheek and can't help but to she lean into his palm. "If it's got you this rattled, it isn't nothing."

"Castle," she says quietly. "Just promise me, okay? Promise me you won't do anything stupid. That you'll wait for me. No matter how long it takes."

"Kate, you're not making any sense..." he says, pulling her closer. "Whatever it is, we'll..."

Laying a finger on his lips, she silences him. "Shhh..." she soothes, brushing her lips to his cheek. "Just promise me."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Castle ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Laura goes through the motions. She helps carry Captain Montgomery's coffin. She listens to the service and stands to give Kate's speech. "...And, if you're very lucky, you find someone willing to stand with you..."

She stops to look at him. Castle. It would always be Castle. He's Beckett's someone. As she draws nearer to the part where she knows it will happen, her chest begins to burn. Little, red dot - the laser sight for a sniper's rifle - aimed right at the center of her chest. She holds her breath at the moment of impact, excruciating pain ripping through her.

"Kate!" Castle's scream fills her ears. He's over her, covering her body in a way she's seen him do countless times. Only this time is different - so different - and not different in the way she had wanted it to be. "Shh... Kate, please. Stay with me, Kate. Don't leave me. Please? Stay with me, okay?"

His voice is scared and breathless. Being here? Watching it happen? Feeling the bullet? Seeing his pain? It's a thousand times worse than watching it on television.

She looks up at him, feeling everything Kate felt in that moment and praying she's strong enough to make it. Strong enough to truly become her favorite heroine. Fighting to keep her eyes open as she feels Kate's heart begin to slow, she screams silently in her mind. No! Not again! Not like this!

"Kate, I love you... I love you, Kate..."

Drowning. She's drowning - choking - on Kate's blood.

Black. Everything fades to black. The last thing she sees are the tears threatening to spill from his eyes... and, this time, her heart breaks a little more. It shatters beneath the weight of the consequence of knowing Kate's actions. Of knowing the lie that will keep them apart.

Not this time. This time would be different. She'd personally see to it.

If, like Kate, she survives..