*Post-ALWAYS; Found this sitting unedited on my computer. I remember writing last year (2012) while I was on a long plane flight to Rome, hence the intended destination. So… here it is… a year late.


9 HOUR FLIGHT

The low hum of the engines that filled the cabin was mixed with the occasional babble of chatting voices from other passengers. It could have been distracting, but everyone seemed to respect their fellow travelers, and spoke in quiet voices. Of course, there were a few children, and they sometimes were loud, but their parents were quick to shush them.

Presently, they were somewhere over the Atlantic, about halfway there. Seated besides her, in their economy-class seats, was Castle, softly snoring as his head leaned back against the headrest, his expression relaxed and innocent. He was always so adorable when asleep. Less irritating and annoying. His jaw was slack, and there was a little bit of drool coming out, running down his chin.

Kate couldn't help herself. She'd been staring at him for a good five minutes, watching him sleep, and she just had to do something about that drool.

She reached down, snatched the paper napkin that the flight attendant had provided with her drink, and leaned over the space between them. Bringing the napkin up, she gently wiped the bit of drool from his jaw.

Castle stirred in his slumber, mumbling something that gave her the faint impression that he was dreaming about riding a tyrannosaurus rex—naked, no less—through Central Park. What was with him and riding animals in the nude? She smirked. She would never fully understand the wonderful insanity that was the imagination of Richard Castle.

Settling back into her own seat, Kate folded the napkin and put it back down next to her drink on the tray table in front of her. She picked the plastic cup up and took a delicate sip of the water before returning her gaze to the opened book in her other hand. While Castle was sleeping, she stayed up a little bit longer so she could read. Nothing new about that. He always had the tendency to drift off before she did, even after mind-blowing sex.

The reason they weren't comfortably enjoying this long nine hour flight in the "sleeping pods", as Castle had dubbed the first-class section of the plane, was namely because Kate wouldn't let him purchase her ticket. And since she couldn't afford the luxurious and comfortable executive-class—as it was officially called, like calling it first class was offensive or something—Castle had decided he'd gladly "slum" it with her.

The seats were cramped and uncomfortable, yet that didn't seem to prevent him from falling asleep not long after their plane took off. He woke up for the provided meal. They both picked the chicken, as the pasta looked unappealing, not to mention they'd be having plenty of pasta in the upcoming two weeks. The chicken was surprisingly good. And after they ate, Castle had dozed off while watching The Godfather on the entertainment system embedded in the back of the seat in front of him.

Kate had plugged in as well, and had watched some romantic comedy, which she couldn't really remember much of, because Castle kept nudging her with his elbow to quote lines from The Godfather. So, she had given up on watching her movie and instead opted to read. And now, she was about halfway through her book and contemplating joining Castle in trying to get some sleep.

It was just really difficult. The economy-class seating really wasn't designed to provide any comfortable sleeping positions, even when she leaned back, which wasn't that far. There was a part of her that wished she had given in to Castle's prodding and surrendered to his willingness to purchase both of them first-class tickets so they could enjoy the amenities of the "pods". Yet then they really wouldn't be sitting together. Across from one another, yes, but not together. All the first-class seats were separated by little walls. And she'd gladly sacrifice the privacy and comfort so she could be sitting directly next to him.

Deciding to get some sleep, or even just some rest, Kate marked her place and closed her book. She sipped the last of her water, and raised the tray, locking it into place. A flight attendant walked past at just the right moment with a bag, collecting trash, so Kate quickly disposed of the empty plastic cup and napkin.

Tucking her book into the small pouch in the back of the seat in front of her, Kate then adjusted her backside, trying to find a more comfortable sitting position. Pulling the small pillow up, she placed it against the headrest and tilted her head to gaze over at Castle, still sleeping like an innocent babe.

Kate sighed, and reached out to gently brush back the hair that had flopped down across his forehead. Castle stirred a little, but remained asleep. She smiled softly, and let her hand fall down to his, slowly lacing their fingers together as she closed her eyes in an attempt to get some sleep.

XXX

She was jolted awake when the plane hit some turbulence. The cabin shook and Kate let out a gasp, feeling weightlessness for a second. Her hold on Castle's arm tightened as the flight attendant's voice came drifting across the speakers, asking everyone who was up to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts.

The plane shook again, and some people let out some cries as they seemed to drop several feet, but eventually it seemed to even out, and only some minor shaking remained.

Throughout it all, Castle had remained asleep, which partly irritated Kate. She had to endure it all alone because he slept like the dead. She smiled, remembering all the little pranks she was able to pull on him because of it, so she really didn't complain too much. Though, when they needed to get up, she had to grab his shoulder and shake him really hard just to rouse him. And then, when she did, he'd be confused for a moment, try and cop a feel while negotiating her out of her bra and panties. She'd fight it, but not too much, since she secretly enjoyed their morning frivolities, especially when said activities would then migrate to the shower.

She loved the feel of his hands on her, moving all over her body, worshiping her like no one had before. Kate still, from time to time, wondered why she waited so long to give in to it, to her feelings for him and his for her. There were still some struggles and difficulties, yes, but that was nothing new, every couple had those, but any argument or fight they got into was far outweighed by the happiness that came from finally acknowledging how she felt and what she wanted, and finally being linked with Castle romantically.

Blinking her eyes, Kate was now fully awake. She leaned over Castle and glanced out the window, still seeing darkness. Frowning, she turned back to the built-in entertainment system and punched the touch-screen until the flight map appeared to show their location and the estimated time until arrival.

According to the map, they were still over the Atlantic, but at least it looked like they were closer to England, so it shouldn't be too much longer until they arrived at their destination… a couple more hours, and then maybe two more to get out of the airport and into their hotel located nearby the Piazza Navona and Pantheon. And then… a bed.

Kate sighed. She couldn't wait until she could fully lay down horizontal and close her eyes and finally get some sleep.

Rubbing her eyes, she pulled her book out of the pouch and opened it. She bit her lip and knitted her eyebrows together as she tried to find her place.

XXX

"Are they serving breakfast, yet?" Castle's voice interrupted her reading.

Kate blinked and glanced over, seeing him attempting to stretch in the confined space he was sitting in. He groaned and scowled, shaking his head and rubbing the back of his neck. She smirked at him and quickly placed her bookmark before closing the book.

"No, not yet," she said. "And I don't think we'll be getting any breakfast, Castle."

"What? No breakfast, ah… come on?" he whined like the nine-year-old he sometimes was.

"We're not in first class, remember?" she gave him a look, wondering if his mind was still covered in the cobwebs of dreamland.

Castle slumped back in the chair and rubbed his forehead. "Don't have to tell me that," he moaned. "My neck has knots in it. Why oh why didn't you let me buy you a ticket?"

"I wanted to buy my own ticket, remember?" Kate defended. Even though she was currently secretly dating him, she still liked being able to buy things for herself. It didn't matter that they were traveling together; Kate didn't like the feeling that she couldn't pull her own weight, so to speak. "I couldn't afford first-class tickets, Castle. Nothing stopped you from buying one for yourself."

He tilted his head at her in shock. "What? And leave you all alone with some random stranger… oh… no, no, no," he shook his head. "I couldn't let you suffer alone."

"Well, that's very sweet of you, Castle, but you do know I can take care of myself, right?"

"Yeah, but these seats are so… compact; I couldn't allow someone else to be this close to you," he mumbled, shifting a bit so that his broad shoulders bumped hers.

Kate smirked. "So, how'd you sleep?" she asked, effectively move their conversation on.

Castle shrugged. "Would have been better in the pods," he grumbled, begrudgingly. "But it was okay." He grinned and chuckled softly. "I had this crazy dream though. I was—"

"Riding a T-Rex through Central Park in the buff?" Kate finished for him, raising an amused eyebrow.

His jaw dropped and he stared at her with a mixture of awe and horror. "Do you read minds now?" he asked, totally serious.

"No," Kate grinned, her eyes sparkling with mirth. "You just talk in your sleep."

The look on Castle's face was priceless. She wished she had her camera out to take a picture of it. But since she didn't, Kate just made sure she remembered that expression. To ease his worry, she leaned over and kissed the mortification off his face, capturing his lips in a quick and somewhat chaste kiss. Still, it did the trick, and he sighed, leaning back into his chair.

"Don't worry, Rick," she whispered softly against his lips. "You were just mumbling. I was the only one that heard you."

"Do you think less of me for my bizarre dreams?" he asked.

She snorted out a chuckle and leaned back. "Really, Castle? I've known you were weird long before I started sleeping with you," she said, grinning. "I don't think you have to worry, okay?"

He pouted like a little boy, but the sparkle in his eyes belied any feigned-hurt feelings he might be displaying. Shifting in his chair, he leaned forward and peered out the window.

"Still dark, oh… wait… I think I see the sun starting to rise!" Castle turned back to her with bright excited eyes. "We're almost there!"

"Just a couple more hours and you'll have me all alone in a hotel room," Kate replied with a saucy smirk and suggestive wink.

"Damn, woman… are you trying to kill me?" he grumbled, clenching his hand into a fist in front of his mouth. "Tell me again, why did we decide to go to Rome? Why couldn't we have gone somewhere that didn't involve an nine hour plane flight?"

Kate bit her lower lip and shook her head at him. "If you remember correctly, Ricky," she teased, knowing how much it affected him when she used that nickname. "It was your idea after we'd stayed up watching Three Coins in the Fountain on TV." She paused as he inclined his head in acknowledgement that their destination had been his idea. "Plus, I've always wanted to go to Rome, see the Colosseum and all the other Roman ruins."

Castle smiled warmly, enjoying her enthusiasm. "Wherever you want to go, Kate, I'll gladly take you."

"I know," she replied softly, caressing the side of his face and leaning in to give him a more intimate kiss than before. She sighed in contentment, for once truly happy about where her life was, even if she was still on suspension. "For now, we'll take it one trip at a time, okay?"

He grinned at her and nodded in agreement. "Okay." He pushed forward and claimed her lips again, seizing the moment and kissing her a little bit more passionately than she would have liked for their current location in a cramped plane.

Kate was blushing slightly when he pulled back. He flashed a triumphant smile in her direction and winked provocatively, before leaning back in his chair and glancing out the window again, gazing at the sunrise. She angled across him and rested her chin on his shoulder to glance out with him.

"It's a beautiful sight," she commented, mesmerized by the hues of orange and red lighting up the dark sky.

"Yes, it is," he replied, and she tilted her head to find that he wasn't looking at the sunrise anymore, but at her. She bit her lower lip and rolled her eyes. It was kind of sappy, but still really sweet.

Kate rewarded him with a quick kiss, before leaning back in her seat and reopening her book to do some more reading before the flight attendants started their morning rounds, providing them with some coffee and complimentary muffins. Her insides were all a flutter. There was a large part of her that still couldn't believe that she was on a vacation with Richard Castle, let alone as his girlfriend. It was a feeling she never wanted to forget. Because this was it. This was the beginning of a new chapter of her life. She'd finally found her one and done… and she wasn't going to let go.