California Dreams

A/N: So, the Prompt Overlord strikes again. Instead of getting another chapter of Reparer ready for Castle Fanfic Monday, I *had* to write this thing. Prompt will be at the end, so no spoilers

Credit for opening quote - page/3x22+Transcript

Chapter 1 – An unscheduled detour.


They're in first class again; this time she has the window seat. CASTLE sleeps next to her as she reads ROYCE'S letter again.

'And now for the hard part, kid. It's clear that you and Castle have something real and you're fighting it. But trust me, putting the job ahead of your heart is a mistake. Risking our hearts is why we're alive. The last thing you want is to look back on your life and wonder IF ONLY.'

Kate considers this and looks towards the man sleeping next to her. She thinks for a long moment, just taking in the presence of CASTLE next to her before she folds up ROYCE'S letter. She smiles, conflicted. Maybe he was right. And now it's her turn to do something about it.

Kate continued to think while watching her partner sleep. The plane had only just taken off, had not even reached cruising altitude yet, and he was dead to the world. She briefly wondered how much sleep he'd had the night before, if he'd heard any of her phone conversation with Josh at 2 am. She had texted her boyfriend as soon as she returned to her room after finding the lounge empty and Castle's door just closing, knowing it was best if she ended things, and not wanting to wait until she got home, as delaying the inevitable would have hurt them both.

Josh had been understandably upset, first that she was in LA without letting him know she was flying across the country, then that Castle was with her, and finally that she was breaking off their relationship over the phone. Of course he asked if it was because of Castle, because he had always been jealous of her non-cop partner. Kate wouldn't lie to him, so she didn't want to deny it, but her hesitation was enough confirmation as far as Josh was concerned.

Josh wished Kate a happy life, his voice full of anger, then he hung up. Kate stared at the phone, but all she felt was relief, which told her exactly how invested she had been in that relationship. Josh had been fun to start with, telling her funny stories from his DWB trips and going on long motorbike rides with her, and she enjoyed the look of chagrin on Castle's face when Josh came to meet her at the precinct. But she figured out fairly quickly that she still had one foot out the door, protecting her heart from Josh, never committing to more than the occasional meal or booty call. He didn't even have a key to her place, although he had hinted a few times it would be easier if he could prepare a meal for her when she was working a case and he was off shift. And after she overheard Castle break up with Gina, their catch ups became even less frequent, Kate always finding a reason to stay back at the precinct, or attend a movie night at the Castle loft, when Josh said he was free. Kate closed her eyes, let out a long sigh of relief, and let it go. Even so, sleep was a long time coming, and she barely had 4 hours before she felt the urgent need to get up and solve Royce's murder.

Now she recalled Castle's words on the lounge, being amazed by the depths of her strength, her heart and her hotness. The look in his eyes as he stared at her was so much more than pure lust, although there was a healthy dose of that present. She dared not put a label on it, but he obviously wanted more with her than just a romp in the sheets. But how much more? And what was it that she wanted from him? Kate had always considered herself a one and done kind of girl, so the man she was going to marry would be the last man she ever loved. Of course, two years ago, she would never even have thought about the man she would someday marry, and privately she could admit that change of heart was all Castle's influence. When she watched him interact with Alexis and his mother, she could see the amazing man he actually was under the playboy façade he had hidden behind for so long. But then she considered his romantic history - two failed marriages, a string of meaningless flings - and she wondered if he was capable of maintaining a long term relationship at all. The fact of the matter was, she knew too little about Castle to jump into anything with him, and she would need to find out his background, while reciprocating with some more of hers, before they could proceed. But how to even start that conversation?

Her musings were abruptly cut short when the plane shuddered, and suddenly lost altitude. She could hear murmurings in the galley up front, and then another shudder ran through the plane, this one strong enough to shake Castle from his sleep. He was disoriented for a moment, recalling his surroundings, but he reached straight over and clutched her hand where her nails dug into the arm rest. By instinct she put her other hand over the top of his, and they looked at each other just as the PA system kicked in. The Co-pilot told them one of the engines had seized, and the backup motor that would have allowed them to continue failed to start. As a result, they would need to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport, and another plane would be sent to collect the passengers and take them on to their destinations. Hearing some shouted questions, the Purser came on and advised that more information would be made available as soon as possible, but the flight crew needed to concentrate on grounding the plane first. She asked everyone to remain seated with seatbelts fastened, and advised that cabin crew would bring around complimentary drinks for all passengers.

Being left to themselves, Kate and Castle just stared at each other for a moment, wondering if this was another of those near death experiences they had become so good at. For Kate especially it was a reminder that life was not a guarantee, and she didn't want to keep wondering 'if only'. When the drinks cart came around, she ordered vodka, and following her raised eyebrow, so did Castle. The spirit burned her throat on the way down, but it felt good as it carried away her hesitation and gave her an opening for the conversation she hoped would mark the beginning of the next stage in their relationship.

"Well, Castle, it seems our return home is going to be delayed. How on earth will we fill in the time?" She deliberately put a sultry challenge in her voice, knowing he would not be able to resist.

"Oh, Beckett, I have a few suggestions. The question is, are you up for the challenge?"

"Bring it on, old man!" She smirked, knowing that particular insult would have the desired effect.

"I'll show you old, Beckett! Just you wait until we get on the ground, I'll run rings around you!"

"How about you put your money where your mouth is, old man?" Kate continued teasing him, and she could see by the twinkle in his eyes he was enjoying the banter, and it was taking both their minds off the current situation. Castle stopped to think for a minute, then nodded to himself and replied, a smug grin on his face.

"Lanie once told me not to get onto a drinking contest with you, because you would drink me under the table. Having seen you tipsy after a couple of cocktails at the Old Haunt, I think she was pulling my leg. Let's have a round of 20 Answers, and the winner gets 20 questions to ask the loser. What do you say, Detective?"

"Twenty answers? Are you drunk already, Castle?"

"Not at all. Rather than asking questions, we take turns telling each other a fact that we know about the other. If my answer is correct, you have to take a drink. If it's not correct, I take a drink. The person who has consumed the least amount of alcohol, wins."

Kate considered his proposed game, knowing that she could indeed hold her liquor, especially if they were only drinking one type of spirit and not mixed cocktails, and also knowing that Castle would be correct about a lot of the things he would offer her, having become an expert on Kate Beckett, despite her best efforts at hiding from him and everyone else around her. She was about to agree to the contest, when the stewardess came back on the PA, Announcing they were about to land at McCarran International, and asking all the passengers to assume the brace position. Hotels had been arranged for everyone, and buses would meet the plane to convey them all to the strip. Kate glanced at Castle and nodded to accept the challenge, but no words were spoken, both understanding they needed to make it to ground safely first. They both lent forward into the brace position, but their hands remained tightly interlinked