Title: Her Own Worst Enemy

Rating: T

Timeline: Season 8

Summary: She was so focused on keeping him safe that she didn't consider what might happen while she was away, didn't consider the one person who could call her on her behavior and maybe even lure him away.

Disclaimer: I do not own Castle or the recognizable characters used in this story. But my thanks to those who created them and let us play.

A/N: As I learned last time I was writing a long story, sometimes little one-shot ideas pop up and offer a nice, temporary break. This one-shot is a brief diversion, I'm already back and writing on Running Water, which should post on the weekend.

Buckle up. More notes below.


The text message arrived just before noon, from an unknown number.

Castle's gone.

Those two simple words awoke fears she'd thought were buried and blew away all thoughts of shadowy CIA rogues, active homicides, and precinct administration.

When calls to his cell went unanswered, Beckett used the cover of a lunch outing to investigate. After a breakneck drive to Broome Street, she braved the inquisitive looks from Eduardo and the Coopers from 3A to return to her once-and-future home.

A nervous breath she hadn't realized she was holding exploded in a relieved sigh when her key still slotted into the lock, admitting her into the loft. Her relief was short-lived, however. Aside from a robotic voice that went curiously quiet after she finally identified herself, she didn't find her husband. The other things she didn't find – his laptop, his toiletries, and the leather satchel he prefers for short trips – made her wonder about whether he'd really disappeared or had opted to take a trip without telling her. The possibility of the latter didn't provide any comfort. At least she still saw herself looking out of the framed photographs tucked away on ledges, bookshelves, and the piano top.

From the quiet comfort of the loft, Beckett tried to check in with others who might be able to help.

Castle's car service hadn't made any pickups, nor was anything on the schedule.

Tory Ellis, without knowing the nature of the associated text message, confirmed that the number provided by the captain belongs to a pre-paid cellphone that's not currently active. She promised to continue to ping the phone in case it was turned on later in the day, but there's nothing else to be gleaned on that front.

Their old friend Chief Brady was happy to check the Hamptons house without asking many questions, accustomed to serving a community rife with privacy concerns. He reported that the house was secure and vacant, offering to check again later in the day.

Brian told her that Castle wasn't at the Old Haunt, hadn't been for several days. There's a staff meeting next Tuesday, he offered in an attempt to be helpful.

Martha was detached but polite when Beckett called, noting that she'd not seen Richard for three days. "Ordinarily, that wouldn't be unusual, Katherine," Martha had confided, "but he's needed some extra attention lately."

Now, worry warring with guilt, she stands at the door of her last option. She'd hoped to find him without facing this challenge. Taking a fortifying breath, she knocks sharply.

The click-clack of heels that precedes the opening of the door causes Beckett's anxiety to ratchet higher with each step.

"Captain Beckett," Alexis greets coolly as she turns her back on her step-mother and walks into the office. Upon reaching the desk, she turns and leans against it, arms crossed and demeanor imperious. "How might RCI assist the NYPD today?"

"Hi, Alexis," Beckett starts, noting that the salutation has no effect on Castle's daughter. "I'm not here in an official capacity. I was hoping to see your father."

Alexis remains fixed in place, inspecting Beckett. Without speaking, she stands and walks around the desk before sitting primly in the office chair. Opening a ledger and running her finger down a column, she looks up inquisitively. "Do you have an appointment?"

"I need an appointment to see my husband?" Beckett asks as she steps forward and lowers herself into a guest chair.

"It goes both ways, Captain," Alexis replies primly. "He's next scheduled to be here in two days. 3:00 is open."

"He's not here now?" Beckett asks, glancing toward the bookcase that hides Castle's safe room/man cave.

"He's not here today," Alexis answers with irritation. "Though I appreciate your need for evidence," she says crossly as she stands and walks to the bookcase, opening the hidden door and gesturing with an exaggerated flourish to the vacant room.

"Alexis, I know you're not happy with me…," Beckett starts to explain.

"Save it, Captain," Alexis interrupts with a raised palm. "I don't want to hear your rationalizations or excuses. You wouldn't be here if you didn't need something. How may we deign to serve you?"

"Alexis, please," Beckett replies, shocked that her reception is even colder than she expected. "I just want to see Rick."

"Right," Alexis replies skeptically. "Your burning desire to see him has been well demonstrated."

"I think he's in trouble," Beckett confesses to counter Alexis' sarcasm. "I got a text saying that he's gone. I'm just trying to make sure he's okay."

Finally, Alexis' façade cracks at hearing that her father might be in trouble. Turning away from Beckett, she returns to her seat and picks up the phone handset from the desk.

"Who are you calling – Meredith? Gina?" Beckett asks, receiving only a disgusted eye roll in return.

"Hey," Alexis speaks once her call has connected, "it's Alexis. When's the last time you saw Dad? Yeah, I bet he was. He was he okay, then? Sounds like him. But you haven't seen him today? Will you see if you can get a hold of him, then give me call? Yes, please. Thanks, Hayley."

"Why would she know where Castle is?" Beckett asks, failing to mask the nature of her concern.

"Don't even try to play the jealousy card," Alexis scoffs while opening a drawer in the desk and extracting a manila envelope that she waves at Beckett. "When you're off getting sweaty or spending late nights in the car with Mr. Singh, you've lost all credibility on that front."

"That's not… I'd never…," Beckett stutters. "That's for a case, Alexis. A dangerous case that I'm trying to make sure doesn't hurt your father. How'd you even know about that?"

Sighing and shaking her head, Alexis rises from her seat and walks out of the room. Realizing that she's not waiting, Beckett rises and steps quickly to catch up.

"Did you not see the sign on the door?" Alexis asks as she opens the door to Richard Castle Investigations and gestures for Beckett to leave. "Documenting crumbling marriages and infidelity are something of a specialty here. We'll send a text update on your request. Good day, Captain."

With the echo of the closing door ringing down the hall to emphasize that her last option turned even more sour than she expected, Beckett's left with one simple option. Standing in the hallway of Castle's PI office, she extracts her cellphone and starts typing.

Where is he? Is he alright?

Her reply to the text that started this hunt might be brief, but it addresses her most pressing concerns. Now, she waits. Perhaps Hayley will find a lead. Beckett's willing to swallow her concern about the woman, at least in the short term, if she can provide information on Castle. Or, maybe it's time to pull in some favors, collect the CCTV footage from around the loft. There will be consequences for abusing police resources. But there's no missing person report to justify any official effort, and she's in the uncomfortable position of not being able to file one, since she doesn't see him outside of the precinct.

It's the text reply that gets the first response, causing her phone to chirp as she approaches the precinct. She suspects that the sender has his phone turned off to avoid being tracked, only powering up occasionally and briefly to check for new messages. Beckett's not sure if the relatively prompt reply is good news or bad news, her fumbling anxiety leading to three failed attempts to unlock her phone before she can read the text message that arrived from the same unknown number.

Carbone's, 8:00.

She remembers Carbone's, an Italian osteria near her old apartment. It's probably a good choice for a meeting – public, but low-lit to contribute to the ambiance, with deep booths for private discussions. She'd enjoyed frequenting the place back when she lived nearby, but hadn't thought of it since moving out of the neighborhood.

Blessing the perk of her new position, Beckett pulls into her parking spot at the precinct. But rather than enter, she sends a quick text message to Ryan and Esposito. She's going to find out what kind of trouble Castle's in, and she's not going alone.

Second-guessing her decision to go in without a wire again, Beckett strolls to the door of Carbone's with a forced casualness. There's a fair chance she'll be checked for a wire or that technical measures will be employed to interfere with recordings. The clincher in her decision, though, was her desire to keep this meeting off the radar of One PP. Her captaincy started on rocky ground after skipping the first day and approaching the media without approval. She's being watched carefully right now, and not just by those she pursues. Commandeering surveillance equipment and maybe even staff for an undocumented, personal case would certainly fall in the category of 'inappropriate use of resources.'

Stepping into the restaurant, she's drawn back to old memories by the nearly-forgotten smells and once-familiar decor. Ironically, she's reminded that this would've been a perfect place to take her husband out to dinner. Ostensibly taking in the atmosphere, Beckett looks around to assess the tactical implications of this meeting site. Her recollection was nearly perfect, both in terms of layout and lighting. She's not seen Esposito or Ryan, but she'd asked them to keep out of sight.

Before she can step up to the podium and request a table, the server approaches her. "Right this way," the young, blonde woman says cordially. "Your sister is already here."

Sister, huh? Not terribly imaginative for a cover story, and one that's easily refuted, Beckett thinks. Until she approaches the booth to which the server has directed her and sees her dinner companion. Only years of training and a strict adherence to rational evidence gathering prevents her from collapsing into her side of the booth.

"Hello, Captain Beckett," offers her doppelganger from the other side of the table. "I'd introduce myself, but I think you already know who I am," she offers with a small smile.

Staring at her twin, Beckett can't stop hearing Castle's delighted voice echoing in her head. Clones, Beckett! Clones! Or maybe an alien shape-shifter. Have you done anything to warrant the interest of an intergalactic bounty-hunter?

Noting her distress with muted amusement, the woman on the other side of the table speaks again. "Perhaps this will help," she offers as she unbuttons the top of her blouse, opening it wide enough to expose the top of her cleavage. Beckett's lack of an objection is a testament to how bizarre this scenario really is. Rather than object to what's going on, Beckett feels her eyes drop down to her guest's chest, stifling the irreverent part of her mind that tells her she's acting like Castle. She unabashedly looks at her companion's chest to see pristine skin unmarred by scar tissue.

"No?" offers the visitor, "Still not making the connection? Perhaps if we discussed a certain artifact, the theft of which was related to a case of yours a year ago?"

"You!" Beckett finally stutters, mind reeling. Apparently, she's sitting across the table from a figment of Castle's imagination, a version of herself conjured by stress, guilt, and a head injury.

"Me," her guest confirms, "though that'll make this conversation a bit confusing. And now that you've been promoted – congratulations, by the way – we can't use titles to differentiate between us. You seem pretty fixated on surnames – why not call me Kate?" she suggests with a smirk.

"Where's Castle?" Beckett asks directly, ignoring the ridiculous context of this meeting to focus on what brought her here. "Is he safe?"

"Rick's fine," Kate answers calmly. "He's just pulling some information together for me before we meet up later tonight."

"What's going on?" Beckett demands, her discomfort around this scenario giving way to anger. "If he's safe, why all the mystery with the text messages?"

"When I first met Rick, the Rick from here, I thought he was a raving lunatic. This stranger, who was a cautionary tale of wasted talent and intemperance where I come from, landed in my precinct and upset everything he touched," Kate reminisces, eyes focusing in the distance as she recollects. "I couldn't decide if I should throttle him, arrest him, or commit him. From what I saw at your precinct today, that might be his regular MO."

"You were in my precinct?" Beckett asks, distracted from her inquiry by thinking about security breaches before she realizes that no one would bother to challenge Captain Beckett.

"Sure," Kate replies easily. "That was half the reason for the text. I needed to check on some things at the precinct, which would've been inconvenient with you around. As it is, your staff thinks you're a bit of an indecisive diva, what with the wardrobe changes during the day," she grins while she waves a hand between them to highlight their different outfits.

"I guess the laws are a little more lax where you come from?" Beckett asks acidly, feeling ridiculously betrayed by herself.

"Please," Kate scoffs, "whom am I impersonating? I've been a captain longer than you have. And exactly how would you propose to arrest me or to explain who I am? It seems to me treading that path would raise some thorny questions for you," she laughs. "Besides, who the hell are you to talk about breaking the law? Gone rogue today? Shot anyone, stolen any medical supplies, falsely imprisoned any poor shop owners? I'm astounded that you're still a captain given how you decided to start your tenure. It kind of cheapens it for the rest of us."

"You seem surprisingly well-informed for someone who's not from around here," Beckett prompts, wondering exactly how much her alternate-realty self knows about her current circumstances.

"Did you seriously think that I wouldn't be able to guess your – well, I guess our – computer password?" Kate replies with an eye roll. "Plus, I've made some friends here."

"Like Castle?" Beckett guesses. "What'd you do – call him up pretending to be me to lure him away?"

"Yes," Kate confesses, "that's exactly what I did. I called him this morning and asked him to join me at the swings. Yes," she says, noting Beckett's look of confusion, "he told me that story during his visit, back when he was trying to convince me that I knew him. When he arrived I clarified who I was and he agreed to help me. He seemed pretty anxious to be a help, actually. And pretty excited about the whole alternate-reality thing."

"I can imagine," Beckett can't help but to reply. Before she can launch her next salvo in this odd battle, though, their food arrives. Given the nature of the conversation, Beckett had nearly forgotten that they're sitting in a restaurant.

"I ordered for us," Kate explains good-naturedly. "Go ahead, it's our favorite."

"I know what my favorite is, thank you very much," Beckett fires back in reply, "and this isn't it."

"I think you'll be surprised," Kate answers equably. "The owner revised the menu last year. I eat here at least once a week, so trust me, I've tried it all."

"You still live around here?" Beckett asks almost against her will, curiosity winning out over the bizarre circumstances.

"Sure," Kate replies. "Never saw a reason to move. You wouldn't believe the deal I'm getting on rent," she teases.

Of course. Where she comes from, she and Castle hadn't met, so there was no Nikki Heat, Beckett realizes. No Nikki Heat, no Scott Dunn cat and mouse nonsense, or at least not of that variety.

"So," Beckett starts, her ruminations on Nikki Heat refocusing her, "what, exactly, is my husband doing to help you?"

Looking sour herself, Kate bites back a reply and opts to answer the question rather than address its wording. "He's collecting everything he has on mom's case – his notes and anything else he's collected on Bracken and LockSat. And his collected Nikki Heat works – can't get those where I'm from."

It doesn't matter that Kate had accurately predicted Beckett's dinner preferences, because it all tastes like ash in her mouth after that statement. "LockSat?" she nearly moans. "How do you know about that?"

"Rick knows more than you give him credit for," Kate replies with a tone of disappointment.

"Where you come from," Beckett asks after taking a gulp of water, "have they been arrested or…," she trails off, perversely hoping that a more terrible fate has befallen her enemies.

"No," Kate answers sadly. "Rick left me a letter from his visit," Kate says, unconsciously reaching toward the pocket of her blazer. "The letter explained what happened to you, here," she says, tapping her chest. "He implored me not to go off half-cocked. Promised that he'd help me if I didn't have Bracken within a year. I've got the tape, but it's not enough by itself. Where I come from, Bracken's still trying to run for President. It hasn't gone well for him – life as an independent excludes him from the debates – but he's making a strong enough showing that he's a likely favorite for an appointment, maybe even to State."

"Him at the State Department and his partner in the CIA?" Beckett thinks out loud. "That's a deadly tandem."

Kate nods sadly. "That's one of the reasons I'm here. Between what Rick's already told me, the files he has, and the files I copied at the precinct, I can come at him in ways he can't imagine. Hell, I even know how to track down Smith."

"What a minute," Beckett interjects, "what do you mean 'one of the reasons?'"

"Do you know how heartbreaking it was, to put mom's case away, to focus only on a career? Youngest detective. Youngest captain. A life hidden behind walls, buried in work, with every fucking elephant I see a reminder of my failure? I let the years pile on top of me, slowly compressing my life into one humorless, dreary existence. I'd forgotten the possibility of joy," she says quietly.

"And then," Kate continues after collecting herself with a sip of water, "this jackass literally drops from the sky. He delights in pushing my buttons. He revels in tweaking convention and tilting at windmills. And he's insufferably right, about the case, about me, about how things should be…"

"You love him," Beckett whispers. "You're not here for mom, you're here for him."

"Of course I'm here for him," Kate confirms. "Don't you get it? He died for me – jumped in front of me in time to take two to the chest. He told me he loved me and then he died. Not immediately – he held on long enough to make it to the hospital, long enough to say goodbye to his mother and daughter – and then he died, while I stood there in front of his family covered in his blood. How many men have we known who would do that? He was in my life so briefly," Kate struggles to explain, "but I felt it even before he left. And it's only grown more intense since then."

"You can't have him," Beckett growls fiercely. "He's my husband. We've gone through too much, overcome too many obstacles, for you to waltz in and interfere."

"He is not your husband," Kate replies in an equally fierce tone. "Do you have any idea how shocked I've been today? I'm amazed that I'm still on my fucking feet. Twelve hours – over the course of twelve hours I've learned that dad's still alive and sober, that Rick married you on the same day I saw him die, that mom's memory lives on thanks to an endowed scholarship, and that Bracken was arrested – on national TV! – arrested and imprisoned. You had it all – absolutely everything I always wanted, more than I ever imagined I could have."

Kate winds down for a moment, closing her eyes to imagine how differently things could've gone.

"And then you threw him away," Kate says in a voice of incredulity. "This man, this man who in this reality is a wonderful father and son, a gifted author and steadfast friend. This man who loves you so beyond reason that he bulled his way through my precinct and took over my investigation just to find a way back to you… This man you walk away from," she concludes emotionally, shaking her head.

"I didn't throw him away," Beckett argues passionately, "I'm keeping him safe. You don't get it, because you haven't seen him. You don't know what he did after I got this," she says, tapping on her own chest. "If he gets a single whiff of a case like this, he won't stop. He'll promise he will, but he won't be able to help himself. He'll dive into it in an effort to protect me, putting his own life on the line, with no training, no support, nothing but stubbornness to defend himself."

"So, you protect his heart by tearing it out?" Kate asks in response. "How does that make any sense? He came running this morning because he thought I was you, thought that he would actually get to talk to his 'wife,'" Kate says with air quotes to emphasize her view on Beckett's role. "Even before I explained who I was, he started apologizing, asking what he'd done wrong, what caused me to walk out on him."

"It's temporary," Beckett replies while trying to hide the hurt she feels from imagining Castle's distress, the dismay she feels imagining his brightening face when he learned the true identity of his visitor. "We've already got good leads."

"I'm sure Rick will take solace that your choice to walk away, to replace him with Vikram, is only 'temporary,'" Kate sneers. "And that's assuming you're not deluding yourself about how quickly this could all end, assuming you're still above the ground if that happens."

"So, you've spoken with Alexis," Beckett replies, heart sinking even lower. "I'm not seeing Vikram. He knows this is just about the case."

"I met Vikram before I met Alexis," Kate clarifies, "and I've seen the look he gave me before. I imagine you have, too, if you'd just let yourself realize it. But no, I'm sure you're right," Kate pivots facetiously. "After all, it's not like there's any precedent for you turning to people who support your quest, is there? No reason for someone who already envies Rick to hope for something more?"

This is the last thing she needs, Beckett thinks. But way back at the beginning, Vikram did say that the allure of the AG's office was to impress women. And he is protective of the time they spend on the case…

"I don't know," Kate interjects, "if I should be more or less impressed that you're not messing around with him. If you are, it means you're a complete idiot, rejecting Rick in favor of him. But, if you're not, then you've invited him to fill Rick's place with the full understanding that he's expendable. Did you at least buy him a red Star Trek shirt?"

"You don't understand," Beckett tacks, "and you should appreciate this more than anyone. Bracken didn't act alone – he had a partner. How can you sit there and criticize me for trying to end this?"

"So, Bracken had a partner," Kate replies. "He probably also has a lieutenant. And an accountant. Hell, maybe he confides to his barber or his dog-walker. Where does it end? Does it end? Ever?"

"People are dead because I looked into this," Beckett replies earnestly, trying to get Kate to understand. "My entire team from the AG's office – they're all dead because I looked into this case."

"I understand that," Kate replies, actually sounding empathetic. "I do. But what I don't understand is why that means you need to be the avenging angel, or why you're tossing aside the man who supported you for seven years in favor of a team that tossed you out after a few months. And if I don't understand you, why do you think Rick will welcome you back if you succeed on this fool's errand?"

"Fool's errand?" Beckett nearly shouts before she recalls where they are. "You told me fifteen minutes ago that you're stuffing your pockets full of stolen files so you can go back to wherever the hell you come from to do the same damn thing!"

"Here's the difference," Kate replies calmly, refusing to rise to Beckett's challenge. "In," she glances at her watch – an elegant ladies' watch of delicate silver rather than her father's watch – and looks up again, "just over an hour, I'll meet up with Rick. I'll thank him for his efforts on my behalf, and yours. And then I'm going to ask him to go back with me. I'll offer him what it sounds like you never have – complete and total honesty. If he wants me to leave the files on mom's case here, I will."

"So, after all this, you're just some kind of what? Interdimensional homewrecker?" Beckett mocks. "You don't know Castle at all if you think he'll walk away from me."

"Now who's kidding herself?" Kate replies. "I'm not asking him to walk away from his wife, who's already discarded him by the way. I'm asking him to walk towards a different version of her."

"He'd never leave Alexis," Beckett replies, well aware that by shifting the focus of the discussion, she's acknowledging that Kate's offer might appeal to Castle.

"She's thinking about it," Kate answers quietly, "and she'll be part of the decision. What do you think she'll do?" in response to Beckett's look of betrayal. "She knows, I mean really knows down to her soul, that her father is hopelessly in love with Kate Beckett. If she has to choose between us, do you think she'd want her father around and miserable or away and happy?" Kate asks. Without waiting for an answer, she plows ahead. "And, don't forget – the Rick Castle where I come from was such a disaster that Alexis chose to live with Meredith. The results aren't pretty. But in the short time Rick spent where I come from, he made an even more meaningful connection with Alexis than he did with me. I think the chance to share her father with a struggling version of herself appeals to Alexis."

"But he's dead there," Beckett objects. "You just told me that he said goodbye to Alexis and Martha and then died," her voice cracks when imagining Castle bleeding out in a hospital. "How is he just supposed to reappear there?" she challenges.

"Even here," Kate replies with a surprising smile, "I get the feeling that people wouldn't be surprised if Rick faked his own death. Back at home? It'd be more surprising that he hasn't. Or, if he wants to start over, he could come back as someone else. I actually have a plan that sounds insane but I imagine might appeal to Rick's love for the bizarre." When Beckett refuses to take the bait, Kate continues anyway. "One other warning Rick left me in his letter described the consequences of our disastrous trip to Vegas. In my reality, Rogan O'Leary is missing and presumed dead. Since the marriage paperwork is already filed, I wonder if Rick wouldn't enjoy the irony of assuming his identity."

"And so in this blissful Neverland," Beckett exaggerates, "Rogan O'Leary becomes the author of the Nikki Heat series and the two of you live happily ever after?"

"Perhaps," Kate replies, "I'm less interested in the details than I am in the main point. But," she says conspiratorially, pushing Beckett nearly to the point of violence, "if he does release those books back at home, we're coming up with a less puerile name for the detective."

"What's to stop me from detaining you, preventing this meeting with Castle?" Beckett asks, using broad gestures to reach for her water glass while her other hand casually slips her phone from her pocket, preparing to call in the boys.

"You can't take me alone," Kate says confidently, "and you are alone. I sent Ryan and Espo home when they showed up. As I mentioned earlier, I've been captain far longer than you. And, if you'll pardon the presumption, I'm also more adept at seeing the big picture."

"So, I'm just supposed to sit here while you go proposition my husband?" Beckett asks in a tone that started as a challenge and ended with a bewildered look. "Let him go without even a chance to ask him to stay?"

"You've had more than seven years to ask him to stay," Kate replies. "If he accompanies me based on one chance meeting and a handful of hours today, he was never yours." Before Beckett can reply, Kate offers one more thought. "Why are you fighting me on this? You want him safe, you want him happy. Can you imagine a circumstance where he'd be happier or safer than with a Kate Beckett who accepts him, who loves him openly, who puts him first?"

"But he's my husband," Beckett answers in a small voice.

"And regardless of his choice, he'll be with Kate Beckett," Kate replies as she stands. "He told me how hurt you were by his disappearance," she says as she carefully places enough money on the table to cover their tab. "I didn't want you to wonder what'd happened to him," she explains, "or to unnecessarily distract your LockSat investigation by having you waste time looking for him."

When Beckett doesn't reply, Kate looks towards the door, but can't seem to leave quite yet. "Being married suits Ryan – make sure you remind him what a lucky guy he is. Back at home, he's barely hanging on. And tell Lanie that Charlotte's a beautiful name, regardless of whatever her parents think. And dad – treasure him. You don't know how lucky you are to have him."

With that, Kate seems to run out of words, too. She stands beside the table, waiting in vain for a reply from Beckett.

"Goodbye, Beckett," Kate finally says. "If Rick joins me, I'll always be grateful for your help in getting him this far. Always," she says as she walks to the door and disappears into the night, her final word lodged in Beckett's chest like a knife.

Tears running down her face, Beckett picks up her phone, fumbling again to get the damn thing unlocked. Realizing that the shape of her future rides on this one last, desperate chance, she opens the text app and stares at the blank screen. Thinking about everything she heard tonight, she struggles to find the words that might very well be the last ones she'll ever have for him. Finally, with a heart-rending sigh, she types. It's a short message, but it still takes all of her reserve to type it and hit send.

Follow your heart, Castle, and be happy. I love you. Always.

A/N2: I'm not a fan of the current story arc. Not only has it bruised the heart of the show, but the characters are becoming difficult to recognize based on the choices they make. I got to thinking about whether there is anyone who could challenge Beckett, make her step back and think about the bigger picture. Castle and her father tried back when it was Bracken she was hunting. So I wondered about who else could step up, and that's where this story came from. I'm not into Kate bashing and I actually like her as a character, so I like the idea of her alternate self being able to challenge her. As for Castle, I wrote this before "Cool Boys," but here's hoping the pep talk there gets Castle back on track.

I've tried to stay away from a Season 8 story, but decided to jump in for this quick one-shot. It's a bit of a deviation from my usual take on things (more in tone than in style), so if you'd like to review the story above, I'd like to hear from you. I've got the guest reviewer filter on and will happily pass along any comments that are constructive, even if they're negative. Thanks!

Humongous thanks, too, to CaskettFan5 and GeekMom for giving this a read. Their help is greatly appreciated. But don't blame them if you don't like the story – that's on me.