A/N: And so it begins, my hiatus adventure. This fic is my participation in the Castle Ficathon 2013 challenge.

Setting is alt-S3 and explores how things would have gone differently if there were not significant others in the way. This will be a series of one-shots (or maybe two or three-shots depending on the episode) that will (most likely) not be related. (If they do relate to a previous chapter, I will be sure to notate that in the A/N at the beginning of the chapter.) I hope you'll come along with me as I explore this different side to our beloved partners.

The first 2 chapters will cover the summer before season 3 starts and will serve as the basic backdrop for all subsequent chapters.

We start with Kate following the events of 2X24, A Deadly Game.

Summer - Kate

She spends the first night crying herself to sleep. Or at least she was trying to sleep when the weight of everything crashed over her and angry, bitter tears started flowing. Now she's just sobbing on the tile of her bathroom floor. She's angry at herself, at the situation, at her (their?) shitty timing. As she rips another tissue from the box, she decides it will be the last one she uses tonight. It's time to pick herself up and move on.

Because he is.

How did she even get to this point? She's spent the last year and a half fending off this guy's advances and now she's sobbing about the fact that he's moved on? At what point did the switch flip? Why did she not realize that even as her brain was building logical arguments against getting involved with him, her heart was betraying her?

She's totally fallen for Richard Castle. Head over freaking heels and every other cliché. This isn't her, this isn't how she operates. Things with Tom were how she does relationships, that's why it was so easy to fall into something with him. They were both busy, both had their own schedules. They'd have dinner now and then, talk on the phone when they could, no pressure. He didn't make demands on her, didn't try to worm his way in like Castle did. And she thought that was how she liked it. But she meant it when she told Tom that that wasn't what she was looking for. Everything she thought she wanted had shifted and she hadn't even realized it.

Not until it was too late.

A fresh wave of tears overtakes her and she surrenders to it, to this new life. She allows them to flow freely, wash away the old and move into the new. And she wants that with all of her being, to be new, to be…more. Castle showed her what she can be by seeing more in her and asking more of her than most people do. And she may not be able to have that with Castle but she wants it. An open heart and a full life. So she'll try to grab it.

Without him.

But the very next day when she comes into work and that chair is beside her desk, empty and mocking, she remembers how much it hurts, trying to be more, trying to be open. And that door slams shut. She almost moves the chair but decides that she needs the reminder.

She cries again that night. Because of a life she can't have. Will probably never have.

It takes almost a month before she gives into Lanie's request to go out. Her friend has noticed that she's been down since Castle left. She's still working, still closing cases at the same rate but it's all being done methodically, almost cold. Castle's departure has taken all the fun out of her. So Lanie decides that it's her mission to put it back.

They go to a bar that Lanie's heard about but neither have ever been to. It's dark and almost too loud but Kate find that she likes it that way, likes that she can just nurse a drink without having to put on too much false cheer. Lanie runs into a classmate from medical school who invites them to join their table. When they learn that Kate is the lone cop in this group of doctors, they all start asking her questions, eager to avoid their own shop talk for something new. She's hesitant at first but they're genuinely interested and so she opens up, talks about how rewarding it is, how good it feels to get justice for grieving families. She notices one of the men leaning forward, the low light catching in his chocolate eyes, an inviting smile gracing his handsome face. He offers his own stories, how rewarding it is to provide medical care in third world countries, how amazing it feels to see a mother cry over her healthy child. They smile at each other, a thread of mutual understanding between them.

When the talk turns to individual conversations, he comes around the table, introduces himself just as Josh. No pretention about being a doctor, just a down to earth person. And then they talk. About everything. Find out that they both have motorcycles, both like old sci-fi movies. Something unfurls in her heart, a knot binding loosening and she wonders if she could still have that new life. At the end of the evening, she gets bold, gives him her number without him asking for it, without even asking if he wants it. He gives his back, leans in to press a kiss to her cheek, murmurs, "We'll talk soon" in her ear.

She and Lanie leave arm in arm, her steps light, a smile that she can't turn off curving her lips. They wave down cabs and she hugs her friend before they part ways.

"I needed this, thank you."

"I'm glad you finally stopped fighting me," Lanie tosses back.

"Well, I think maybe we weren't meant to go out until tonight." Kate ducks her head, sure that she's blushing.

"Mmmm-hmmm," is all that Lanie replies, a knowing smirk on her face.

"Lady, let's go!" the cabbie shouts from the car.

"I'm coming!" Kate yells in return. "Thanks again," she says to her friend as she slides into the car. She gives her address to the annoyed man behind the wheel but never drops her smile.

Josh calls her the next afternoon and they set a dinner date for two days later. And then an hour before they're supposed to meet, he calls to cancel because he was called into an emergency surgery. They reschedule for the next night but she has to cancel on him when a body drops. She asks about the weekend and finds out that he's headed for Africa on a Doctors Without Borders mission.

And there it is, the same old pattern. Too busy for anything. For a real connection. Not enough time to get to really know each other. And it's not enough.

"It was really great to meet you but this isn't what I'm looking for right now. Have a good trip," she offers half-heartedly.

He sighs on the other end of the phone, a slow release of air that rings with disappointment. "Can I call you when I get back?"

"No," she tries to sound regretful, but she's pretty sure it comes out more matter of fact.

"Okay. Yeah, it was great to meet you, Kate. I hope you find what you're looking for."

"Me too," she murmurs.

Except that she already has.

A week later, Kate's at the morgue getting the autopsy report on their latest victim. When she's done, Lanie wastes no time switching gears.

"So what's happening with Hot Doctor Man?" she asks, grinning.

Kate grimaces. "Nothing. Schedules didn't match up, so…" She shrugs, hoping that's the last of it.

"So you find time when you can, what's the big deal? That's how you've done it before."

But that's the whole point.

Lanie raises her eyebrows at her. "So that's not enough now?"

Wait, what? "Did I…say that out loud?"

Lanie shifts back, settles on her heels, folds her arms over her chest. "You did. What's going on in that head, Kate?"

Everything. Too much. An endless loop of Castle's face and Castle's words and she just can't. Get. Over. Him. He's in her head and her heart and nothing else matches up to what she thought they could be.

She could lie to her friend or at least evade around what she's saying but she knows Lanie and it will come out eventually so she skips all the pretense and just tells her.

"He invited me to the Hamptons. And I broke up with Tom to go with him. And then…" she trails off, waves a hand through the air, hoping it's enough, that even with the lack of a name that she's not sure she can say right now her friend will understand.

She does. Lanie's face falls and there's too much pity in her eyes for Kate to look at for long. "Oh, honey."

"Yeah," is all she offers, throat suddenly tight, eyes too moist.

"What are you gonna do?"

She shakes her head ruefully. It's the question she's been asking herself over and over but, "That's the part I can't figure out."

I'd love to know what you think.

All my thanks to Lou (lousiemcdoogle) for the prompt and to Bee (seilleanmor) for talking me back from the ledge. Til the wheels fall off, partner.