For #castlefanficmonday. photo inspired prompt on tumblr (it will be linked with the story on tumblr,) so thank you to ourwordsarethegatewaytothesoul for the lovely idea. All my gratitude to my amazing beta Jen. You are truly the best.

Beckett stretches out the soreness that has settled in her muscles as she spares a glance at her phone, time having slipped away from her as she had poured over the paperwork for her trial. A faint rumbling of her empty stomach echoes in the silence of the conference room as she stands and watches the snow coat the city, the afternoon sun hidden by grey clouds.

The late spring snowstorm had surprised the residents of Manhattan that morning, the flurries now sticking to the ground quickly and reigniting the seasonal depression that had just begun to wane in the city. Beckett, however, was delighted by the unexpected surprise.

My mom and I used to build snow forts when I was little. And as I got older we'd go ice skating. There's just something so magical about the snow. Her revelation to Castle years ago when they had bundled up for their first case in the harsh winter snow springs to mind as she grabs her coat now.

"Hey guys, I'm going to get out for a bit, you want anything?" Beckett is already slipping the buttons of her peacoat through their respective holes by the time the boys glance up from their paperwork. Ryan's voice belays his confusion as he chuckles in her direction.

"Beckett, you…do realize it's snowing, right?"

"That's the point. I love the snow," she murmurs as she heads to the elevator with a wave in their direction. Shoving her hands into her pockets, the supple leather of her gloves creaking in the silence, Beckett chances a glance at her desk as the elevator doors slowly slide closed in front of her.

The empty chair next to her desk mirrors the empty feeling in her stomach, the smile dropping from her mouth as she tries to blink away the sadness her partner's absence has caused. It's been days since Castle's last appearance at the precinct and the scoff that escapes on her breath is laced with pain she can't continue to hide.

The flurries stick to her coat as Beckett steps out into the snowfall, the cold nipping at her exposed neck. She lets her thoughts wander to her absentee partner as she moves with the crowd bundled together in front of the precinct.

She misses him, hates that she can't help but think of Castle's sudden withdrawal from the dance they have so carefully been choreographing. He seems to have replaced her as his partner, his most recent dalliance with the flight attendant proving that. The cold that settles in her lungs after a few deep breaths is nothing compared to the ache that tugs at her heart. The wall that Castle has been so meticulously tearing down is crumbing around her and her partner is nowhere to be found. The tears she's not prepared for are hot as they roll down her face, a welcome contrast to the bitter chill settling over her.

The sharp click of her heels is muted by the thin layer of soft snow as she finally weaves in and out of the few stragglers that were still braving the weather instead of ducking into warm stores, moving instinctively to the park as she lets herself get wrapped up in the memories assaulting her. I always cut through Washington Square Park on the way to the precinct during the first snowfall. It's magical, the way the city falls silent. She smiles softly as she imagines Castle walking through the same park she now finds herself in. Years of their partnership, and his affirmation of their relationship, play through her mind as the snow falls silently around her, coating the ground white.

We can do it together.

I missed you too.

You could be happy, Kate. You deserve to be happy.

If you don't believe in even the possibility of magic, you'll never ever find it.

I'm here to protect you.

I love you, Kate.

Castle's voice haunts her, a sense of desperation she's not proud of has Beckett fishing her phone out of her pocket, finding the name quickly and hovering over the blue digits that seemed to be mocking her. She's fun and uncomplicated. A brief moment of panic stabs at her just as she presses her gloved finger against the number.

Her heart hammers against her ribs as the phone rings endlessly. She's still trying to figure out what she is going to say when the phone finally connects.

"You've reached Richard Castle; I'm unavailable, please…" she sighs at the sound of his voicemail, the disappointment she has felt for weeks gnawing at her. With her mind made up to try and fix things, Beckett moves towards the street, hailing a taxi before she can talk herself out of it. The confidence in her decision to see and talk to him grows by the time she's sliding across the leather seat.

"595 Broome Street, please."

The cab driver nods at her and begins humming along with the radio, leaving Beckett alone with her continuing thoughts of Castle. She'd studiously ignored a follow up phone call from Colin after their drink, too intent on figuring out Castle's sudden evasiveness to get caught up with out-of-town detective.

It'd been weeks since she'd actually felt close to Castle. As she stares out the window, the city rushing past her, Beckett tries to remember the last genuine smile her partner had treated her to. The single coffee cup sitting on her desk and her partner's sudden disappearance during their bombing case has haunted her for weeks, the first moment she felt the shift in their unconventional partnership.

The jokes he used to toss her way were now absent. Forced smiles now replaced soft grins. As quickly as he showed up at crime scenes, he now disappeared just as fast once the case was closed.

The traffic gets congested as soon as they turn onto Castle's street. Impatience overrules her logic, Beckett reaching for the door handle as she murmurs, "I'll actually walk from here." She tips the driver and grants him a soft "thank you," as she climbs gracefully out of the taxi. The snow now barely flurries around her. Beckett raises her face to the grey clouds and lets the flutter of snow paint her cheekbones. Her breath is shaky as she glances down the street, eyes focused solely on his building. On him.

He's pulling away again.

She's stayed quiet too long again.

It's her fault again.

As she walks, the truths she has been too scared to admit until now barrel down on her. She hates that he's presented her with an opportunity to miss him again. The summers without him had been a special form of torture. Vivid images of standing in the precinct watching him walk away with Gina suddenly flash through her mind, her breath hitching as the heartbreak flares.

She thinks of the summer at her dad's cabin—where she spent weeks dialing his number only to hang up before she could hit the last digit, her physical pain nothing compared to the emotional pain she was trying to come to terms with.

Suddenly very aware that time is slipping away from her as quickly as Castle, Beckett hurries through the throng of people blocking her path. Need settles low in her stomach, suddenly flaring as she wrestles with the lies she's been telling herself. That she wasn't ready. That they needed time. That she needed to be whole.

She is just about to cross the street to face him when she sees his car. The hope that had sparked in her chest at the sight of snowfall this morning reignites as she walks towards his vehicle, grateful for the time being that the flurries have stopped. The idea draws a bright smile from Kate as she presses her finger into the snow, pressing down until she feels the glass beneath the pad of her finger.

She drags her finger through the soft snow, sketching out letters that spelled the confession she'd kept hidden in her heart for months, too afraid to say the words aloud. She takes her time, pouring her feelings into each swipe of her finger through the powder.

Stay with me. The words Castle whispered in fear almost a year ago now become her mantra as she steps back, admiring her written out plea. I love you, Castle. Stay with me.


Her heart stops at the sound of his voice. The confusion in Castle's tone causes her smile to falter slightly when she turns to face him, his blue eyes darting from her to the car. His cheeks are pink as he huffs out a breath, his arms crossed to ward of the cold. "I saw you from the window," his voice soft as he murmurs, "What is this?"

"Where's your jacket? It's cold out here." She deflects his question for a moment as he shrugs of her concern.

"I was trying to get some writing done. Been a little blocked lately. I was watching the snow when I saw you and I didn't want you to leave before I … Beckett, what is this?" He points to the car and her message.

One shoulder rises in a non-committal shrug as her voice gets trapped by her emotions, eyes drawn to her handiwork before snapping her gaze back to Castle. She stares at him as he takes a step closer, his brown hair falling over his forehead with a shake of his head at her avoidance. "No. Don't do that. Please."

The simple appeal from Castle has the words tumbling from her, tears stinging her eyes as she fumbles over her thoughts for the correct appeal to fix their fractured relationship.

"I love you, Castle. I do. And I know I screwed it up. I've kept you waiting and I've hurt you. And I'm so sorry Castle. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I lied to you. I remember everything. About the shooting."

She waits for the surprise at her admission to cross his face, but the shock is her own when he grants her a little nod. "I know. I heard you. During the bombing case. I just thought you didn't feel the same way. And I thought I could work with you, I thought I could get past it. But I guess not." She sinks her teeth into her bottom lip at his revelation, taking the blow of his words with a resigned nod. She continues with her apology quietly, both of them needing to hear the words aloud in the stillness around them.

"I was wrong, Castle. It was wrong but I just didn't know how to cope with everything between us that had happened and to try to move past it when all I could see was you trying to dive in front of a bullet for me. I needed to come to terms with my mom's murder, Castle. I want to be more than who I am. I want to be that for you. For us."

She trails off as he holds her stare, Castle closing the distance between them. Pulling her against the warmness of his body, his sigh is one of relief, his heart beating steady against her ear as she buries her face into the strong wall of his chest. "You don't need to be more, Kate. You are everything to me."

His hand cups her neck; Beckett's eyes fluttering close at the gentleness of his touch. "Kate, look at me." He deposits a feather light kiss on her forehead before he repeats, fingertips covering the scar settled over her heart, "Kate, look at me."

Castle's smile is dazzling when she finds the courage to open her eyes again. Her gaze drops to his lips in want before he kisses her tenderly, fingers pressing into the base of her skull as moves into her. A quick drag of his tongue across her lips has her opening for him, her moan lost in his mouth. She craves more of him, canting her body further into his as he breaks the kiss. His breath is warm against her ear as he whispers the words she'd written in the snow back at her.

"Can't you see that I love you?"

As always, reviews and thoughts are most appreciated. Thank you for your time in reading, I am forever grateful.