Written for the Castle Fic Fest on LJ. And probably very, very late, though there technically was no time limit. But I got distracted. Also, my Castle muse is often difficult. I apologize profusely to floatingamoeba since it's been over a month since the original prompt. But I got around to it eventually, see? I didn't forget. It doesn't help that I seem to be incapable of writing anything short for this show. Prompt was "Whatever Happened to the Dreamers?" by Jack Savoretti. Excerpts in the fic are from the same song.

I own neither Castle, its characters, nor the song.

xxxxx

Whatever Happened to the Dreamers?

xxxxx

Some people live in their heads.

Some only a little, some closer to a lot.

They aren't necessarily interested in the practicalities of life. They're looking at things the way they could, would, should be.

Who are these people, these dreamers?

Some of them become scientists, making fabulous discoveries, or never-before-even imagined inventions. They change the world as we know it. All because they thought to ask a question.

Others become artists. Painting the world in a way it'd never been seen, or maybe just the visions in their head, and giving people a whole other way of looking at the world.

Some write. They create characters, sometimes whole worlds from out of their heads. Then they let others escape to those places whenever they read those dreams.

Some are still children, perfectly content to live in a world where the animals talk, if we would only listen hard enough. Where Prince Charming is going to ride up on that white horse... any minute now. Where aliens from outer space will attack, and have to be fought off with a magical laser beam (or a stick, whichever's closer).

Others just hope. They go through life confident that one day the world will be better, that people aren't all horrible at heart, that today really is a good day.

And the rest?

What about the rest of those elusive dreamers?

Most of them aren't really dreamers anymore.

They've had their dreams crushed one too many times. By people they trusted. By people they didn't even know. By chance.

By reality.

And eventually they had to stop dreaming. Because it was just too painful.

Sadly, they might be the largest group of all.

xxxxx

Whatever happened to the dreamers
They always look beyond the sky

xxxxx

"What're you doing Katie?"

"Fighting the dragon," six-year old Kate told her mother airily as she ducked under and around her bedroom window in an intricate series of movements. "He's purple. And he's trying to get in my bedroom window."

"Is he?" her mother asked with a smile.

"Yup," the young girl asked. "He's trying to capture Teddy."

"Poor Teddy!" her mother gasped.

Kate stopped her movements abruptly. She turned to her mother. "It's just pretend, Mommy," she assured the older woman with an exaggerated sigh. "Don't worry."

"I know sweetheart," her mother assured her gently. "And anyway, I bet you're fierce enough to protect Teddy from a silly old dragon. Even if he is purple."

Kate nodded happily, before resuming her sentry duties. "Yeah, I've got a sword and a shield. He won't get past me. I'll protect Teddy. I'll protect you and Daddy too. Just like in my book."

"Excellent," her mother said. "Hey, how about I make my knight protector a little snack? All this guarding must be making you hungry."

Kate turned quickly. "Okay!" she said cheerfully. "Can I have cookies?"

"I guess you can have one cookie, with your carrots. Since you're protecting the whole family."

"OKay."

Joanna Beckett shook her head indulgently, "I'll be back in minute Lady Knight."

Young Kate didn't hear her. She was too busy keeping a keen eye on the sky. Purple dragons could be tricky after all.

They didn't trouble Kate too much though. Because in the end she'd protect everyone.

xxxxx

"Do you really not know who your father is?" a very pretty teenage girl asked fifteen-year old Richard Castle in awe.

Rick smiled, recognizing a captive audience (and deciding to take full advantage). "Well, not officially," he said pretending to be self-conscious, and adding just the right amount of mystery to the statement.

His bait worked. "Officially?" asked Melanie (only the prettiest girl in the Hamptons that summer, in Rick's opinion at least), instantly curious.

Rick made a bit of a show of looking around to make sure they weren't being overheard. "Well," he drawled. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this..."

"What?" poor, gullible, Melanie gasped. "I won't tell anyone, I promise."

"It's just that," Rick explained slowly. "I was in my mother's room one day, looking for something, I can't remember what now. I think she'd asked me to get her something or whatever. It doesn't matter. Anyway, I opened the drawer of her bedside table, to look for it, y'know?"

"Yeah?" Melanie prompted.

"It wasn't in there," Rick told her seriously. "Just some papers, a book. Then I saw something poking out from the back of the drawer. Now, I know I shouldn't have looked, but come on, who wouldn't be curious?"

Melanie nodded in agreement. Who hadn't poked around in a drawer they shouldn't have at least once? She'd nearly been caught looking at her mother's emerald earrings just the week before. "And?"

"And what?" Rick asked, knowing that drawing out the story as long as possible was important.

"And what was it?" Melanie asked, beginning to get impatient.

"Letters," Rick confirmed.

"Letters?" his audience of one asked in disbelief.

"Yeah," he said. "All written in some weird sort of code. Addressed to my mother, from 'A friend.' Plus, there was a weird looking pen and a strange passport belonging to a man I've never met before in my life."

Melanie may have been one of the prettiest girls he'd met all summer, but she definitely wasn't the smartest. Her forehead furrowed in confusion, "What do you think it means?"

"Melanie," Rick said, taking her hand. "I think, that it means, that maybe, just maybe, my father was a spy."

Her eyes widened in surprise, "Really?"

"It all makes sense!" Rick insisted enthusiastically, really getting into the story himself now. "Why my mother mysteriously can't remember my father's name, or at the very least won't tell me? She probably can't; it might put both of them in danger. Add that to the weird code, the passport, the strange pen that was probably some sort of a gadget. And later, when I tried to find it all again to examine it more closely, it was gone, just disappeared."

"Wow."

"I know, but you can't tell anyone," Rick said. "What if it blows his cover?"

"Oh, I won't," Melanie promised him earnestly. "You can trust me Rick."

"I'm glad," he told her with his best attempt at a charming grin. He'd been practicing it in the mirror and didn't think it was too bad.

"That is so cool," Melanie asked, still caught up in the story. "Do you think, he like, goes on missions and stuff?"

"Probably," Rick agreed with a casual shrug. "Hey, you doing anything right now?"

"Well, I was thinking of going to the beach for a while..." Melanie said slowly, obviously hoping he was about to suggest something more interesting.

He didn't disappoint. "Why don't you let me buy you an ice cream?"

"Sure," she agreed. Now it was her turn to send him her best smile. "Wow. You're the son of a spy."

"Maybe," Rick said, attempting to be humble. "Remember, it's all just guessing."

His companion nodded, "Right, still..."

And with that, Richard Castle led the pretty blonde over the ice cream shop.

Okay, so he'd been lying through his teeth about the coded message and the passport and everything. But he really didn't know who his father was, and he'd been convincing. Anyway, Melanie'd never know. And now he had a date.

Clearly this whole telling stories thing had its benefits.

Besides, his father really could be a spy. There was no way of knowing, not unless his mother's memory magically improved one day.

Until that day came, his father could be anyone.

So why not pretend he was someone fabulous and interesting and different?

Richard Castle figured that if he had to dream up a past for his father, he may as well make it a good one.

xxxxx

Where are they now
They've all left town
Bringing the clouds

xxxxx

Kate'd been planning on being a teacher.

Teaching kids. High school students really, so calling them young adults was probably more accurate. She'd wanted to teach English lit, and maybe history or some of the more specialized courses, like philosophy or law.

She'd wanted to help them learn to think, to teach them about the world. She remembered her favourite high school English teacher, Mrs. Winters. The woman who'd taught her to have a little more confidence in her own abilities, who'd helped her believe in how smart she actually was.

And Kate had decided she wanted to be that person, that teacher to another student sometime in the future.

Naively she'd wanted to make a difference.

God that sounded trite.

And it all seemed so very pointless now.

What did becoming a teacher matter after your mother got murdered? And your Dad started slowly falling off the edge? And nothing about any of it made any sense?

Kate Beckett had already been through all the details of what happened more times than she could count. She'd used that intelligence, that ability to see look beyond the surface that Mrs. Winters had praised so highly in her junior year, and she'd realized that something just didn't add up.

She didn't know what it was yet. But something was wrong.

And she knew that someone had to catch her mother's killer.

The local cops obviously weren't going to do it. They couldn't see past the end of their noses. (Mrs. Winters would have thrown up her hands in defeat at them.)

Kate tossed all her brochures for teacher's college in the recycling with a thud. She didn't get to live in some fantasy world anymore, one with happy little dreams and illusions where people were generally good and helped each other and everything turned out just like it should.

Now she lived in a world where wonderful, innocent, good people were shot down on the street for no apparent reason, and there was nothing anyone could do about. They couldn't even catch the killer.

Kate'd gotten a hard dose of reality the second the police officer waiting at her parents door had opened his mouth.

Murder. Her life was about murder now. Nobody could make that better. Nobody could take that back.

You always heard about the dark side of the city on the news, but it'd always seemed so unconnected with her life. It was the sort of thing other people dealt with. Not her.

Well, she couldn't ignore it anymore. That was her world now, that horrible, terrifying world modern society had created.

And she wasn't going to hide from it, not like her father, trying to bury the pain. Kate had no intention of pretending the darkness didn't exist. She knew that wouldn't work. This would never go away.

She needed to embrace it. Become it.

Forget foolish fantasy, do something practical, fight back.

She wouldn't be able to be an English teacher now. And she certainly couldn't guide the next generation along their path.

She didn't even know who she was anymore.

xxxxx

She was gone. She'd just left. Actually left.

And she hadn't just gone back to her mother's or moved to the other side of the city or something. That hadn't been far enough.

Nope. Kyra Blaine, the love of his life, had decided that the only way to get enough distance from him was to get on a plan and fly to another continent. All the way across the ocean.

She'd just gotten on a plane and told him not to follow her.

It was a hell of a way to send a message.

Well, message received, Kyra, Rick thought to himself, raising his glass of scotch in a mock toast to his empty apartment.

He was planning on getting mind-numbingly drunk. And he didn't want company.

Unless it was her.

But she wasn't coming. She didn't want him. She needed time, space, distance.

He may have wanted her. But apparently he wasn't what she wanted.

Rick felt the self-pity settle into his stomach along with the whiskey.

He hadn't been good enough in the end. Not for her, definitely not for her mother.

And she wasn't coming back. Because this wasn't one of those cheesy romantic comedies she'd forced him to watch while they sat curled up together on the couch. There wasn't going to be a knock on the door. He wasn't going to lurch over to it, red-rimmed eyes, tiredness apparent in every step, only to open it and reveal the last person he'd ever expected to see on the other side. And she wouldn't be standing there, hair sopping wet because she hadn't been able to get a taxi in the rain (it was always raining in those movies), because she hadn't run half the way to his apartment. Then she wasn't going to tell him that she'd been wrong, and that they could work out their problems, that she loved him, and that she'd stay.

Then, to complete the scene, he wouldn't kiss her like his life depended on it, shut the door, and presumably drag her into the bedroom (he wasn't quite fit enough to scoop her up into his arms, especially with the influence of the whiskey), accompanied by some kind of charmingly witty comment.

And they wouldn't live happily ever after.

Kyra had been his first love. Sure, he'd had other girlfriends before, but she'd been the first one who'd mattered, the one he'd thought would maybe be permanent.

He'd been busy building his own little castles in the air about the whole thing. Sure, her family had disapproved. They thought he was just some no-account ne'er-do-well who'd never amount to anything. And he'd been so sure win them over eventually. He'd already published four novels, and his sales were good. His advances were bound to keep getting bigger and bigger. Soon he'd be able to really support their daughter in style. Once he became a millionaire they'd change their tunes. Once millions of people were reading his novels.

Then her family would see he was worthy of their daughter.

And then they'd (admittedly probably grudgingly) give their blessing to the union. But even her mother's sour attitude couldn't sour his and Kyra's happiness. Because he'd have proposed by that point, gone down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Somewhere romantic. Like the top of the empire state building, but better. And her eyes would have brimmed with tears, that came thisclose to spilling over. And she'd have laughed and wiped her eyes as she said yes. Of course yes. Then he'd have slid the ring on her finger, and kissed her, before picking her up and swinging her around. They always did that in the movies too.

And maybe people would have stared at the two of them in curiosity, but none of it would have mattered, because they'd be together forever.

But it'd all been a stupid fantasy.

He'd been a fool.

Together forever didn't exist.

Hadn't his mother's string of husbands taught him that?

He'd been an idiot to believe that a girl like Kyra Blaine would have ever chosen someone like him.

After all, who was he?

Richard Castle, a name he'd had to choose for himself. Didn't even know who his own father was. And his mother was an actress who'd already had a handful of husbands. He was hardly the cream of New York society.

Sure, there was a good chance he'd make himself (and by extension any family he chooses to have) very rich.

But he's not some great author. He writes books for the masses. He's part of the publishing machine. He's a commercial success; he's not a starving artist in a garret churning out the best poetry of his generation, or a world-altering novel. He writes mysteries. Damn good ones, but when it's all said and done, nothing special.

But then, with publishing houses and publicists and agents, a lot of writing was about the bottom line now. And his bottom lines were going to be very, very good. He'd make sure of that.

May as well embrace it, and everything that came with that life.

He was not very good at doing things with substance. He should've known that by now. The closest he'd come to anything meaningful was a dream of permanence that'd just flown across the Atlantic.

And he'd been ordered not to follow.

After all, the life he'd had, raised with one foot in the theatre, what did he know about reality?

Better to just stick with what he was familiar with.

Superficiality, flash, lights, fun, transience.

Anything else had been an illusion, or a self-delusion.

Something a young man's heart had foolishly tried to believe in. More fool him.

She'd shattered those illusions the second she'd left without looking back.

He knew better than to look for that again.

xxxxx

Why are we on our own? Why are we on our own?

Nothing's ever been this way before
A dream is just a dream and nothing more

xxxxx

She became a cop.

Once she got her head on remotely straight and figured out to live after her mother's murder.

It was the only thing that made sense.

She wouldn't be able to help shape the next generation, wasn't cut out for that at all. But she could help make sure other people got the closure she never got.

And she could work towards getting her own closure. She'd gone over ever detail in her mother's file the second she'd had access to it, checked and re-checked every conclusion, ever assumption. Nothing ever changed about any of it.

Except that her focus narrowed. She'd developed tunnel vision.

She saw the job, the victims, and her mother. She locked herself up tight to bang her head up against a series of brick walls that never ever moved.

Something had to give.

She was killing herself.

It'd taken Lanie and Esposito tag-teaming one night her with a large bottle of tequila to get the whole story out.

It hadn't been easy, and she'd fought them every step of the way, but they did manage to knock off her blinders and push through her walls.

And when she woke up the next morning in an apartment that was almost sterile (since she was almost never there,) with a pounding head and aching all over Kate'd realized that something had to change.

So she promised her friends that she'd put her mother's case away unless she got another lead. A genuine one.

It hasn't been an easy journey. She had to claw her way back into the land of the living one small step at a time.

That was when she rediscovered Castle's books. She'd read them when she was younger; her mother had too.

But over the years they'd fallen to the wayside.

Kate latched onto the distraction they provided like a lifeboat.

His stories didn't fixed anything. But they helped.

They gave her a kind of hope.

Hope that she might finally figure out what the hell was going on. That she might one day be able to lift the weight she was carrying around with her.

After all, Derrick Storm solved decades old cold cases. Maybe she could too.

Until then she had the books full of seemingly unsolvable murders getting solved on a weekly basis to keep her brain occupied. She'd made Detective by then, and it was around when she started to get a bit of a reputation for liking the weird ones. Any deaths a bit out of the ordinary, requiring something a bit different.

And a funny thing started to happen, she started to enjoy her life again.

Kate'd always found satisfaction in her job. Always found it fulfilling and worthwhile, been content with her lot, but she didn't think she could have said she'd ever really enjoyed a lot of the day to day. Obviously there were aspects she still didn't enjoy. Seeing the victims was always hard, telling their families harder still, but she did enjoy catching the bastards who'd committed the crimes.

She was meticulous, and analytical and practical and she could use that.

And it was something she was damn good at. She'd finally gotten her life under control. Everything was finally exactly in its place.

Then he came along.

And he knocked her off-centre more than she liked to admit.

He was Richard freaking Castle. Her favourite author. She'd gone to meet him, to question him, and she was ashamed to admit that a small part of her had wanted nothing more than to grin like any other foolish fan.

Kate'd held it together of course, he was a suspect after all. Even if she didn't ever think he was the actual killer, even before meeting him. He didn't fit the profile, didn't seem the type, a million other reasons, and okay, yeah, a large part of her hadn't really wanted to admit the possibility that half the reason his books were so good was that he had firsthand experience with murder.

Still, she'd almost been excited.

Then she met him.

And he was arrogant and unfocused and immature and irritating and any number of unfavourable adjectives. He probably coulda thought of a few. If he she'd asked. Though he'd have probably also added a few more positive ones as well, in what he'd probably have considered a charming attempt to charm her.

Kate Beckett had never been one to cave to expectations.

She wouldn't allow herself to stoop to his level. After all, she didn't have a friendship with the mayor to fall back on if things went south.

But, to Castle's credit, he did help her solve her case, even if he also almost drove her to drink by the end of it.

Kate supposed she should have counted her blessings.

After all, it was only a few days. It'd be a story to tell the grandkids, or y'know, whomever. A nice interlude from the day to day.

She should have known better.

She really should have.

"I'll kill him!" Kate snarled as she slammed into the morgue.

"Huh?" Lanie asked, looking up in surprise. "You want to be a little more specific, Honey?" she asked. "For one, this is the place you come after the body's already been found, not when you're planning on producing a new one. For another, there're a lot of 'he's' you could be talking about. 'Specially in your line 'a work."

"Take your pick!" Kate snapped. "I'm not too fond of any of my colleagues right now either," she added. Between Ryan and Esposito's smirks and the Captain's order (which seriously? Allowing a civilian to follow an armed homicide detective around indefinitely? Really?), she wasn't pissed at pretty much all of the men of the twelfth. It was why she'd retreated for some female company and commiseration.

"That bad huh?" Lanie asked as she pulled her gloves off. She'd noticed a text from Esposito as she'd been clearing up one of her autopsy tables, but she hadn't had a chance to check it, something that she was realizing may have been a bad idea. "What'd they do?"

Kate sighed. "Nothing really," she said. "Mostly they're just all looking smug and amused. At my expense. But you're right, they're not the worst of it."

"Who's the worst of it then?" Lanie wondered.

"Castle!" Kate spat out.

"Castle?" Lanie asked in surprise. She hadn't been expecting that. "As in Richard Castle? What's he got to do with anything? I thought he was long gone."

"So did I," Kate muttered. "But apparently he's going to be sticking around."

"What? Why?" Lanie wondered.

"Seems he's found himself the inspiration for his next character, a tough but savvy New York City cop," Kate mimicked.

Lanie just stared at her friend for a full three seconds. "Are you serious?" she asked. "Sweetie, that's fantastic!"

"Come again?" Kate asked in surprise. "Explain to me exactly how any of this is fantastic."

"Beckett, you're telling me that a famous author, your favourite author I might add, has decided that you're so fabulous that he wants to base an entire character off of you, one who's probably going to have her own series of books. You telling me that you're not even a little flattered?" Lanie pointed out. It sounded pretty good to her. More than good really.

Kate rolled her eyes. "Yeah, okay..." she admitted with a small smile.

"Aha!" Lanie pounced. "See, now it's not all bad."

"No," Kate admitted. "But," she said significantly. "He's going to be following me around all day while I try and do my job. I don't need a chatty writer with no conception of personal space and an inability to be serious for longer than two seconds dogging my steps. There's no room for games in my job."

"And just how far into your personal space has he invaded?" Lanie asked with a grin.

"Lanie!" Kate said, trying to sound scandalized, but there was a hint of laughter in her tone.

"Oh come on," Lanie said with a wave of her hand. "You can't honestly tell me that you haven't thought about it."

Kate paused.

"See!" her friend crowed triumphantly. "And I don't see why you think that's a bad thing. I bet Writer-boy'd be well worth the time, if you know what I mean."

"Even the corpses know what you mean," Kate said dryly. She should have anticipated this.

"You're attracted to him," Lanie pressed.

"You're delusional," Kate shot back.

Lanie rolled her eyes but new enough not to push. "Come on Kate," she said gently. "He's not that bad, you know he's not."

Beckett shook her head slowly. "His intentions might be good," she admitted. "But he treats everything like a game. My work is serious. I don't want this, I didn't ask for it, and I sure as hell don't like a flirtatious, author following me around, not one who treats everything like a joke."

"Everything?" Lanie asked.

"Almost everything," Kate conceded. She sighed, briefly closing her eyes. This sucked. It really sucked.

The smile slipped of her friend's face when she realized how genuinely upset the good Detective was. "Maybe he won't be as bad as you think," Lanie suggested tentatively. "At least try and work with him."

"Not like I have a choice," Kate muttered.

Ah, Lanie thought. There it was, the heart of the problem. "I gather you weren't asked your opinion," she said dryly.

"Nope," Kate agreed lightly.

Lanie hesitated. "I know you hate things that are outside of your control, Beckett," she said slowly, earning a glare from her friend. Undaunted the M.E. ploughed on, "I get it. You didn't ask for this; it stings; it's not what you wanted. So tell me, have you just made up your mind to sulk?"

Beckett gaped at her. "I am not sulking!" she stuttered. "I'm pissed off!"

No, Lanie thought to herself. You're scared, and now you're trying to shut down and push it all away, like you always do whenever anything doesn't go like you planned. Lanie'd always been of the opinion that her friend needed to loosen up a bit, or, barring that she needed someone to come alone shake her loose. And the fact that it'd taken less than a week for Castle to do just that was enough to convince Lanie that the writer's arrival might be a good thing. It also didn't hurt that she knew Kate's tells pretty well, and whatever she said, the woman was intrigued by the writer, at least a little. "Okay," Lanie said. "Fair enough. Be pissed off. But that seems a bit of a waste of energy seeing as there's not a damn thing you can change about the mess from the sounds of it."

Kate sighed. "Don't think there is," she muttered.

Lanie winced in sympathy. That had to sting. "Do you want to hear my advice?"

"Sure. Why not?" Kate asked with a sigh.

"Try and make the best of it. Need I remind you that Writer-boy might actually be fun?" Lanie repeated, trying to drive that point home.

"Lanie..."

"At least try not to take his head off the next time you see him," Lanie cajoled. "Give him a chance."

"Fine," Kate said tersely. "I won't kill him on sight. Though I won't say the same for Esposito if he grins at me one more time with that stupid look on his face. And even you won't be able to protect him."

"Yeah, he can make you want to smack him sometimes, can't he?" Lanie agreed easily. She had no problem with Kate deflating Esposito's ego a little. He could take it.

Kate leaned gently against one of the tables in the morgue, suddenly tired and just wanting to forget about the mess her life had become. "Don't suppose you're up for drinks tonight," she said suddenly.

Lanie grinned. Excellent. A drunk Kate meant she might actually get a few of the juicier details about exactly what the Detective actually thought of Rick Castle. "Thought you'd never ask," she said with a smirk.

"Meet me in twenty minutes?" Kate double-checked.

"I'll be there," Lanie promised, shaking her head indulgently as she watched Kate leave the morgue. She was really looking forward to the next few weeks.

Kate walked briskly back to the police station, willing the frustration and irritation to fade by simply commanding it to. Lanie was right, Castle might be fun. But she didn't need a man flirting inappropriately with her all day when she was doing her job. Her job was too important, too serious, too much of who she was.

As for his last proposition, she had no intention of sleeping with him. She wasn't about to become a conquest. She wasn't just some fan going to fall at his feet or trying to lure him into some sort of relationship. This wasn't some storybook where the heroine met a rich and famous man and he fell at her feet. It was all very well and good for Lanie to tell her to give the guy a chance, but Kate needed to keep both feet firmly planted on solid ground. Kate may have been her favourite author, but she'd always liked a little bit of distance between herself and her heros, even if they were just literary. The whole thing was like a goddamn dream, and it was one she refused to get caught up in.

Much as Castle seemed to want to convince her otherwise. And he'd be around indefinitely.

Kate resisted the urge to childishly kick her desk.

This couldn't be happening to her. She didn't have time for this nonsense in her life. She didn't have time for his stories. She dealt in facts, in reality, in murder.

She was done with fantasy. She'd decided that years ago.s

Even if it (or he), might make life kinda fun.

xxxxx

Richard Castle became a very famous, very rich, mystery writer. Just as he'd planned. He was even a bit of a local celebrity now.

He was commercially successful by basically any measure. He could get a table at basically any restaurant in New York. He could afford all the grown-up toys that he wanted. There was no shortage of beautiful woman in his life. He had lots of friends, and he'd somehow managed to produce (through what he had to assume was some form of divine intervention) a daughter who was completely awesome.

Okay, maybe his life wasn't perfect. And maybe there were areas that could have been better, but he wasn't doing that badly.

Alright, his books weren't Shakespeare, but they weren't bad either. No, he wasn't exactly fulfilling his childhood dream of writing the great American novel, but his books kept people entertained. And anyway, whatever else Great American Literature might be, it rarely paid the bills. Especially not anymore. And he was nothing if not practical. His books definitely paid the bills (and then some). Plus, they made people happy. Maybe he wasn't making some massive, valuable contribution to society, but it was something. Right? And he enjoyed it.

Alright, so sometimes he'd found himself getting a little tired of his characters, especially lately. It was why he'd killed off a particularly lucrative protagonist after all. But he wanted a challenge, was that so wrong?

He wanted change.

He wasn't sure what he wanted exactly, but something was missing. It wasn't Alexis; she was doing just fine, something he was always so thankful for since she was the only really important thing in his life. She certainly hadn't inherited her good sense from her parents that was for sure, but he was glad she'd found some somewhere. He was sure that he would never find his daughter lacking in any way; she was perfect just as she was. And his mother certainly wasn't missing from his life. Lately she'd seemed all too present. Once he figured it out what he was looking for he could probably buy it, but until then...

Until then he'd just have to distract himself from his general dissatisfaction.

Life did get a bit tiresome when he realized that most people didn't know him at all, and didn't care to. It was enough for them that Richard Castle was famous and had money. He could have been stupid as rock, or worse, boring, and he'd still be fawned over and flattered. Even his ego could only take so much.

And he was getting tired of meeting the same type of women all the time. At the same type of party each time. All of them complete with fluttering eyebrows, skimpy dresses, and overlarge breasts (okay, those he didn't mind so much).

"Mr. Castle, I loved your book, those sex scenes... Wow..."

"Mr. Castle, could I get your signature, on my skin. Why don't you pick the place?"

"Mr. Castle, why did you kill of Derrick Storm. I loved him. Did you have any sort of personal inspiration?"

"Mr. Castle, I'm sure your next book will be just as good as all the others. I'm your biggest fan!"

"Mr. Castle, I'm Detective Kate Beckett. I'd like to ask you some questions about a murder."

And just like that she'd changed everything.

She'd been fabulous, extraordinary, right from the start.

She hadn't batted her eyes (those gorgeous, sexy eyes), or flirted, or given him special treatment. She'd been determined, focussed.

And smart. She could keep up with him verbally, didn't give an inch. He liked that about her too.

She'd even read his books. And unlike the groupies, she wasn't just saying she had to impress him, or flatter him. In fact, she'd been irritated as hell when he'd figured out that she was a bit of a fan. She was so different than what he was used to.

This tough, no-nonsense detective.

So poised and put together. It made him want to ruffle her up a little.

That's when he made his usual offer. The one that had a pretty high success rate these days. He was quite the catch, handsome, charming rich, he could go on... He offered her a chance to get to know each other better, promised her a good time.

And then he'd watched, fascinated, as she bit her lip (so damn sexy!), leaned in (god she smelled good...), and turned him down flat without a backwards glance. After promising him that he was missing out on a hell of a lot (he had no trouble believing it, just look at those hips).

In that instant he just lit up.

She was interesting and gorgeous and unexpected. She was his next character. She was his muse, this lovely New York City Police detective.

He hadn't been this excited to develop a character in years.

All thanks to Katherine Beckett.

He stared at her until she left, his brain spinning rapidly as it pieced together story ideas, minor characters, an entire world really.

His new world.

One in which Kate Beckett was a central figure.

And just like that she became something he'd given up on ever finding again so very long ago.

xxxxx

Making the world around us
Making heaven and hell
Saying so much about us
Still they had so much to tell

xxxxx

People asked him from time to time if he'd ever thought of writing anything other than mystery novels.

He tended to deflect the question with a charming smile and say that he wrote mystery novels because he loved them, the twists and turns, the intrigue, the atmosphere. And because he was good at it.

Then everyone had a good laugh and the conversation moved on.

But he had written other stuff.

He had the notes and preliminary chapters for another, entirely different (non-genre) type of novel, all of which were still hidden away in a file on the back of a shelf.

It was a silly idea anyway. He was Richard Castle. No one wanted to read a serious novel written by him.

Back when he'd been first starting out he'd tentatively floated the idea by his publicist a couple of times, the one who'd come before Gina. She'd just laughed, patted his cheek a couple times, and told him to stick to what he knew. They'd both make more money that way, he'd make his fans happy, and then everybody would be happy.

He'd never had enough faith in the poor, almost-forgotten, half-ghost of a book to pursue it any further.

Besides, maybe she'd been right.

Then there were the screenplays. They really were a fantasy.

He had these elusive dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Becoming a well-respected screenwriter, and not just because he was commercially successful. Because the movie meant something. He imagined someone like George Clooney reading the script, falling in love on the spot and demanding the starring role. And he imagined making a movie that was remembered for generations.

But he'd given it up, to do what he knows and to maintain his style of life.

His life was fun, always had been. He doesn't deny that. And most of the time (the odd unpopular book notwithstanding) Castle couldn't have be happier with his career, especially now that it's brought him in contact with the NYPD and he feels like he's actually doing something genuinely useful. Even if that something is just ensuring that Kate Beckett eats enough to make it through a case. Castle considers supplying her with coffee and doughnuts one of his small, but important, contributions to law enforcement.

It's just... well, sometimes it stings when people dismiss him as just another mystery writer. Like anybody could do what he does.

He made the right decision, the practical decision (aka the safe decision) all those years ago when he decided not to pursue any of those screenplays. He knew that now. It was just, sometimes he couldn't help wondering.

He wondered idly if Beckett would have been more impressed with him if he had written screenplays. Or if he had written a different type of novel, one that wasn't necessarily commercially successful but that was highly thought of among high-brow literary circles. She read plays after all and the New York Review of Books, and probably all sorts of high-brow literary things. Would she have been impressed if he had produced the next great American screenplay?

As opposed to writing the books people read when they needed a distraction from reality.

Castle knew he wasn't exactly strong on substance. He knew that half the time she thought he was just another silly celebrity. That he was incapable of taking of anything seriously. And that he was absolutely not a safe bet to depend on permanently.

He knew that he was probably not the type of man she would ever want.

And who could blame her? He'd tried a real relationship once, and look where it'd gotten him. It was why he hadn't tried again since.

But he couldn't help but wonder, what if he'd been a more serious author? What if he'd been impressive?

Then he rounded the corner in the 12th and saw her staring intently at her whiteboard, biting her lip as she searched for that single missing detail. The clue that would lead to a break in their case.

That was when he usually remembered that if he hadn't been famous, hadn't gotten himself a crazy copycat, if he hadn't been a mystery writer with a flair for thinking outside the box, if he hadn't been him, then he'd never have gotten to meet her.

So he can't really regret the loss of his hypothetical screenplay.

Although, when she turns and smiles at him (okay, at the coffee he's holding), he still can't help dreaming of a day when he could possibly prove himself to be the type of man she could want.

Even if that hope makes him a fool.

xxxxx

Castle'd been meant to be a blip on her life. Following her around indefinitely to be sure, but Kate hadn't expected it to last near this long. Their partnership had lasted for more than two and half years, even if they definitely hit a few bumps along the way. She almost can't picture her job, her life without him. Somehow life with Castle'd become her normal.

And she wasn't sure how she felt about that.

A part of her was ridiculously grateful, that now she has someone who's actually there. And someone who she knew would always be there; all she ever had to do was ask. But a part of her was terrified that she was starting to want that. She was starting to expect Castle to be permanent. It sounded like a good thing, but it's not. It can't be. She can't afford to hope.

She was always dealt in reality.

Richard Castle was a good storyteller, a great partner, and a loyal friend. But he lived half of his days in a world she couldn't even imagine really. Whatever the celebrity life was, Kate knew one thing, it sure as hell wasn't real.

Besides, Castle wasn't good at permanent. Not where relationships were concerned.

Not even after all that they've been through, all the near misses. She wasn't stupid; she knew what it all meant. There was something there, or there could be, if she let it.

Castle was not just the flirtatious playboy Kate'd thought he was when she first met him. She knew he'd never intentionally hurt her. He was loyal to his friends and his family. But, she's also seen what he's like when he's not with his family; she's seen the women he tends to choose. For the most part they haven't exactly been strong on substance. They've been models, celebrities, actresses. Glamorous, gorgeous, fabulous, almost unreal women. People who live in the same superficial world he always has one foot in. That wasn't who Kate Beckett was. And it wasn't what she wanted. Besides, she couldn't quite believe that he'd seriously want her.

Not really.

He might think he did, but she wasn't so sure.

His life was a dream to her. Just like it was a dream that he'd ever really choose her and mean it.

xxxxx

Saw a world they could believe in
But only when they close their eyes

xxxxx

"It'll never work," Esposito insisted as he tossed a folder onto his desk.

"Why not?" Ryan demanded. "Why won't it?"

"Two long lost high school sweethearts reunited after fifteen years?" Esposito asked incredulously. "After they only reconnected because of the tragic death of the girl's parents?"

"Why not?" Ryan asked. "It's not like George Williams had anything to do with Francine Potter's mother's death. He just happened to be the person who found the body. Maybe a fulfilling relationship is the wonderful thing that will emerge from the tragedy. Maybe the whole thing was fate."

"Pure coincidence," Esposito dismissed. "After all, the relationship didn't work once."

"Yeah, because both members were seventeen," Ryan replied. "Not too many long-term relationships last that start at that age. I think it's nice," he added with a shrug.

"You're just saying that because you're all lovey-dovey with Jenny. You're all happy and you think everyone else in a relationship should be too. Not every relationship's that simple," Esposito countered, deliberately riling his partner up.

"Simple?" Ryan asked. "Simple? You think my relationship with Jenny's simple?"

"Yes," Esposito told him.

"My relationship with Jenny works because we work at it. I want it to work. It's not as simple as you might think," Ryan shot back. Then he played his trump card. "And I think I should warn Lanie about your attitude towards romantic relationships. I bet she'd be interested in your little pessimistic don't you? Or have the two of you talked about commitment yet?"

Esposito's slightly superior expression changed instantly to horror. "You wouldn't dare."

"Wouldn't I?" Ryan asked with a grin. "I think I'll just head down to the morgue now, see if she wants to chat. Your girlfriend should still be there right? Thursday's her night to work late."

"Oh, no you don't!" Esposito said, grabbing his coat and running after his partner. "Come on man."

Beckett should her head as they passed her on her way back to her desk. Beside her Castle just smirked.

"How long they been like that?" Captain Montgomery asked, walking over.

"Since we caught Mrs. Potter's killer," Castle informed him dryly.

"It was funny at first," Beckett admitted. "But I'm not upset that I won't have to listen to the two of them anymore for a little while."

"Hopefully they'll go get something to eat before they come back, maybe calm down a little," the Captain suggested.

"Hopefully," Beckett agreed.

"Our guy down in holding?" her boss asked.

"Yup," Beckett agreed. "We got there just as he was getting ready to run. Had his car all packed up and everything."

"And our two high school sweethearts are really thinking of making a go of it?" Montgomery asked surprised.

"Apparently," Beckett told him.

"Huh," he replied, with a shake of his head.

Castle looked from one cop to the other. "Hey, it could work," he insisted. "You never know."

Montgomery smirked. "I hope you're right, Castle," he said, patting the other man on the shoulder, before walking back to his office. "Good work you two," he added as an afterthought.

"Thanks sir," Beckett called after him before sitting down.

Castle sat across from her.

"Something on your mind, Castle?" she asked.

He paused. "You really think it won't work out between George and Francine?"

She sighed. "I think that they're starting a relationship with a lot of unrealistic expectations, a lot of baggage, and right after a traumatic experience. That works for the first couple of months, but a real relationship takes more."

"I know that," Castle insisted. "Still, it's a nice idea. That they might figure it out."

"I hope you're right," Beckett told him. "For their sakes."

"But even the romantic in you doesn't quite believe it," he pressed softly.

"I've seen too much in this job to be that optimistic," she told him.

Castle shook his head. "I don't think that's true," he assured her with a smile.

That got her attention. "What?"

"I think that's what you tell yourself," he corrected gently. "But I think that deep down inside you hope that Francine and George can make a go of it, just as much as Ryan does."

"Castle..."

"Kate."

She sighed, "Maybe sometimes, I guess. But it's a fantasy," Beckett insisted softly. "Two lost high school sweethearts reunited after father's tragic death? It's the type of story that immediately makes it into the New York Times because it's so unrealistic."

"Proving that it isn't quite so unrealistic after all," Castle pointed out. "And that it's a story people like reading about."

"Because secretly we all believe in fairy tales?" she asked with a soft smile, leaning back in her chair.

"Maybe," Castle said with shrug. "Or at least we want to." He knew she definitely did, whatever she said. And if ever there was a woman who could use a little more faith in a fairytale it was his Kate.

"Don't see a lot of fairy tales with this job," Kate murmured.

"Don't see a lot with any job really," Castle contradicted. "Unless you write or illustrate children's books."

"True," Kate agreed with a laugh. She wanted to agree with him, she really did. She just wasn't sure that she could.

"Though you do have Ryan and Jenny now," Castle reminded her. "Whatever Ryan says, they are pretty much the cookie-cutter storybook couple. Every time I drop by their apartment I half expect Jenny to open the door wearing a chequered apron and baking an apple pie."

She laughed. As he'd expected her to. "How could I forget about our own little golden couple? They are sweet."

"Yeah," Castle agreed. "And I think they're really going to make a go of it. Sometimes things do work out."

"Sometimes," she said softly. "For some people."

He wanted to make promises. To tell her it'll work out for her too. That he's willing to try if she will. But he can never seem to get the words out. And it doesn't help that they're sitting in the middle of the precinct, where, even though it's later in the evening and not that many people are still around, they could still be overheard. But he couldn't just let that remark slide. "Kate..." he said softly, reaching for her hand.

"Yeah?" she asked. She met his eyes and let herself hope, in a way that she couldn't quite stop herself from doing from time to time, whenever she got caught up in his spell.

"Forgot my coat," Ryan said as he breezed back into the bullpen, snapping the tenuous connection between his colleagues.

"Was the night air too much for you Ryan?" Beckett drawled, using mockery to shake herself out of her conversation with Castle.

"I am not ashamed to say that it is cold outside," Ryan replied evenly. "Cold enough to need a coat anyway. No shame in a man wearing a coat in the wintertime in New York."

"No there's not," Castle agreed.

Ryan grabbed his coat, "Well, I'll see you guys tomorrow then."

"See ya," Beckett called.

"Yeah," Castle added absently. Then something occurred to him, "Hey! You talk to Lanie?"

"Nah," Ryan said with a grin. "Not yet anyway. Thought I'd let him stew about that for a bit."

Castle smirked. "Well played."

Ryan smirked, "Don't stay too late."

"We won't," Beckett agreed distractedly, not really paying attention to the conversation anymore.

"Say hi to Jenny for us," Castle added.

Ryan said something else, something about his plans for the evening, but Beckett wasn't listening.

She'd gotten caught up again. In something she shouldn't have. In Castle. Because when the two of them were in the precinct bantering it was hard for her to resist him sometimes. To not pretend that making something work between them really could be that easy. That they could just be them, like they always were, day in, day out, while they were working. That it really wasn't that complicated.

What she didn't realize was that he often had the same problem.

She didn't know that they were both dreaming now. And with ever-increasing frequency.

Whenever he stepped in to help her solve a murder, and he actually takes it seriously, and she thinks he may have substance

Whenever she let him see her vulnerabilities and he wondered if maybe he meant more to her than he'd thought.

Whenever she saw how much he cared about his family and she realized he may actually be a stable choice.

Whenever he decided she might just be the sexiest woman he'd ever met, and at least half of it has nothing to do with the physical (though that certainly didn't hurt).

When she considered that he'd basically made her a superhero. Her favourite author had made her a superhero. It was something out of fiction itself.

When he somehow managed to help her with even her worst cases.

When she managed to make him feel like what he was doing was actually making a difference

When he dedicated his books to her. All of his books.

When they saved the world, after nearly dying (twice), but they fixed everything in the nick of time, just like something out of a movie

When he realized that every woman pales in comparison to her

When she realized she wanted him more than her perfectly nice, perfectly sensible, perfectly practical, perfectly stable, boyfriend. So she took steps at least to rectify that part of the equation.

When he kissed her.

And it was becoming harder and harder for both to ignore those dreams.

Castle looked at her across her desk, starting to really resent Ryan's interruption, but knowing he couldn't change it. He tapped her lightly on the wrist to get her attention again, distracting her from her thoughts. "Earth to Beckett?"

"Hmm?" she replied, meeting his eyes, disappointed to see nothing in his expression beyond a friendly smile.

"You hungry?" he asked.

She paused, considering. "I could eat," she said after a moment.

He grinned. "Remy's?" he checked.

"You sure you don't need to get home to check up on Alexis?" she asked. "It's getting late."

He shook his head. "Nah, she's staying at a friend's for the night. Some sort of group project."

She smiled slowly. "Then Remy's sounds perfect."

They both stood. Castle grabbed her coat and held it open for her. "Wouldn't want you getting cold like Ryan," he said gently.

"No," she said with a smirk as she let him help her put the coat on. "Thanks."

"Always," he said with a shrug.

She grinned and slipped her arm into his.

He looked surprised at the gesture for a moment. Then he met her eyes, and the surprise changed into something softer. "Come on Detective, let's get you some food. Maybe I'll even see if I can't convince you that sometimes storybook romances really do work out."

She quirked her head. "Maybe I'll convince you that real relationships take more than just a good story."

His breath hitched as he finally seemed to notice her expression. "Doesn't hurt to have a good story too, though," was all he said.

"True," Kate agreed, wondering if maybe he was right as they walked arm-in-arm to the elevator.

Castle watched her twirl a lock of hair around her finger out of the corner of his eye, and wondered if maybe, just maybe, this time they actually were talking about the same thing.

Both wondered if maybe it could be that simple.

If wishes could come true.

And maybe, well... Just maybe.

xxxxxx

So whatever happened to the dreamers?

Obviously it was impossible to make generalizations for all of them.

For a few, it was simpler.

And for a specific two it was obvious.

They'd merely gone into hiding, waiting patiently for the right time to re-emerge.

xxxxxx

The end