January 9th, 2000

He had no idea why or how he had ended up in a bar at two in the morning, soaked from head to toe from the rain he'd been walking through for the past couple of hours and frankly he didn't care. Getting drunk was all that mattered right now, trying to forget and numb the pain with as much Scotch as necessary. His marriage was over, finally over for good, there was no going back. Sure they had been separated for almost a year and he had never planned nor hoped for them to get back together. Not after walking in on her getting it on with her director in their bed, in their home. He should have burned that bed, or better yet moved out of that apartment all together, made a new start somewhere else, just him and his little girl.

He had signed the final version of the divorce papers today. In the end he'd given her what she wanted, which had mainly been his money, while he just wanted it to be over. The only thing that mattered to him in the whole mess of it was his daughter.

He sighed heavily. At least he had Alexis, since there was no way on earth he would have given up custody, not even if his cheating bitch-of-a-wife, ex-wife, had bothered to try. He doubted she ever would. She had never cared much about the everyday care of their child and she probably wouldn't start anytime soon. She'd signed the papers, taken what she thought to be rightfully hers, and flown back to Los Angeles. Part of him hoped she would stay there, though for his daughter's sake he also wished her mother would come to see her more often than she had over the past year.

But after she had left, when he'd realized it really was over, it had all come crashing down on him. Meredith's betrayal, the last year, the disaster his relationship or whatever it was he'd had with Sophia, had turned into before it ultimately had ended. At 30 he now found himself a divorced man and single dad who had never in his life felt this alone. He had no idea why he couldn't make them stay. Why in the end he was never enough, never what they were looking for and he thought, maybe he should stop trying.

So he had decided he would allow himself this one night of self-loathing, while his mother stayed with his girl and then he would pull it together for his daughter. She needed him now even more than he needed her, because despite of how he felt towards his ex-wife right now, his daughter had more or less lost her mom and that was hard to handle for a five year old. She didn't need her dad to drown in self-pity on top of it. So tomorrow he would leave it all behind and be the father she deserved and needed, maybe even start looking for a new place. It would be the two of them from now on, had been for a year and he could make it work. He knew it. He would be everything his little girl needed.

Lost in his thoughts Richard Castle didn't even notice the young woman sitting down next to him. He only looked up and over to her when the bartender asked for her ID.

"I don't have my ID with me," he heard her say and giving her a closer look he realized she really did look young. Yet there was something in her eyes giving him the impression she had a lifetime of experience to look back on.

"Sorry," the bar tender shrugged. "I can't serve you without seeing a valid ID."

Richard Castle saw the defeat in the young woman's eyes and knew that 21 or not she obviously needed a drink. And he knew that feeling all too well. "It's okay," he heard himself say. "She's with me."

The guy behind the bar looked at him sceptical, "And she is over 21?" He frowned at the girl, who kept her eyes down, avoiding eye contact with any of them.

Rick nodded, "She is," he confirmed while discretely shoving a 50 dollar bill over the counter. The matter was settled with that.

"Thank you," he heard her mumble, yet she still refused to look at him.

Shrugging, he kept staring straight ahead as well, "Sure, you look like you need it."

They sat in silence, both sipping at their drinks and he couldn't resist glancing at her from time to time. There was something fascinating and mysterious about her, something in those sad green or were they brown, eyes, he wasn't sure, that were calling to him. He wanted to know her story. He wanted to know how such a beautiful, young woman had ended up in this shady bar, alone and looking as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders. He had no idea why, but he wanted to know everything about her. Turning, he faced her before holding out his hand. "I'm Rick."

Her eyes met his, hesitantly searching for his motives and whatever it was she saw in them made her take his proffered hand. "Kate."

She turned her focus back to the glass in front of her, something about him looked familiar and she wondered if they had met before.

"So how old are you really?" Kate heard him ask.

She didn't look at him when she answered, didn't feel obligated to tell him the truth, yet she did, "20."

So she was young. Nodding to himself, he took another sip of his Scotch, "Bad day?"

"Bad year." Her voice sounded gravely and defeated and it made him ache for her.

He let out a humourless laugh, "Boy, am I familiar with that."

She doubted he was. It had been one year since that horrible night that had changed everything. The night which had taken her mom from her. Exactly one year to the day and it still hurt like it happened yesterday, like she had just opened the front door to find the two detectives waiting for her and her dad. And if that wasn't bad enough she had not only lost her mom a year ago, but her dad as well, suddenly remembering their last encounter when he had turned up drunk on her birthday. He had accused her of things that weren't true before turning into a sobbing mess and begging her forgiveness. She had kicked him out, hadn't seen him since. But tonight she missed him, wished she could curl up in his arms, have him tell her everything would be okay, like he had on this night a year ago. She had known it wasn't true, known nothing would ever be okay again, but it had soothed her to know her dad was there and looking out for her. Things obviously had changed and she felt more alone than ever.

"I just want to forget," she spoke quietly after a while, not sure why she said it at all but when their eyes met, she found an understanding reflected back at her, she'd never seen before. God knew she needed that understanding today.

"Me too," he replied just as quietly.

They didn't need words, they just knew.

"I normally don't do this," Kate stated.

"Neither do I," he replied, getting up and taking her hand.

She knew it was true.


Glancing down at him, while she quietly put her clothes back on, Kate was careful not to wake him. He had gotten them this room in a nice little hotel in the Village, a silent understanding between them to keep it anonymous. The only thing remaining of their night together would be the knowledge of their first names. Rick and Kate. Strangers in the night. She almost snorted at her thoughts.

She studied him in the dark. He was good looking, no he was handsome. Yes, handsome fitted him much better, but there was more to him than just good looks, something honest. Gosh, she was getting mushy and silly and scolded herself for it and yet she couldn't help but review their past hours together.

Their first encounter had been wild and rough, exactly what she had craved for and she had been determined to leave it like that, just walk out into the night pretending it never happened. But he had held her afterwards and despite her resolute determination, the tears had started to fall.

He hadn't asked, hadn't pushed, but surprisingly hadn't left either. Instead he had made bitter sweet love to her, kissing away her tears and making her feel cherished. She really couldn't think of a better word to describe it, it didn't feel like just a passionate encounter between two strangers. And she hated herself for allowing her feelings to get the better of her. To let what was supposed to be a distraction get to her. But the gentleness he had showered her with was something she had never experienced before. He certainly was someone who knew how to give. She smiled to herself, before realising she was getting all sentimental about him. A man she had met in a bar and knew nothing about.

She had to get out of here. This wasn't what she'd been looking for, yet when she turned towards the door to leave, intent on forgetting all about the past hours, she couldn't help but wonder for a brief second what it would have been like to meet him under different circumstances.


AN: My first AU. I hope you'll like it.