I've written multiple 3x22 scenarios, but this was definitely a new one. Still slowly working my way through all the prompts you guys have sent me; feel free to message me at any time ( dmarx711 on twitter, dmarx on tumblr) with ideas and suggestions!

#24: What if… Castle wakes up on the plane in 3x22 while Kate is re-reading Royce's letter, and things progress between them?

Prompt by Kate

Castle wakes with a kink in his neck. Even in first class, airplane seats aren't exactly a comfortable place to sleep. He tilts his head from side to side, twists his chin to his left shoulder, then his right… and finds Kate watching him, eyes full of something that almost resembles tender adoration.

"Hey," he offers, voice rough with sleep.

She smiles softly. She's been quiet since the takedown on the beach, and when she speaks he can still hear the sadness in her voice. "Hey."

"How long was I out?"

"Half an hour maybe?"

He lifts a hand to his neck, fingertips pressing against the knotted muscles, working them loose. When his arm drops back to his lap, her eyes are still on him.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," he answers automatically. "You?"

"I will be." She doesn't exactly sound convincing.

"Anything I can do to help?"

"You already flew to LA."

"Yeah, but that was just because I wanted to see you in a swimsuit." He waggles his eyebrows and she rolls her eyes. But it's not out of annoyance; her lips are pursed and she's fighting a smile. "Worth it, by the way." Her smile breaks free, and though she's no longer holding his gaze, he can see the amusement in her eyes. Mission accomplished.

But as quickly as it appeared it vanishes, and the sadness returns. "Really, Castle," she murmurs after a moment. "Thank you for coming with me."

He bites back the word he wants to say, replaces it with something more benign. "You're welcome."

Kate tosses him one final glance before turning away, retreating into her thoughts. Castle doesn't speak, doesn't push, but he won't let himself go back to sleep either. Not while there's a chance he might be able to be a source of comfort. She's staring at her hands now and he follows her gaze, noticing for the first time the folded square of paper gripped tightly in her fingers. He recognizes it as the letter Lanie found in Royce's pocket. He's not sure how much time passes as he sits in silent sentinel, but when she sniffles softly and hastily swipes at her cheek, he can no longer remain quiet.

"You miss him." It's not a question.

She nods.

Castle hesitates, has to clear his throat to get the words out. "Can I ask you something?"

Kate lifts her chin, meets his eyes. She looks wary, probably anticipating a personal question; after all, he doesn't usually seek permission. Nonetheless, she offers a small nod.

"The case – the jewel heist," he begins, waits for another nod before continuing. "When you were on the phone with him. It wasn't an act, was it?"

Her eyes fall back to her lap and this time, the curtain of her hair obscures her face. Her chest expands and contracts deeply, shakily, and it's a long moment before she responds. "No."

"You loved him."

She nods, swipes at another escaped tear. "But we never… you know."

"He didn't feel the same?"

"Not…" she swallows hard and he can see she's struggling to force the words out. "Not in a romantic way."

"I'm sorry," he whispers. It's so inane, but what else can he say?

"It wouldn't have been a healthy relationship."

"No," he agrees. But he still feels her pain, wishes there was something he could do to soften the hurt. He's all too familiar with the ache of unrequited love.

Silence falls then. He's surprised she's allowed the conversation to go this far, knows it's only because this case has torn her apart and shattered her defenses. So he's caught off guard when she speaks again.

"He apologized," Kate murmurs, wiggling her hand to draw attention to letter as she speaks.

"Good, that's good."

She nods half-heartedly. "I just wish…" she trails off, shakes her head sadly. "I don't know."

Castle takes a chance, risks the gentle sprawl of his right hand over her left thigh. Her muscles briefly tighten beneath his touch before loosening once more, and she covers his hand with her own. Kate follows the movement with her eyes and he follows her, loses himself in the gentle curve of her thigh beneath his palm, the softness of her touch, the caress of her thumb as she sweeps it back and forth along the line of his pinky.

"He mentioned you too."

Castle's brain has drifted so far from their conversation that he has to spend a moment backtracking through his thoughts. Kate wiggles the letter again, draws him back to her.


He hesitates. Part of him doesn't want to ask, doesn't want to know. What if Royce didn't like him? Or thought he wasn't good enough to be her partner in any sense of the word? Despite how things ended between them, he knows Royce's opinions hold weight. He also doesn't want to pry any more than he already has.

But curiosity ultimately wins out. "What, uh, did he say?"

The anxiety must play across his face because she curls her fingers, gently squeezes his hand. "Relax, Castle, it's nothing bad."

Kate releases her grip and he reluctantly slides his hand from her thigh, already mourning the loss of contact. She carefully unfolds the letter; it's two pages, he can see now, both of them almost entirely filled with Royce's words. She peels off the back sheet, folds it in half the other direction and, after a moment of hesitation, extends it to him, bottom half of the page facing up.

"Last paragraph," she offers by way of permission.

Castle forces his hands to remain calm as he takes it from her and drops his eyes to her TO's final words. It's not a long paragraph, only six sentences, and he reaches the end quickly. He closes his eyes for a long moment, opens them and reads it again. And again. Royce noticed. Despite how little time they spent together, he noticed. It's not entirely surprising; he's far from the first person to comment on their relationship. What is surprising is that Kate is willingly sharing this with him.

He can see her watching him out of the corner of his eye. Nervously. Her lip is trapped between her teeth and she's clinging tightly to the other half of the letter. He knows he should say something, anything, to break the tension, but his brain is still fixated on Royce's words.

It's clear you and Castle have something real. And you're fighting it.

It's a long moment before he gathers the courage to speak. He turns to her and she holds his gaze only briefly before glancing away. "Do you, uh, think he's right?"

Kate swallows hard, lips pressed into a tight line. "Maybe."

Castle hums in reply.

"Do you?"

"Yes." Her eyes are wide when they meet his, bright with panic but brimming with something he thinks might be hope. "I meant what I said yesterday." He gestures between them. "This isn't just physical attraction for me. It's more. It's…" he hesitates, briefly debates downplaying the strength of his feelings but ultimately decides against it, "a lot more."

She opens her mouth to reply, closes it and averts her gaze. "I'm not asking for anything," he adds quickly. She's been so open with him these last two days, so much more than ever before, and he doesn't want that to change. "Not right now. I'm just giving you my honest answer."

"I…" Kate stammers. She still won't look at him, but her words render his concerns irrelevant. "For me too."

"So let's stop fighting it."

She wants to. God, how she wants to. If only he knew how many times she almost has in the past year. After 3XK. After their kiss. After the radiation scare and the freezer and the bomb. Last night. Last summer.

Her fluttering heart grinds to a halt.

She still remembers the pain of watching Castle walk away arm-in-arm with his ex-wife. It's eerily similar to the pain of Royce turning her down that December night so many years before. The sympathy in his eyes as he softly shook his head. His apology. Her tears. Since her mother's death, he was the first man – the only man – she'd ever fallen in love with. The only man to break her heart. Until Castle.

Kate startles at the realization. Castle. She's in love with him.

She's not entirely sure how or when it happened, but it's suddenly so obvious. They're more than friends, more than partners. So much more. In retrospect, she thinks they have been for a while. Clearly Royce thought so.


She doesn't want to feel that pain ever again. His rejection. His betrayal. But Castle isn't rejecting her and he's never betrayed her. He's hurt her. He's done the wrong thing for the right reasons. But she understands now that it wasn't intentional. And last summer… that was as much her fault as it was his. She wanted to be mad at him for giving up so easily and going back to his ex-wife, but mostly she was mad at herself. For turning him down. For waiting too long. For being too stubborn to see what was right in front of her until it was too late. But all the anger in the world never lessened her pain. And if they separated now – whether their partnership was romantic or not – she knows the pain would return with a vengeance.

Castle is watching her. She can feel his eyes on her; observing, reading, waiting. For her reply. She chews on her lower lip, anxiously awaiting a victory in the battle between her head and her heart.

For the first time in a long time, neither one seems to be prevailing.

"I don't know how," Kate finally confesses, so soft and timid. So unlike her. When she finally meets his eyes – briefly and tentatively – Castle understands. He can see it all in their depths. She's afraid.

"We just let it happen," he answers.

She shakes her head. "It's never that easy."

"It won't always be," he concedes. "But when it's real, it's worth the effort."

It's a long moment before she speaks again. "I never really do real."

"Neither do I." Castle reaches for her free hand, captures it in his own. "So we'll figure it out together."

She doesn't reply, the silence protracted and increasingly painful. After a full minute Castle releases her hand, returns his to his lap. Resigned.

"Okay," she finally murmurs.

His eyes widen in surprise. Did he hear her correctly? "Okay?"

Kate nods, and when she turns to meet his eyes again she looks a little less tentative, a little more certain. "Okay."

Castle's lips spread into a smile. He can't stop himself, and he feels his grin widen when she offers a small smile of her own in return. He extends the second half of her letter and she takes it from him, carefully flattening it out, stacking it with the first page and folding them together. The creases are sharp, worn. He wonders how many times she's read it.

Kate bends forward to slide it back into her bag and when she sits back she leans into his side, rests her head on his shoulder. Castle wriggles his arm out from between them, slips it around behind her. He curls his fingers around her opposite shoulder, presses a kiss to the top of her head, and Kate relaxes against him.

He has no intention of rushing this. She's exhausted and she's grieving, and her openness with him on this trip is proof positive of just how vulnerable she is right now. He loves her far too much to take advantage of that. He can be patient. He can wait for her to put the pieces of her heart back together.

For now, Kate Beckett is using him as a pillow and he is more than happy to oblige.