She boils a pot of soup on the stovetop while he sleeps, pours it into a thermal container when he doesn't wake and the chicken noodle goes cold waiting for him. Beckett checks on him every hour, her fingers to his pulse, a hand to his chest, feeling him breathe, but not waking him from the deep sleep that his body must have been craving.
She watches him for a while, perched on the edge of the bed at his feet, simply soaking in the sight of Rick Castle in her latest place of rest, the sense memory of his fingertips on her skin hours earlier still imprinted onto her flesh, the scars that are singing with phantom pain due to the intense cold, and she wants nothing more than to curl into his side, find sleep that she's been lacking for years now.
But she's no longer sure she has the right to do that. She has no idea where Castle stands or how he feels, what the last two and a half years have been like for him. He'd been miserable throughout their separation, the joy in his eyes on their second anniversary, when she had broken the rules to spend it with him, the last time she had seen him happy, and that had been so long ago.
He could have moved on, jumped to the easy conclusion that she had abandoned him after that night, given up on him and their marriage, and let her go, decided to be happy with someone else.
She wouldn't blame him.
Her chest begins to ache harshly and she has to rise from the bed, tiptoe into the bathroom down the hall, closing the door and sinking onto the floor next to it, burying the sob that rips through her soul into her knees.
He knows that sound.
Castle peels open his eyes, scanning the unfamiliar bedroom in confusion before it all immediately rushes back in. Blizzard, ice in his lungs, frozen body parts, Kate, his wife stabbed in an alley, taken away from him.
Crying. She was crying, is crying.
His body feels thick and uncoordinated as he pushes the sheets from his chest, his legs, stumbles a little before he regains his balance and follows the muffled noise, the choked sobbing, coming from behind a closed door just outside the bedroom.
He doesn't ask, doesn't warn her that he's entering, only eases the door open to find her huddled on the floor, trembling in the far corner against a shower with her face in her hands, bowed into her bent knees in the darkness.
And even if it wasn't her fault, he's angry with her, angry with her for even embarking on this deadly journey without him, for going after the death trap of LokSat on her own with good intentions and terrible judgement.
He hates her.
He loves her more.
Rick descends to his knees beside her, startles her with the touch of his hand to her shoulder, but he doesn't pause in pulling her into his arms, in easing onto the floor with Kate in his lap, against his chest, burying broken sobs into the skin of his throat.
"I'm sorry," she forces out, her lips rasping against his skin. "I'm so sorry, Castle. I'm sorry-"
"Shh," he whispers, tangling a hand in her hair, closing his eyes as tears of his own leak down his cheeks, onto hers. "It's okay-"
"No," she moans, shaking her head. "It's not. None of it was okay. I should have stayed, but I just wanted - I thought I was protecting you. I thought I could do it without dragging you down with me-"
"You are my partner," he growls, gripping her tighter, anger and desperation pumping through his blood. "Marriage is a partnership. Loving you made me your partner. If you go down, I go down with you, that's how it works. You don't get to decide what's best for me, you don't get to just leave me like that."
"I know," she chokes out, hooking her fingers in the collar of his shirt, the sweater he was still wearing that felt too thick between them now. "I had a lot of time to figure that out, to realize everything I did wrong, especially with you. You deserved better from me. I just - please tell me there's a way I can fix this, that you're not… done with me."
"Done with you?" he echoes, shifting to try and see her face, but her eyes are screwed shut, her jaw squared tight in an attempt he recognizes to stop the quivering of her lip.
"It's not worth it, coming back. There's nothing to come back for if you aren't - if I can't have you back," she confesses, her hands fisting in the fabric of his sweater. "I - I understand if you moved on-"
He curses under his breath and cups her jaw in his hand, ducks his head until he can seek her mouth, kiss her hard and bruising, punishing for the last three years with the firm seal of his lips, the bite of his teeth, forgiving her with the stroke of his tongue to the nipped flesh. Kate gasps softly at the onslaught of his mouth, but welcomes him without hesitation, parts her lips and cradles his skull in her hands.
"Moving on?" he scoffs, shaking his head even as their noses clash and their kiss falls apart. "I would have walked into a tornado for you, Kate. Still would."
"And I'd die if I lost you," she whispers, resting her forehead to his jaw. "But I already did. I don't want to live in fear of that anymore."
He sighs, slumps back against the wall with her body warm and draped against him. "That last night we had," he murmurs, curving his palm to the nape of her neck, beneath the curtain of her hair. "I told you I'd never given up hope for us and that wouldn't change unless you said it should."
"Don't change," she repeats the words she'd spoken to him, lying across their bed with a smile she had pressed to his. "Ever."
Rick drops his cheek to lie against hers. "I didn't."
They remain on the bathroom floor for a while longer, until bones begin to cramp and the tug of her scars is too fierce, until Castle rises without allowing her the chance to ease off of him, carrying her to the bed and crawling in beside her.
He asks more questions about her time away and once she gives her explanations, she asks for the same, wants to know every moment she's missed out on, even though it slices through her, adds new scars of regret to her already vast collection. The two of them exchange agonies side by side, facing each other in her bed with knees touching and his hand slowly migrating across the short distance of sheets between them to reclaim hers in its grasp.
She begins drifting off halfway through his explanation of that weird pyramid device she remembers seeing in his loft, the back and forth brush of his thumb along her wedding band lulling her to sleep.
"Castle," she mumbles, blinking furiously when she realizes her eyes had fallen shut, stayed that way for too long, but Rick quiets her with a hand on her shoulder, lowering her back down as she tries to rise from her side.
"You need to sleep, Beckett," he murmurs, but she shakes her head, scrubs at one of her eyes and takes a fortifying breath to wake herself back up.
She can't go to sleep, can't let this night end. It could all be a hallucination with her luck, a waking dream, or he could simply leave, be gone in the morning either way. And she can't lose him again, not when she's been given this beautiful second chance, she can't-
"Kate," he sighs, banding his arm at her waist and coaxing her body closer, deeper into the reheated cove of his. "I'm not going anywhere, trust me. I honestly couldn't even if I wanted to."
His gaze flicks towards the window across the room, the snow still falling in shadows across her bed sheets, and Kate huffs but concedes to his logic nonetheless, nestles deeper into the haven of his body.
"I missed you," she breathes, fisting a hand at his back, curling the other in the neck of his sweater, holding too tight. "God, I missed you so much it hurt even worse than the last time."
He crushes her ribs, her sternum, every bone as he buries her in his arms, but she welcomes the force of his body around her, pressing her face to his neck and her lips to the hollow of his throat; it helps her breathe.
"I know," he gets out, the two syllables strangled and soaking her hair with his tears, and she closes her eyes, wets his skin with more of her own. "Ripped my heart out."
Kate drags her fingers down from his collarbone to his chest, splays her palm to the spot before closing her fingers over the beat of his heart, as if she can hold it there.
"Just be here," he adds on a rushed breath, dusting his lips to her forehead, her brow. "Be here when I wake up, Kate."
She slides one of her knees between his, tangles them impossibly further into this web of limbs, and doesn't loosen her too tight grip on him, doesn't let go; neither does he. "Promise."
It's the first time in three years that she is able to find peace.
When he wakes in the morning, the snow has stopped and Kate Beckett is aligned with the curve of his body, her back to his chest, her knees cradled by his, one of his arms looped around her chest and the other draped over her stomach. Hand beneath her shirt, his palm is splayed across her bare stomach, fingertips aligning with scars he's still not quite acquainted with.
Yesterday had really happened.
Kate had found him in the middle of a blizzard. Kate - his wife, who had told him they needed a time out nearly three years ago, disappeared (damn near bleeding to death and against her will, he's now learned) for over two of those three miserable years. Kate, who had been stabbed in an alley and left for dead with the garbage like her mother.
And he'd been left in the dark about all of it, left to think she'd just given up on him. The wounds of that are still fresh, will be for weeks, months to come, because losing her always left him raw and ruined in a way no one and nothing else could. But the only balm to such lasting injuries was lying beside him and he was tired of the stinging ache. He wants to heal, wants it for them both.
Castle cranes his neck just enough to bury his nose in her hair, press his lips to the uncovered juncture between her shoulder and her neck.
"Can you stay?" she rasps, startling him with the sound of her voice breaking the silence, her fingers dusting over the forearm curled at her waist in apology, but Rick only holds her tighter, reminds himself over and over again that it isn't a dream.
That she's real and cried in his arms last night, desperate to have him back, afraid she'd lost him forever to a life he didn't want her to be a part of.
"You really think I'm going to let you out of my sight after all this, Beckett?" he mutters, flexing his fingers when she slips hers through the empty spaces. "You were right yesterday."
Kate hums in question, shifting slightly to glance over her shoulder, stealing his breath for a long moment. He had almost forgotten what it was like to wake up with her, to receive the tender caress of her gaze, soft and golden like the morning rays of sunlight.
"Had to be fate. How else could me stumbling down the sidewalk in the middle of a blizzard and somehow ending up in front of an apartment you happen to be hiding out in be explained?" he muses. "I didn't even know you were in the city."
"Enough to turn me into a believer," she shrugs, drawing their clasped hands up her sternum, to rest above her heart, above the first scar that bound them together. "A devout one."
Castle touches his lips to her temple, grazes a tentative kiss to her mouth, taking more when Kate rolls onto her back to return his kiss, to slip her tongue past his lips and trace heat through his veins, eradicate even the smallest hint of a chill left from the day before.
"Rick," she sighs out, her hands beneath his shirt, branding his bare skin, and Castle nearly chokes on his breath at the simple touch. Her spine arches at the brush of his hips settling over her as he sips from her mouth, savors every stroke of her tongue and hitch in her chest. "Please don't stop."
His fingers snag in her t-shirt and he parts from her lips, devotes his mouth to her jaw, her neck, before traveling lower to relearn the flesh left unattended and abused beneath her clothing.
He learns the geography of her scars with his lips, dedicates their locations to memory, before the morning is over with.
She doesn't have much food in the apartment, enough for eggs and toast, some fruit that she'd salvaged from rotting with the rest of the neglected pile on the table, but Castle looks as if she's cooked him a gourmet breakfast when he emerges from the shower a few minutes after she had left him to satisfy their growling stomachs, beaming at her from the table.
She tends to his cracked knuckles after they eat, soothing moisturizer into the broken lines of his skin.
"Please don't ever do anything like this again," Kate sighs, rubbing a thick dollop of Aquaphor along the back of his hand with intent circles of her fingertips. "Scared the shit out of me."
"That deal has to go both ways," he murmurs and she pauses to glance up to him, hold the severe blues of his eyes.
He waits a beat before he nods, accepting the promise she enforces into the simple words.
"I wasn't trying to be reckless," he mumbles when she resumes infusing the healing balm into his flesh. "I just… didn't care anymore."
"I know," she whispers, sucking in a breath that shivers through her lungs. "I've been there. Few times."
"No more," he sighs, turning his hand in her grasp to open his palm to her fingers, embracing the slim length of her digits. "For either of us. I can't take it anymore."
Kate places the moisturizer down on the counter at her back and slips her hand from his, wraps her arms around his neck and closes her eyes, inhales the scent of aftershave and musk, of soaked in snow and the oils of sweat and him. Just him.
"I won't survive it again," she confesses. "Too much. Love you too much. Need you-"
His hand cradles the back of her skull, submerging into her hair, creating a sticky mess with the moisturizer that hadn't dried yet, but she's able to exhale a breath through her palpitating lungs at the touch, the anchor of it.
"Trust me," he breathes, his lips at her ear, his thumb stroking the sensitive skin behind it. "I love you, Kate. It's mutual and it never stopped."
He spends the entire day camped out inside the apparent CIA safe house of an apartment with her, watching movies on the pathetically small television and dozing on her couch, keeping warm. He stays another night in her bed, another night with Kate's body sealed intimately close against his, with the heat of her skin beneath his hands, his mouth.
It takes a near 48 hours since she had dragged him out of the storm and into her apartment for the effects of the blizzard to even begin receding, the mounds of snow slow to melt, the streets an intimidating task to clear.
He wouldn't necessarily mind remaining trapped inside with his wife for a few more days, even longer, but he also yearns to take her home, to just have her back at the loft, where she belongs.
And albeit her hesitation, the caution that seems to rise up in her eyes any time the loft, his family, is mentioned, she softens her own fears with spoken daydreams of being back in their room, their bed, of his book collection and the jacuzzi tub she'd always indulged.
"It's strange," she whispers, standing in front of the living room window in his sweater and a pair of socks, her eyes calm but thoughtful as they roam the outside world.
"Hmm?" he inquires, padding up behind her with a mug of the coffee she had brewed when she'd woken before him an hour ago.
"Just - thinking I'd never have my life back, that there was just no way… but you're here and it's-"
"A lot?" he supplies, standing beside her, earning the relieved flicker of her eyes.
"Too good to be true," she murmurs, shifting towards him, planting her lips to the naked curve of his shoulder before sealing her cheek to the spot. "Don't want it to disappear."
"I'll handcuff myself to you if I have to," he pledges around a sip of coffee. "We made it work before, outside of the bedroom, so I'm sure we can-"
"Castle," she chuckles, laughing just like he'd wanted her to, before sighing in what sounds like blessed contentment, enjoying this long withheld reprieve. "Thank you."
"For what? If you think I'm kidding, just wait until we get home. Still have your backup cuffs in the bedroom drawer and we'll just-"
"No, not that I'm opposed to this plan," she hums, her nose brushing the edge of his shoulder, nuzzling the rounded bone before her lips whisper over the spot. "But I meant for not giving up on me, offering me forgiveness," Kate replies, smoothing her thumb over his healed knuckles when he reaches for one of her hands, draws it to his lips. "For just - being home."
He touches his lips to the top of her head, closes his eyes and breathes in the scent of her, the faint cling of cherries to her hair even though he knows she has none of her former shampoos or lotions on hand, even though he knows she hasn't had anything familiar in too long.
"I love you, Kate."
It's all the explanation he has, all he needs, because that's all there is, what it will always come down to.
"What do we do when the snow clears?" she murmurs, the layers of pristine white covering the streets below, the grounds of the parks and tops of building, as far as they can see from her window.
"We go home."
(n.) a love so deep, you can't imagine life without your partner. Literal English translation: "You bury me."