So... that ep MADE me need to write. And then I realised it was Miss Berkie's birthday and she requested "fluff, coffee and when they use their words instead of subtext"... I think I've delivered on all of these things. Enjoy, and happy birthday babe x

Betaed by the lovely Ky. You rock.

I don't own. I just don't. I only own the nail marks in the side of my face from that episode

She was cold. That was the only thing she was truly aware of. Beyond that, she couldn't be sure of anything that had just happened. She didn't know if she could trust what she'd seen before her own eyes… Elena Markov appearing like a shadow in the night, slitting Mr. Hart's throat without a thought before disappearing like a puff of smoke.

Oh, she wanted to curl up and go to sleep. She was so tired.

Mr. Hart gave a soft gurgle beside her, before finally falling silent. Blood leaked from the neat slash of his throat, slowly drowning him in his own fluid. Kate couldn't quite bring herself to feel any sort of sympathy for that. Her wet hair dripped icy trails down her back, sapping her of her energy and making her ready to just give up.

She'd stopped shivering. That was a bad sign. This couldn't be the end. She couldn't get so close to escaping to give up now. The shifting clouds let the moon shine brighter in the small clearing. During the brief scuffle between Elena and Hart, his phone had fallen out of his pocket.

A renewed sense of purpose thrilled through Beckett. She hobbled, still on her knees towards the phone. Her limbs were heavy, protesting the movement every painful shuffle of the way. That phone was her lifeline, the only hope in hell she had of making it home alive. Castle couldn't read that letter. She wouldn't give up hope now. With a groan, she forced herself over to the phone.

There was no way she had the strength to break through the cable ties around her wrists. She prayed she wouldn't topple over as she leaned backwards, ordering her frozen and uncooperative fingers to pick up the object. She wasn't even going to try dialling 911… her fine motor coordination was far too shot for that. She managed to hit the home button, beating helplessly at the screen with numb fingers. The movement helped… she could feel blood slowly beginning to move through her hands, her fingers slightly more dexterous. The still quiet of the woods meant that she could hear when the call finally connected. Only years of instinct directed her thumb to the loudspeaker button.

"Nine One-One, please state your emergency," a voice chirped.

Kate nearly dropped the phone in sheer relief. "My name is Detective Kate Beckett," she forced out, certain her words were slurring as hypothermia settled itself deep into her bones. "I'm a police officer with the 12th Precinct. I have no idea where I am. My undercover op went south and I've only just managed to escape."

"Just stay on the line Detective, we're working to narrow down your location, are you hurt?"

Kate cringed. "I've probably got myself a shiner," she admitted. "And I'm soaked to the bone and I know I've got dirty water in my lungs."

"Makes me glad that I'm on the phone and not on the frontline," the voice responded. "Just stay on the line, Detective. We've located you and I'm sending out a helicopter now."

"Good," Beckett replied. She knew her breathing was slowing down. Every inhalation was becoming a little more difficult, and she didn't even have the energy to curl into a ball and wait for unconsciousness to slowly creep in. Her eyes slipped shut. The last coherent answer she gave was to the address of the building she'd been held in. After that, she could barely manage a non-committal hum in response to the Emergency Services operator. It was all just too hard. She couldn't stay upright. She allowed herself to fall, the hard ground ready to take her weight when she couldn't hold herself up.

She'd had many brushes with death over her years in the force. She remembered the searing pain of a shooting perfectly; but she'd forgotten how slowly an icy death moved. It was a slow burn, silently creeping through her veins and shutting down her organs. She never thought she would be alone when death finally came. Through it all, Castle had been there… how cruel the world could be, her final moments spent alone and numb after all the work she'd done to let herself feel and to let Castle break down the icy walls she'd spent years creating.

She was so tired. She wished the thumping noise that was only getting louder would stop so that she could get some rest.

Apparently death wasn't ready for her just yet. She wasn't frozen solid… she could move her toes and her breathing was deep and even. Kate peeled her eyes open, the steady beep of a heart rate monitor cluing her into the fact that she was in a hospital bed.

Castle's head was resting in his hands, the picture of a man defeated. Warmth unrelated to the heat packs resting along her torso, neck and groin thrilled through her. Castle would never have to read that letter. They'd cheated death one more time.

"I'm sorry I missed dinner," she murmured, her voice husky from screaming underwater.

"Kate!" he gasped, his head popping up to face her.

"Not so loud, Castle," she chastised him gently. "I don't know if you noticed, but I'm concussed here."

"You also have water in your lungs and a moderate to severe case of hypothermia," Castle added, moving to perch on the side of the bed. "What the hell happened?"

Kate managed a shrug. "Lazarus is a bitch," she replied. Her eyes bore silently into his. "I'll have to give my statement. Don't make me do this twice." She didn't have the words to ask him to be present as she recounted the story of all that went horribly wrong with her op. She hoped that he would grasp the implications.

"Okay," he agreed, leaning forward to brush his lips against the uninjured side of her scalp. "Once the doctors check you out, they're waiting at the Twelfth for you. Are you ready for this?"

She was bone exhausted. Being poked and prodded and then talking for hours on end sounded awful, but she knew it had to be done. "Send them in," she sighed.

Castle had all but dressed her, her limbs limp and uncooperative as a ragdoll's. She'd leaned heavily against him as she walked out of the hospital, her chin still jutted out in a false display of confidence. She knew Lazarus was watching and she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he'd defeated her.

It wasn't until she walked into the interview room to give her statement that she stood alone on her own two feet. Despite the shakiness of her limbs, she managed to stride in with some semblance of grace and settled onto the couch. She managed to shoot Castle a smile when he pressed a hot mug of herbal tea in her hands.

Her voice had been steady as she recounted each and every detail she could recall. She couldn't bring herself to care about how unprofessional she looked with Castle's arm slung around her shoulders, but she wasn't going to deny her fiancée anything at this point, and from the look on Gates face, it wasn't going to be an issue.

When Fowler announced that he was in the midst of a raid of the headquarters she'd been held in, Kate could feel in her bones that it was useless. Pointing that out would be futile. Instead, Kate sipped at her tea silently, still mulling over the words that she knew that Castle needed to hear. And he would hear them, if she were given half the chance.

She'd watched Castle stress over her wellbeing all day. She was never without a hot cup of tea or coffee, his familiar gestures of love made abundantly clear in the bullpen warming her heart like only he could. Her favourite Thai soup appeared on her desk at lunchtime. He hovered behind her like a shadow, a constant companion, silently slipping her antibiotics into her palm and keeping her centred.

And she loved him for it. His silent support was everything… maybe she'd finally learned what it was to trust somebody. Allowing herself to fall back on him and trust that he would be there to take her weight wasn't a weakness; it made her feel strong and brave in the face of her powerlessness over her disastrous sting.

One tiny part of her brain screamed at her to go through the shredded bag of Bracken's files that was hidden at the top of her closet. She needed that bank account number for her own safety more than she ever had before. But that trouble could wait til tomorrow, or the day after. Bracken wasn't about to steal her away from where she slept.

Her hand linked with Castle's, she followed him to his bedroom. "I'm cold, Castle," she murmured as they passed through the threshold to his room.

His arms were around her in an instant. "Your skin is still cool," he muttered, concern laced into his tone. He stepped back from her, pushing her NYPD issue jacket from her shoulders. "Take your clothes off," he whispered.

"Castle," Kate began. She was sure he was smart enough to know that she was not in the mood and probably wouldn't be for days, at least until the concussion settled down and her head stopped pounding.

He pulled his shirt over his head, his fingers moving to his belt buckle. "Not like that," he insisted. "Just trust me on this."

He'd carried her this far… what did she have to lose? Kate let her pants drop to the floor, unheeding of the mess that their discarded clothes were making in the room.

She slid between the sheets. He'd warmed the bed with his electric blanket. This was heaven, right here. Castle climbed into bed behind her, his bare body enveloping hers as he pressed as much of his nude flesh against hers as possible.

"I hate being cold," Kate muttered against his skin. "I've hated it since that freezer. I feel like I'll never be warm again."

His arms tightened around her. "Go to sleep, Kate," he urged her.

"I can't sleep," She replied. Nude and vulnerable, wearing nothing but her fiancée's ring, she could be honest. "I'm scared about what I'll dream," she admitted. "I need to see Doctor Burke again."

Castle had known that there was no way that this wouldn't rattle Kate's mental health. But to see her admit so freely to needing help was new. His girl was growing. "I'm sorry this is happening, Kate," he whispered. He didn't have words that could magically fix her. He couldn't write them out of this situation. But he could be there… he could be the good man in the storm.

"I was so powerless," she confessed. "Vulcan was pissing all over my mom's memory and I had to sit back and take it. That was almost worse than the water." His fingers traced against her scapula, a soothing tattoo against her skin. She could feel the tension in his body, though. He wanted to go out and break something, she was sure of it. "I wrote you a letter," she told him.

"Why would you do that?" He asked.

"I was scared and I really didn't think I was going to make it out of there. So I had to leave you something. I hid it in a vent and I marked out the spot with my blood so I knew somebody would find it."

That explained the scab on her finger she'd been worrying all day. He lifted her hand and pressed a kiss against the skin of her index finger. "You don't have to tell me anything," he told her, his voice soft.

She shook her head against the solid wall of his chest. "That's where you're wrong, babe," she answered. "You deserve to hear it. You deserve to hear it every day." She pushed on his shoulder so that he lay flat on his back, her torso resting over his so that she could look at his face. "I love you," she informed him. "And I don't tell you that enough. I love you, Richard Castle," she leaned forward, planting a kiss on his lips. "What we're doing here, this tango between partnership and relationship? Making a life together even after all the times we nearly tore each other apart? It means everything to me. It's made me happy when I was certain I'd never feel joy again. I'm almost glad Alison Tisdale was killed, because she led me on the path to you."

His eyes were twinkling with joy. "I'm so glad you're telling me this instead of me reading it."

"Trust me, I'm glad too," she replied. "I love you," she added on a whim. This brush with death had been too close… there was no way she would go to her grave with Castle unsure of her feelings for him. She'd make sure that he was damn clear on the fact that she loved him, every single day of their always.

"I love you too," he replied. His thumb traced one of the bags beneath her eyes. "But you need to sleep, Kate," he hushed her before she could protest. "If the nightmares come, they come. Wake me up and we'll deal with them together. You're not doing this alone anymore. I won't let you."

There had been so many nights where she'd been too scared to fall asleep, petrified of what her subconscious would hold for her next. She was tired of fear. She'd beaten her demons once; she could certainly beat them again. But this time she wouldn't freeze him out until she'd won. "I might wake up screaming," she warned him softly.

"Then I'll bore you with Nikki case details til you beg me to let you sleep again," he replied.

She was finally warm and his voice was so soothing. Trusting him and letting him support her hadn't made her weak in the way that she'd always feared it would. Maybe her dreams wouldn't be so terrifying now that she no longer woke up alone. Storms raged on in the world… there was still the issue of Bracken, Elena Markov on the loose and if she really wanted to borrow trouble, Jerry Tyson was still out there and probably had his eye on both of them. The storms could continue to rage… she'd found her shelter and she wouldn't allow the cold to bother her any longer.

So... Let It Go from the Frozen soundtrack was kind of my anthem watching the episode yesterday, and it kinda leaked in here. But that happens.

I would love to hear your thoughts and I really think you should wish Berkie a happy birthday both here and on twitter. Play with me there and on tumblr under the handle brookemopolitan :)