Truthfully, this one-shot exists because I'm an idiot. I received a prompt based on Time Will Tell, and when I posted about it on Twitter I mistakenly confused it with Time of Our Lives (insert facepalm emoji here). Fortunately, a couple people were kind enough to point this out. But you guys had already sent me a bunch of ideas, so I decided to run with it and write this version too.

A million thank yous to everyone who sent me plot suggestions! And thanks as always to Andy for the beta :)

#2: What if… the case from Time of Our Lives took place between 4x21 and 4x22, and Kate was the one who ended up in an alternate universe?

What do you want to do?

I want to f*** his brains out

Kate is replaying her accidental (and rather mortifying) slip-up in Burke's office yesterday evening as she packs away the evidence from their case, stacking photos into a box and organizing witness accounts and CSU reports. The briefcase sits open on the table and she pauses her clean-up efforts to carefully lift the medallion, turns it over in her hands. It's lighter than she expected. She's still not entirely sure why it was worth killing for, but she can't deny its beauty. She runs a finger over the intricate engravings, admiring the ancient artifact in the early morning light.

She'd spent the night tossing and turning – her new normal, apparently – and at 5:00am finally gave up on any pretense of sleep and decided she may as well head to the precinct and get an early start on the day. They closed the case the previous evening, but she hasn't had a chance to begin any of the paperwork.

Kate is about to place the medallion back in the briefcase when the precinct suddenly and inexplicably vanishes around her and she feels herself tilting backwards, falling. But before she can even attempt to catch herself, she's landing on her back and sinking into something soft and fluffy.

She bolts upright and looks around in confusion, taking stock of herself and her surroundings. Nothing hurts and she seems to be fully intact. And she's… in bed? But this isn't her bed. The sheets are way too high quality and she doesn't recognize this bedroom. The covers on the other side of the bed are thrown back, but there's a soft imprint in the pillow and mattress and when she runs her hand over it, the fabric is still warm. Someone has been here. Recently.

She pulls her hand away, surveys the room. Light filters in through the curtains behind her, casting everything in the golden glow of early morning. An elephant and a lion watch over her from giant paintings that hang from the wall to her right, and the door to an en suite bathroom sits open to her left. The fourth wall is made of bookshelves, and Kate's eyes widen as realization dawns.

She spent the night with Castle?

Kate narrows her eyes, wracks her brain. The last thing she recalls is him hobbling into the elevator not long after Slaughter departed, hands cradling his bruised torso. She doesn't remember him calling her or coming back to the precinct. And as far as she can remember, he no longer wants anything to do with her. So how did she end up in his bed with absolutely no memory of how she got here?

The soft clanking of dishware and smell of freshly brewed coffee filter into the room and coax Kate out of bed. The cool morning air caresses her skin as the covers fall away, and she's only now realizing that she's completely naked. Her underwear, tank top, and a silk robe lie discarded near her feet; she hastily she slips them on, wrapping the fabric tightly around herself and securing the belt as she makes her way to the kitchen. Even so, she feels uncomfortably exposed.

Castle is there, also clad in a bathrobe, and pouring coffee into two ceramic mugs. He smiles as she approaches. "Morning," he greets. As though it's the most normal thing in the world that she's here.

Kate furrows her brow, shakes her head. But no. She's got nothing. She's still thoroughly befuddled when Castle steps up behind her, one hand sliding around her waist and the other placing a steaming mug of coffee on the counter in front of her.

"For you," he murmurs, lips at her ear. His body fits so perfectly behind hers, her ass nestled within the cradle of his hips and his broad chest warm and solid at her back.

"Thanks," Kate stammers, the word laced with uncertainty.

He presses his lips to her neck and she shivers involuntarily. She feels him smirk against her skin, but before she can comment – not that she has any idea what she's planning to say – he's kissing her again and she's melting into him, coffee and confusion abruptly forgotten. She drops her head back onto his shoulder and he wastes no time in exploring this newly exposed skin, gently nudging aside her hair and pressing his lips to the soft, sensitive spot behind her ear.

She's so enraptured by the ministrations of his mouth that she doesn't even notice the explorations of his hands until her robe falls open and one hand slips inside. He's sucking on the hollow of her collarbone now as his right hand shimmies beneath her tank top, thumb finding her nipple. The other glides between her legs; she's absolutely soaked already, and he easily slides two thick fingers inside as his thumb finds her clit. Her knees buckle, and if it weren't for him pressing her against the counter, she'd be a boneless puddle on his kitchen floor right now.

"Oh God, Castle," she pants.

His touch vanishes, and Kate nearly whimpers at the loss. But then she feels movement behind her, hears his bathrobe hit the floor. She bends forward, braces her forearms on the counter as Castle tugs up her robe, moves her underwear aside, and then he's sliding into her from behind, filling her completely. His arms make their way around her again, one hand easily locating her clit and the other skating beneath her shirt and spanning wide and warm over her stomach. It all feels so amazing, but she finds herself particularly drawn to where they're connected; the slick, smooth slide of him in and out and the way his fingers work over her so expertly. As though he already knows exactly what she likes.

She's been close since the first moment he touched her and all it takes is a few more strokes of her clit before she shatters, inner muscles clenching around him and her mind going blissfully blank. The last thing she's aware of before she collapses onto the counter, completely spent, is the hot pulse of him inside of her as he too tumbles into oblivion.

Castle cradles her as she comes down, as her heart gradually slows and her breathing rate eventually returns to normal. But it's a long moment before she's coherent enough to regain any semblance of awareness. He's still there, hips pressing her against the bar from behind. He's carding one hand through her hair, nails lightly scratching her scalp, while the other arm rests next to her, running the length of her upper body still sprawled across the bar.

Oh. Oh, God. That was… holy shit.

Kate slowly opens her eyes and pushes herself upright on shaky arms. Castle moves with her easily, stepping aside enough for her to stand but never relinquishing his hold. When she finally turns, he's gazing at her in wonder and the love sparkling in his eyes is enough to make her weak in the knees all over again.

He tucks a few errant strands of hair behind her ear, cradles her jaw so tenderly. "Hey," he murmurs with a smile.

"Uh, hey," she manages.

But even as he settles her against his chest, folds her into his embrace, bits and pieces are beginning to come back to her. Like the fact that she still doesn't know how she got here or why she has no memory of last night. And maybe it's the uncertainty of it all, or the discomfort that comes from having entire swaths of her memory mysteriously vanish. Maybe it's Castle's influence on her, his relentless desire for the story that makes all the pieces make sense. Whatever the reason, she needs to know. She can't keep pretending.

She takes a deep breath, steps out of his arms and meets his eyes. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course." He reaches for his coffee and takes a sip, all the while watching her intently.

"I, uh," she hesitates, debating how much to tell him. She doesn't want to hurt him by admitting that she doesn't remember their first night together – and oh, her stomach ties itself into a knot as that realization washes over. But she can't continue this – relationship? – without knowing how it began.

"Kate?" he prompts.

She's trying out the words in her head, finally settles on, "Did you invite me over last night?"

"Invite you?" he echoes. "No, not… I mean, I guess you could call it that? You came home with me after work. But at this point, you know that's a permanent invitation."

"At this point?"

He sets his coffee aside. "What?"

She startles, turns wide eyes to him. Crap. Did she say that out loud?

"Kate, what's going on?"

She takes a deep breath, releases it slowly. "I, uh, don't remember what happened last night."

"What do you mean, you don't remember?"

"I don't remember coming home with you," she explains. "Or going to bed with you. Or any of our… other activities."

He looks utterly confused, and she can completely relate.

"Did something happen?" Castle asks after a moment. He grabs her by the shoulders and leans in, eyes fluttering over her face in what seems to be a meticulous pattern. Next he smooths both hands gently through her hair, methodically searching her scalp, then tilts up her chin with one finger and examines her neck, and finally nudges her to turn until he's searched her entire body. By the time she's facing him again his eyes are grim and serious. "Kate, I think we should take you to the hospital."

"What, why?"

"Because I think…" He tilts her head to one side and leans down to closely inspect her neck once more. "I don't know how, but you must've been drugged or hit your head or something. I don't see any marks or bruises, but…" he pauses, releases her chin. "What's the last thing you remember?"

Kate sifts through her brain, attempting to put the fractured pieces into chronological order. "Going to the precinct this morning. I was about to start the paperwork from the artifact case."

"Wait a second," Castle states. "You went to the precinct this morning?"

"I…" she looks down at herself, half naked and clearly having not left the house since last night, "no…?"

"But you were doing paperwork?"

"I was cleaning up the murder board," she remembers. "I hadn't started the paperwork yet. And then I woke up here." Kate pauses, eyes widening in understanding. "Wait, am I remembering yesterday morning?"

"We didn't wrap up the case until last night."

"We?" she echoes.

"Uh, you and me," he enunciates, as though it should be obvious. "And Ryan and Esposito."

Kate shakes her head emphatically. If she's certain of anything, it's this. "No, you weren't there."

"What do you mean I wasn't there?"

"You were working with Slaughter," she insists. Why is he suddenly the one who doesn't seem to remember? "You found a new partner and…"

"New partner?" he interrupts, holds up a hand. "Okay, what's going on?"

Kate throws her hands into the air in desperation. "You tell me. Yesterday you were upset with me and suddenly this morning we're," she gestures between them, "this."

"This morning?" Castle echoes, and she watches as his confusion morphs into devastation. "You don't remember any of our relationship?"

Her eyes widen in shock. "What relationship?"

His entire body crumples then and the anguish in his eyes breaks her heart. And just when she thinks it can't possibly get any worse, he opens his mouth and his words shatter her to pieces.

"Kate, we've been dating for three months."


A prolonged, painful silence falls and Castle eventually slips from the kitchen, coffee in hand and tears in his eyes. She wants to go after him but something has her frozen in place. And even if she could unstick her feet from the floor, she doesn't know what she'd say. None of this makes any sense.

Three months? She's missing three months of memories? And even worse, she has no recollection of their burgeoning relationship; the beautiful happiness she just experienced, and yet she doesn't understand how they ended up there. But it's more than that. The memories she does have seem to be wrong. Castle was adamant that he'd been there working this case with her but she's positive he wasn't. And the timeline of what she can remember is completely skewed.

Kate turns and rests her elbows on the bar, drops her head into her hands. She can't even begin to make sense of any of this. All she knows with certainty is that she wishes everything could magically go back to normal. As quickly as the thought crosses her mind, Castle's kitchen vanishes and the precinct reappears around her. Kate looks around, disoriented and confused. She's standing in front of the partially disassembled murder board with the medallion in her hand. From the light outside she can tell it's still early, and the precinct is quiet. The night shift is winding down and the rest of her team hasn't yet arrived. It's as though she was never even gone.

What just happened?

She's standing and she didn't drop the artifact, meaning she wasn't sleeping and it wasn't a dream. She supposes it could have been a daydream. But no. She's spent far more time than she cares to admit daydreaming about a relationship with Castle, and it's never been that real. She swallows hard, presses her thighs together at the memory.

And then there's the fact that they've been dating? For three months?

It doesn't make any sense. Three months ago she was dancing with him at Ryan and Jenny's wedding, but the distance between them – both physical and emotional – was carefully curated. And just yesterday she was practically in tears in Burke's office over Castle's distant behavior. They're definitely not in a relationship and, whatever she just experienced, it wasn't real.

But one thing is abundantly clear: she needs to talk to Castle. Whatever has come between them these last three weeks, whatever is causing him to pull away… she needs to confront him. They need to sort this out. She's spent the better part of the last year painstakingly dismantling the wall around her heart so they can be together, and she's not about to give up without a fight. Especially not now. Not after… that. It's always been eventual with him. Hypothetical. Hazy visions of a distant future that never quite coalesced.

But now…

It's no longer imaginary. She was there. She felt the joy, the passion, the tenderness. She basked in the love – not the secret, subdued love that's been simmering beneath the surface for the past eleven months. No, this was Castle with his heart wide open, the two of them encapsulated by a love that was fiercer and more all-encompassing than she ever thought possible. It was unlike anything she's ever experienced, and she wants to feel it again. She wants it so badly it hurts. Wherever she went, whatever bizarre daydream world she was in, she needs it to not be a dream. She needs it to be her reality.

She's done with walls. And she's done waiting.


Twenty minutes later Kate is standing outside the loft, one hand poised to ring the buzzer and the other clutching the medallion for… courage? She's not exactly sure, but she can't seem to release her hold on the mysterious artifact. After all, she wouldn't be here right now without it.

She hesitates, finger hovering in front of the button; maybe this is a terrible idea. What is she even supposed to say?

Hey Castle, I just got back from this future where you and I were together and it was intense and amazing, and I know you don't have feelings for me anymore but I think we should give it a shot.

Even in her own head, she sounds ridiculous.

She shouldn't be here. Castle has moved on and it's time for her to do the same. Clearly it was never meant to be. She can scarcely imagine a future without him, but maybe she'll ultimately be better off.

Kate drops her arm and is turning away from the loft when the floor falls out from under her and she's plopped unceremoniously into a chair. As her vision clears, she finds herself at her desk at the precinct, surrounded by case files. Her phone is ringing, and she automatically fishes it from beneath a stack of papers and raises it to her ear. "Beckett."

It's Esposito, relaying the address of a new crime scene, and she digs up a sticky note and a pen and jots it down. It's only as she's ending the call that she notices; Castle's chair is missing. And the man himself is nowhere to be found. She turns in her chair, searching the entire precinct but finding no sign of him.

Kate returns her attention to her phone, dials his number. It rings a few times before sending her to his answering machine, so she leaves a message. "Hey Castle, it's Beckett. We caught a case, I'll text you the address."

Her phone vibrates in her back pocket a minute later as she's zipping her jacket. Presumably it's his reply to her text, but she pulls it out to check just in case it's from someone else. It's not. It's from him. But the message on her screen is entirely unexpected.

I think you have the wrong number.

Is this Richard Castle? She messages back, abandoning her search for her keys.

Yes. Who is this?

It's Beckett.

I'm sorry, I don't know any Beckett.

She furrows her brow. It's not April Fools' Day, but maybe he's playing a prank on her? Kate dials his number again and is relieved to hear his voice on the other end of the line. "Hello?"

"Hey Castle, it's Beckett."

"The person who just texted me," he states.

She frowns. "Yeah, are you coming?"

"Coming where?" he asks. "I don't know who you are or why you texted me your address."

"It's not my address, it's our crime scene."

"Crime scene?"

She pulls the phone away from her ear, looks at the screen. It's definitely his voice and his phone number. Yet he seems… serious. As though he actually doesn't know who she is or what she's talking about. And when she puts the phone back to her ear, she's met with nothing but silence. He hung up on her? Kate furrows her brow, continues to stare at the device. As though if she looks hard enough, this will all begin to make sense. But no. She's got nothing. Unless…

Maybe he's in trouble? Oh, God. What if someone has a gun to his head and this is his way of sending her a message? It's the only explanation that makes sense.

She runs a trace on his phone and it comes back with the address of his loft. She dashes to the stairwell, no time to wait for the elevator, takes the stairs two, sometimes three at a time. She practically leaps into her cruiser, tears out of the parking garage with her sirens blazing and speeds across town to the loft. She bypasses the elevator once again, racing up the stairs as fast as she can and pounding on the door. It swings open a moment later, and she's never been so grateful to see Castle's face.

"Oh, thank God you're okay."

One hand is still on the door handle and he braces the other against the frame, assesses her with uncertainty. "Do I know you?"

Kate leans forward, attempts to catch a glimpse inside, but she can't see beyond the foyer and he makes no move to grant her entrance. "Castle, what's going on with you? Is there… are you in trouble?"

"Why would I be in trouble?" he asks, holding his ground.

She slides her gun back into its holster. "Because you're acting like you don't know who I am."

He narrows his eyes, clears his throat. "I, uh, don't know who you are."

"Castle, it's me."

He merely shakes his head. Kate places both hands on her hips, regards him with obvious disapproval. "Seriously?"

"Your voice…" he pauses. "You're the woman who just called me."

"Okay, that's enough. I'm calling Ryan and Esposito."


She doesn't answer and he watches in confusion as she pulls out her phone, dials a number and then says, "Hey, it's me. Meet me at Castle's place." A pause and then, "What? Of course you do." Another silence. "Guys, stop messing around. This has gone far enough."

Castle can just barely hear a male's voice on the other end of the line, but he can't make out the words. Judging by her apparent bewilderment as the call abruptly ends, though, he gathers that he's not the only one confused by this series of events.

Kate slowly pockets her phone, and when she finally meets his eyes again hers are filled with tears. "Castle, why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

His words are so detached, not even a glimmer of recognition in his eyes, and it's the final straw. A few tears spill over and she can't find the will to stop them. "I know you're upset with me, but don't you think this is taking it a little far?"

"Taking what a little far? Are you sure you're okay?"

She flings her arms into the air in exasperation. "You're the one acting like we've never met."

"Okay, I'm calling the cops. I don't know who you are, but…"

Kate pulls out her badge. "I am the cops."

He studies it for a moment, returns his gaze to her face, and the disbelief is evident. "Right, um, look. You've clearly had a rough night. I don't know what you want from me, but I think you should go."

He really wants to play it like this? Like he's never met her before? Fine. She'll walk away and never contact him again and maybe somehow she'll find the strength to erase him from her life as completely as he's apparently expunged her. But not until he gives her an explanation. At the minimum, he owes her that.

"What did I do?" Kate asks after a long moment, shoving her hands into her jacket pockets. "I promise after this I'll leave you alone, since that's what you clearly want. We can pretend the last three years never happened. But I deserve an explanation."

He's still staring at her with a blank look in his eyes. "Three years?"

She opens her mouth to speak, finds herself completely at a loss for words. Does he really hate her so much that he can't even acknowledge the existence of their partnership?

"I don't know what you want from me," he finally replies. "I'm sorry. I hope you find the explanation you're looking for."

He steps back and begins to close the door. "Rick, please." He hesitates slightly, but it's enough for Kate to seize what is undeniably her last chance to get through to him. "I'm in love with you," she chokes out, barely more than a whisper. "And if any part of you still feels the same about me, please just… give me another chance. Give us a chance."

"I think you should go," he replies flatly. And then he's closing the door and she hears the deadbolt click into place with heart-wrenching finality. Kate turns and presses her back against the cold metal, sinks to the floor and buries her face in her hands as the emotions come flooding out with the force of a hurricane. She's sobbing so hard her chest hurts, tears streaming down her face and soaking her clothes, and she's utterly powerless to stop them.

She never imagined this is how it would end.

She just wants her partner back.


The thought has barely crossed her mind when the door opens behind her and she tumbles backwards into the unsuspecting legs of…


"Beckett?" He leans forward and glances out into the hallway, then down to the woman inexplicably strewn across his feet. "What, uh, are you doing here?"

Kate picks herself up, takes stock of her surroundings. "I'm actually not sure." She vaguely remembers coming here earlier but she's not sure why she was sitting on the floor.

"What's in your hand?"

She follows his gaze to her left hand, still clutching the medallion, and suddenly it all comes rushing back.

"It's, uh, from the case."

"Why do you have it?"

Kate hesitates. Unbelievable or not, she has to explain this to him. She just has absolutely no idea where to start.

"Can we sit?" she asks, buying herself some time.

"Uh, sure."

Castle closes the door and follows her to the living room. She sets her jacket on the coffee table, places the artifact carefully on top of it before sinking into the corner of the sofa. After recent events, the familiarity of being here in the loft – the real loft, with the real Castle – is a welcome relief. Castle wordlessly settles into the next cushion over, waits for her to speak. It's then that she realizes: no matter the uncertain state of things between them, he's still a novelist. He craves the story. So she starts from the beginning. Castle listens dutifully, his face initially blank, but as the story unfolds he leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, captured by the intrigue.

"Where did it take you?" he finally asks.

"I, uh," she hesitates, "to two different… I don't know. Futures?"

"You… time traveled?" Castle sits back in obvious disbelief. "Okay, this is clearly a dream."

"It's not," she says hastily while he pinches himself in the arm, lets out a yelp, and apparently comes to the same conclusion.

"You – Kate Beckett – traveled into the future?"

"The future, a parallel universe, alternate reality, whatever," she rattles off. "Look, that's not the point."

"Then what is?"

"In one of the…" she pauses, clearly debating her word choice, "universes, you and I had never met," she begins. "And in the other, we were…" she lowers her voice and averts her eyes, "together."

"Together?" he echoes. "As in… together together?"

Kate nods.

"What happened?"

"Well, in the together one we were," she twirls her wrist a couple times, "you know."

Castle looks away, clears his throat.

"In the other one, I showed up at your place and you had no idea who I was. It was like our partnership never happened. I kept trying to explain but you just thought I was crazy. "

"I see," he replies, and she can't decide from his tone if he's becoming disinterested or has decided she's making the whole thing up.

"You ended up turning me away," Kate continues. It's not like she has anything left to lose by sharing the rest of the story, so she presses on. "And I just… broke."

"Broke?" This seems to have at least somewhat recaptured his attention.

"I collapsed in the hallway," she gestures toward the door, "and started sobbing uncontrollably. It hurt so badly I couldn't move." She shakes her head sadly. "I don't ever want to feel that way again."

"Well we've" he gestures between them, "met in this universe, so…"

"But the worst part..." she shakes her head sadly, trails off with a heavy sigh. Her adrenaline is fading rapidly, and reliving these awful memories is leaving her raw and exposed. Her courage seems to be vanishing as well.

"Kate?" he prompts.

"I was trying to convince you that it was real and I told you," her voice trembles and the words catch in her throat, "that I love you," she manages. "And then you shut the door in my face."

Castle doesn't speak right away and the silence stretches uncomfortably.

"You, uh," he finally clears his throat, "really?"

"Really," she affirms, offers a tentative smile.

"In this universe too?"

Kate chokes out something resembling a laugh. "Yes."

She watches his eyes fill with hope and her heart flutters happily, but then the hesitance creeps in around the edges and her heart tumbles into a free-fall. This can't be… it's happening again? He's going to turn her away? Or is she actually in yet another alternate reality? But then his hands are cupping her jaw and his lips are on hers, and it feels just as incredible as she remembers from a few hours – days? – ago. She's lost all concept of time. Not that it matters. Castle is kissing her; she really doesn't care about anything else.

"I'm sorry," he whispers as he breaks the kiss. "For the way I've been acting."

"It's okay," she assures him. It's not exactly, but they can talk about it later. Kate lowers her head to the crook of his neck, feels the warmth of Castle's cheek as he leans against the top of her head. His arms find their way around her, holding her close.

"This is the medallion?" he asks after a long moment. She lifts her head to follow his line of sight, nods. "How does it work?"

"Well, right before the second reality I was wondering if maybe I'd be better off without you."

"So it reads your thoughts and brings them to life?"

She shrugs. "Something like that."

"Hmmm." Castle pauses, considers. "So what were you thinking before the first one?"

Kate lifts her head, fixes him with a glare. Sort of. But she can feel herself blushing furiously and is forced to abandon her feigned annoyance. "Shut up."

He waggles his eyebrows and she purses her lips, but after a moment he turns serious again. "I'm glad it brought you back to this universe."

She smiles softly. "Me too."

"And I'm sorry that alternate universe me turned you away."

"I mean," she admits with a tilt of her head and a shrug of one shoulder, "if you were the one who showed up at my door, I'd have done the same."

"Well, if you ever end up in another universe…" he's grinning again, eyes twinkling with mischief, and Kate preemptively swats his chest. Castle captures her hand before it can fall away, cradles it over his heart, and she can feel it beating wildly beneath her palm. "Just know that I love you in all of them."