A/N: For those who have endured an actual blizzard this weekend, I hope you were able to stay safe and keep warm.
Set late season 4, post 4x22, Undead Again.
"Well," Castle sighs, banging his fist against the dashboard in a final show of frustration. "Doesn't seem like we're getting out of here anytime soon."
She expects a venomous retort about how this is all her fault, about how he regrets ever showing up this morning, getting into this damned car with her, it would fit perfectly with the behavior he's adopted throughout these last couple of weeks. But the blame never comes, his mouth pursed in a thin line instead, his eyes glaring out at the blizzard overtaking the majority of the East Coast.
Not at her for a change.
"At least we aren't trapped in a freezer this time," she murmurs, and it isn't a smile, but from the profile view she has of his face, she notices the corner of his mouth twitch with amusement.
He isn't quite as angry with her anymore, softening ever since the zombie case, since she had spoken of her descending walls and watched his eyes light up, shining sapphire as he made her a promise of 'tomorrow' before retiring for the day.
He had kept his promise, shown up early this morning, running into her amidst the heavy fall of snow outside the Twelfth, and accompanying her on the walk through the lobby, into the elevator and up to the homicide floor. They had caught a case just after lunch, a lead that would send her up north to Yonkers, and to her surprise, Castle had followed when she had donned her coat and headed out to her Crown Vic.
They had both known about the blizzard looming over the city, that there was a chance they could be caught up in some snow showers, but neither could have anticipated the force of the storm that had rained down on them during the drive back to the city that evening. Pulling over on the side of the road with her emergency lights flashing had been her only option once she could no longer see anything but the blinding cover of snow in every direction.
"Since when are you the one finding the silver linings?" Castle mutters, resting his head against the freezing glass of the passenger seat, but directing his gaze to the world of endless white outside rather than her.
Beckett shrugs, her legs beginning to cramp from the last hour they've spent stranded inside the motionless vehicle. "You taught me well."
That draws a smile from him, a glimmer of pride beaming in his eyes even as he tries to subdue it, and Kate feels some of the tension evaporate within her chest. It isn't comfortable, not like it once had between them, not like the days when she had believed they were so close to dusting the rubble of her walls from their skins, when she had been balancing on the brink of being ready, of being enough, so ready to fall. To dive in with him.
These days, she isn't so sure he would dive with her anymore. At the moment, drowning alone in the choppy waters without him seems more likely.
Kate takes a deep breath to dispel the thought, pulling her feet up to the seat and curling her knees to her chest. They haven't been stranded long, but the temperature in the car has dropped fast and she's noticed Castle squaring his shoulders against the shivers, has been fighting them off herself. It makes her wish things were different, that she was different. Fun and uncomplicated, like he wanted. Maybe if she were, they could be huddled together here in the front seat, holding to each other for warmth without worrying over what it meant instead of freezing apart and in silence.
Castle spares a glance at her while she digs into her coat pockets in search of her scarf, cursing to herself in frustration when she recalls how she had left it on her desk, thinking this would be a quick trip to question a witness, that they'd be back within a couple of hours and she wouldn't need the extra protection.
She doesn't expect Rick to hold out his own scarf to her, to insist that he doesn't need the added warmth with a tentative lift of his lips, and maybe… maybe she doesn't have to drown after all.
"Thanks, Castle," she murmurs, looping the grey wool around her neck to cover the skin her coat leaves bare. It smells like him, she notes, the subtle hints of his aftershave rising to her nose, and she may be a little warmer, but she regrets taking the fabric from him now, torturing herself like this.
Rick nods his acknowledgement, continues to stare out into the night sky shrouded in a screen of white, the howl of the frigid winds filling the void their voices can no longer fill.
Until Castle hears her stomach emit a quiet growl.
"Did you have anything after lunch today?"
Beckett hums, reflexively dropping a hand across her empty stomach. It's been hours since they'd had lunch at the precinct, her alone at her desk while he'd gravitated towards the boys, picking at his Chinese food with a frown. "Yes."
"Liar," he mumbles, digging in the pocket of his coat and producing a granola bar, insisting even when she begins to protest. "Here, I'm set for the next couple of hours, but you look like you're about to wither away on me."
She plucks the granola bar from his hand with a roll of her eyes, tearing into the thin packing with her fingers, and taking a small bite of the honey and oats flavored snack.
"Thank you," she murmurs after a swallow.
"Partners," he says, but the use of the term coming from his mouth strikes an unexpected chord of indignation in her chest. Because he hasn't felt like her partner for a while now.
"Is that what we are?" she asks, snagging his gaze and demanding an answer through the narrowing of her eyes.
A swirling mixture of defense and cold fury slosh through the sharp blues of his irises, all traces of kindness gone and replaced by that steely anger she's grown to know well over the last two weeks. "I thought so. Why, Beckett? Haven't been meeting your standards lately?"
She shakes her head, takes a deep breath to quiet her own swell of irritation. "You know exactly what I'm talking about-"
"Do I? Because I don't think we've been on the same page for a while now," he states, crossing his arms over his chest and squaring his jaw, like he's preparing for a huge fallout that she doesn't want. "Not since you were shot."
The scar between her breasts throbs at the mention, the memory, the cold making it tighter than usual, but the phantom pain in her chest is overridden by the confusion leaking into her mind.
"What do you mean? After I came back, after we talked at the swings… I thought you understood," she whispers, thoughtlessly lifting her fingers to her chest, trying to soothe the brutal ache pounding through her sternum, but they snag in his scarf. "I thought we had been making progress."
"Towards what?" he laughs, so bitter and hollow, so unlike him that she has to bite back the urge to flinch.
"Towards - towards being ready," she mumbles, her voice so pathetically small, and she hates it, hates how uncertain and idiotic he's made her feel. "Towards being where I want to be. I wanted that to be with you."
"Your trusty sidekick," he adds, cynical but a little less sure of himself, a strange hint of hope clinging to his words.
"No," she growls, pulling her knees in tighter against her chest, tugging her thighs to rest against her ribs, hold all the pieces together, but Castle is already shaking his head. "Rick-"
"Save it, I'm going to get out and check the-"
"You can't get out," she hisses, grabbing for his arm and catching her fingers in the sleeve of his coat when he closes his hand around the door handle. "Castle, we're trapped in a blizzard and we don't know how long we're going to be stuck here. We need to stay warm."
"We also need your car to work so we can make it back to Manhattan once conditions lighten up. I've done research on this for a book before," he informs her, shaking her fingers from his elbow. "We need to keep the tailpipe clear."
"Yeah, each time we turn the heater on, so just wait until then," she reasons, tucking her hands back into her coat pockets. "There are still people who could be driving, who could hit you."
"Thanks for the concern, partner," he sneers, crossing his arms and resting back against his seat like a petulant child that has her counting backwards from ten in her mind, but it does little to quell her building irritation.
"God, you know you're more than that. More than a partner."
He's silent beside her, quiet fury and disbelief radiating from the tense set of his frame. And if she's going to be trapped here with him, if he's forced to remain inside this car until the storm blows over, she may as well speak her truths while she has the chance. Even if it is too late.
"After my shooting," she begins, has to clear her throat to keep the words from lodging in the chilled cavern of her larynx. "After I came back to the city, after I saw you again, made things right, and started seeing Burke, my therapist, I felt… hopeful." Her lips quirk, the sad smile clinging to the corners of her mouth, but he still refuses to tear his gaze from the window. "It hasn't been easy, but it felt like… I felt like I was getting better, like I've been getting closer to the kind of person I want to be. The kind of person you deserved."
He wavers at that, uncertainty flickering in the reflection she can see within the window before he drops his forehead to the snow covered glass with a hard thump.
"What do you want from me, Kate?" he questions on a sigh, her name a strangled thing in his mouth, so weary and worn. "You lied to me, you made me think… you had me hoping for something you were never going to give me. All because you couldn't tell me the truth, couldn't find the decency to just be honest?"
Castle lifts his head, turns his eyes to her, and there's so much hurt, so much anguish… she can only stare back at him, lost, unsure how to fix all she's broken.
"My feelings for you are unrequited, I get it. That's all you ever had to say," he mumbles, flushed clean of the anger, the damn near hatred he's been harboring for her, and drenched in remorse instead. What has she done to him? "Don't worry about it anymore, Beckett," he adds, twisting around to assess the backseat. "It looks like we're going to be here for a while, so we should get some sleep. We can do it in shifts, I'll-"
"Unrequited," she echoes, watching his jaw work with frustration, but he isn't going to give her a glimpse of those sullen eyes again. And she doesn't know how to remedy it, how to explain, she isn't the one with the words. Never has been. But maybe if she tried… maybe she could make him understand, make him see the truth with one simple statement. "Castle, I - I love you."
His eyes widen, ripples of gold mingling with faint traces of cerulean, but the dull shades of blue still overcompensate and he… he doesn't believe her, doesn't trust her.
"No," she breathes, because she just told him she loved him, finally confessed her feelings, and she wants the soft husk of her first name in his mouth, wants the breathtaking smile back and the joy to shimmer through his gaze.
She wants to touch him, to reassure him in some way, but it's so cramped in her cruiser and Kate huffs, unbuckles her seatbelt and eradicates the space between them. She may have broken his heart, damaged her own, but they were not irreparable.
"I was talking about you at the swings," she whispers, ignoring the contradicting combination of terror and surprise swelling in his gaze as she rises to her knees on the leather seat and inches closer to him. "I was talking about you, about us, a couple of weeks ago, during the bombing case when I said I didn't want to put off things in my own life anymore."
Her hands are trembling, the cold lacing through her limbs to weave with her trepidation as she lifts her fingers to his cheek, dusts her thumb to the traces of fatigue beneath his eye, feels the heat of his breath skitter out across her wrist.
"I'm sorry for lying to you, for hurting you, Rick, that was the last thing I wanted." Kate tries to swallow, the ache in her chest threatening to strangle her words, but the gravity of what has become of them, how much of his faith in her, in them, has been shaken, has her blinking back tears. "And never once were your feelings unrequited. Never once did I stop loving you, Castle-"
The hand that rises to fist in her hair draws her in, her body collapsing forward into the haven of his as he finds her mouth in a kiss, fusing their lips and letting her taste the sorrow, the pain, the relief she's brought him. He tugs her closer, desperation and hesitancy battling for dominance in the hands that bury in her hair, coast along her side. She works to soothe him with the slow stroke of her tongue, to rid him of his doubts, replace them with proof of how she loves him, of what he does to her, to flood his blood with heat that will melt the cold.
Kate brushes her thumbs along the upturned corners of his mouth once they part for breath, soaks in the warmth radiating from beneath the layers of his clothes.
"I have never been more grateful for a blizzard," he whispers, dazed and wonderstruck, and she could laugh, but she merely nods against him, so relieved to hear a hint of amusement in his tone, and buries her cold nose in the heat of his neck.
She can hear the pound of his heart through the thick material of his coat and without his scarf to protect his neck, Kate touches her lips to the exposed skin of his throat, skims her mouth along his heating flesh until she can reach the throb of his pulse, feeling his body shiver beneath the brush of her tongue.
"I love you too, Kate," he gets out, and she nearly forgets how to breathe. Despite hearing the words before, she had given him reason to take them back, to dismiss them altogether; she had been convinced she would never hear them again. "I love you."
Kate travels the hard line of his jaw, back to his lips, and kisses him gently, savors the perfect fit of his mouth to hers and the slow bloom of hope in her chest. She no longer feels at risk drowning alone, like she'll freeze from the bitter cold he had exuded with the wrath of the blizzard. They aren't diving in, but she thinks this is better.
Beckett wakes to a dark sky that is no longer accompanied by the cascade of snow. Blinking away the gritty remnants of an hour's worth of sleep, she shifts from her back, onto her side to curl into the man still propped up against the passenger door behind her, his legs stretched across the length of the front seat, his arms cradling her body to the wall of his chest.
Her neck aches, but she lies still for a moment, her head to his shoulder and her eyes roaming his face, how peaceful he looks. They had sat tangled together for a long while, allowing the valuable heat of the car to warm the freezing interior for a few sacred minutes, and they had talked, actually learned how to talk through the misunderstandings that had plagued the last few weeks.
"But what about your mother's case, your walls?" he had inquired, staring at their knotted fingers, not meeting her eyes. Afraid of what her answer would be. "Waiting? I can still - whatever you need, Kate, I can-"
"I want you more," she had confessed, her nose at his cheek and her lashes fluttering to kiss the bone. "No more waiting behind walls, Castle. I just want you."
They had turned off the car to conserve enough gas to make it back to the city, but he had kept her warm.
Kate scales her fingers along the stubbled plane of his cheek, enamored by this newfound privilege of touching him, absorbing the heat from his skin into her fingertips. He orientates himself towards her, his cheek seeking the cup of her palm, and her heart flutters, flickering with pleasant flames.
"Beckett," he sighs himself awake, the blue slits of his eyes finding her in the darkness of the car, realization spreading a grin across his lips that she can't help returning. "Kate."
"Hey, blizzard stopped," she murmurs, watching his eyes travel to the windows. "Ready to go home?"
"Home?" he repeats, curving an eyebrow at her. "The case-"
"We've been stranded for the last five hours, Castle. We're going back to my place until morning."
Kate eases off of him so he can stretch, follow her upwards into a proper sitting position. She turns the key in the ignition, grateful when the Crown Vic rumbles to life without issue and the heater greets them with a blast of coveted hot air.
"You want me to come home with you?" Castle murmurs while she lets the windshield wipers clear away the last of the snow layered over the glass.
His uncertainty still lingers, his disbelief, as if the words spoken before they had drifted to sleep were now void, nothing more than a dream.
"I do," she nods, reaching for his hand and biting her lip to suppress the smile when he twines their fingers atop his thigh. "I want to go home, curl up with you in my bed, and then tomorrow, we'll solve this case. And after that…"
She allows her sentence to trail, meeting the amazed eyes staring back at her, leaving the choice to him.
"After that, we continue mending," he supplies, the confidence he had been lacking rippling through his features, and Kate squeezes his hand in affirmation.
Anticipation bubbles in her veins, feeding the hope for them that had diminished to nothing more than a small, fragile thing over the past few weeks. They had already begun to heal, to mend, and she's determined to make it all up to him, to prove every word she had spoken tonight true.
To prove how she loves him.