Spoilers for 3x22 "To Love and Die in L.A."
A/N: Thanks to stardust_20 for beta reading. This is my first Castle fic, so please be nice. :)
She finishes rereading the letter and tucks the pages back together, folding them neatly along the creases. She smooths her fingers over the edges and slides the paper into a pocket and out of sight. She shifts her body to get a better view of her unconscious partner; Castle might be asleep at the moment but the last thing she wants to do is tempt him by leaving Royce's letter where he can see it.
She'd read the note three times that first night Despite the tears that Royce's confessions had brought on, her first reaction had been to dismiss his final advice. He had known better than almost anyone that "what if"s and "if onlys" had haunted her long before she'd met Richard Castle; after all he'd been the one to pull her back when she'd nearly drowned under their weight. And he'd added a few more of his own the last time they'd spoken. Who was he to talk about missed opportunities? She'd cried herself to sleep and woken the next morning determined to avenge her (former) partner and put his uncomfortable advice aside. As usual her plan hadn't quite accounted for Castle.
A small pocket of turbulence jostles the plane pulling Kate briefly from her thoughts. Beside her, Castle mumbles something and wriggles in his seat. He slides down into a slouch and rolls his head towards her but doesn't wake. She watches the corner of his lips pull up in a small smile and suddenly it's all too much. Too intimate. Just like the other night. She leans back in her own seat and turns her face away to watch clouds ease by out the window.
The momentary panic passes and she closes her eyes, trying to sleep. Despite the fact that she's physically and emotionally drained, her mind refuses the respite. Royce's words have taken hold and different scenarios begin to play across the backs of her eye lids.
If only she'd said something instead of watching his door close in silence.
It's a deliberate choice, just as his use of her first name had been earlier. But it's too quiet, barely above a whisper and for a moment she thinks he hasn't heard. Then his door pauses.
She swallows hard and tries again. "Rick".
Her voice is louder this time and his door swings open. She watches, trembling, from her doorway as he steps into view. Her voice has suddenly gone entirely and her feet feel like lead weights. They stare silently at each other across the suite's common room. He takes a half step forward to start closing the distance between them and she can't stop her own involuntary half step back. Her stomach knots at the pain she sees bloom in his expression and she drops her gaze to the floor.
This time his voice breaks through the room. "Kate".
She lifts her eyes back to his. After a few moments he seems to reach a decision and his expression eases. He shifts his hand on the door knob and steps back.
"Good night Kate," he says, shutting the door between them. His voice holds heat and promise and the word, 'always', without even a hint of teasing.
She sags against her door frame in relief. Somehow he seems to have understood exactly what she'd been trying to say.
If only she'd opened the door faster.
If only she'd stopped when he'd called her name.
If only she hadn't fled from the couch in the first place.
She stared at Castle, feeling an inexorable bond tightening between them. Moments like this have become more frequent and more fraught with meaning lately and part of her was tired of pretending nothing was changing. Kate closed her eyes as panic welled up inside her at the thought of what she was risking. Just as she was about to lose the battle against the urge to flee, Castle's hand landed lightly on her knee. She took a slow breath and reopened her eyes, staring at the fingers curling around the back of her leg. She could tell that he'd moved slightly closer while she'd waged war against herself. He wasn't so close that they were touching anywhere other than where his talented thumb stroked back and forth above her knee. But he wasn't far enough away to maintain the illusion of pure intentions either.
"Kate," he murmured and it was enough to bring her focus to his mouth. His hand left her leg and his fingertips skimmed up her side to dance over her cheek and into her hair. He held her still as he leaned forward not quite closing the distance between them.
His lips were soft and warm against hers, a quiet question instead of the stark demand of their last kiss. She melted at the rightness of the sensation, her tension and panic draining away. The hand in her hair clenched involuntarily as her lips parted and she pressed forward to deepen the kiss.
She snatched a quick breath before angling her body back against the couch and pulling Castle above her. Their tongues tangled and he caressed her with his free hand, sliding it down her back so that his palm rested in the middle of her lower back while his fingers teased the bottom of her shirt. He urged her hips up and shifted them both into a more comfortable position. The last restless part of her brain stilled under his weight and she gave herself over to the inevitable with a soft smile curving her lips.
She wakes suddenly, not quite sure where she is, but entirely unsurprised to find Castle watching her from mere inches away. Somewhere in the back of her mind she remembers that they are on a plane, flying home, and notes that the sharp deceleration of landing has woken her. This information doesn't distract her from the contented grin of her companion. Kate feels herself grinning back and doesn't check the impulse to smooth his sleep rumpled hair.
"Hey," she says as he reaches out to twine his hand with hers.
"Good morning," he replies.
The plane slows and the crew begins to prepare for the passengers to disembark as they stare. She almost draws back as the other passengers come to life around them, but a phrase from Royce's letter holds her in place.
-Risking our hearts is why we're alive-
This time she doesn't throw words up as a shield between them. She leans in and presses a kiss to his cheek. It may not look like much to an outsider, but for her it is as much as promise as the word Castle's become so fond of using.