Kate left her bags in the trunk of her vehicle. She felt drained, emotionally crushed, and lifeless. She had hurt and turned away from the one person she wanted the most, for reasons she didn't even fully understand. She closed the door, staring into her empty apartment. Again she felt the burn of her tears, but she didn't give a damn if they fell. Her purse fell to the floor, as she sank to the ground, the door supporting her weight. She would have started to sob, but she lacked the energy. Resting her face sideways against the door, she allowed the tears to fall at will. Falling asleep there would have been an option.

Less than five minutes later, Nick climbed the cement stairs outside Kate's small apartment complex, hell bent to hold the woman inside. He'd have gladly beat the door down to get to her, but when he reached her door, something told him he wouldn't have to. He didn't ring her bell. He didn't knock on her door. Instead, he placed both hands on her door, resting his forehead between them, closing his eyes, taking a long breath in.

"Kate." Nick's voice was a whisper, but she heard him loud and clear. She blinked the tears away but did not move. She heard his body take her same position on the opposite side of the door. More than hearing him, she felt him. "Ya know, the last few nights you were in my arms. But not tonight. That's your decision, and I won't force you to open this door. But Kate, I just have a couple requests."

Kate listened on.

"First one is that you don't move, just stay where your at. At least your somewhat close to me." Nick sounded as exhausted as she felt. She listened on, but his second request didn't come. A few mintues later, Kate again turned her face to the side.

"And your second request, Nick?"

"A pillow."

Kate's face smiled through the tears as she stood up, opening the door. Nick, not expecting her turn around, fell backwards, head at her feet. He looked up at her rubbing his head. Kate kneeled to the ground, "If you slept here, I suppose you'd want a blanket too."

"Well, yeah, that would be nice." Nick joined her in smiling, but reached up to pull her face to his. "Or you could just invite me to sleep in your bed with you, share the blanket, partner."

"Shut up." Kate kissed Nick, stopping his sarcasm as he ripped off his coat and fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, rolling over on top of her, loosing his wallet near the open door of her unit.

Something told both of them that this was the first, the first of many Christmas's to come they would spend together.

The snow had begun to fall outside again, blanketing Chicago with an uncountable number of glistening flakes. The glow from a street light outside was the only light creeping inside. "Kate..." Nick lips were still touching hers when he finished his sentence. "I love you, God, do I love you."

Kate choked up for a moment, but the sentement was lost as were the words she was going to say back to Nick. Instead, although keeping her eyes focused on the man she loved, she said through a tight mouth, "Drop it and leave!"

Nick, looking baffled for only a moment, caught on. He, keeping his eyes on her as well, removed his shoe and flung it behind him, hitting his target, a four foot gnome who was intending on thieving his wallet. When a thump was heard, a dazed gnome hitting the floor, Nick stood up, retrieved his wallet, and kicked the door shut, leaving Carl to twitch outside alone until he came to and slithered off for parts unknown. Kate pretended to be an unwilling partner in this, as she covered her eyes with her hand, and sighed. Some things about her partner had drastically changed, while others never would.

"When we have a son, we are NOT naming it Carl!" Nick said smiling, taking her back to the kiss and her bedroom, soon to be their bedroom.

"You're just going to leave him out there?" Kate said, astonished Nick would leave a gnome, proof that links exist, in public where anyone coming or going from the building could see. Nick sighed, pulling his shirt back on.

"I'll be right back!" Kate sat on the bed, waiting for Nick to come back. After a few minutes of what sounded like one heck of a struggle, Nick did return, a sick smile plastered on his face. "Where were we?"

Kate, not wanting to know what her partner did with the small link, didn't ask. Instead she let Nick make love to her all night, than hold her tight to him until the morning.

*
(6 a.m. the next day)

Kate woke up first and stretched herself awake. Nick's arms, in his sleep, sensed her moving away slightly, and pulled her back to him. Kate traced his face with her finger until he woke up. Neither Kate nor Nick said a word, but both knew the best thing to do was to hide their feelings at work, at least for the time being. And both knew that was going to be the only hard part about being together. Half an hour later, Nick glanced at his watch, frowning. It told Kate it was time to get dressed and get to HQ.

While Nick jumped in the shower, Kate roamed in the kitchen to start coffee. A noise she never heard before stopped her. She listened for where it was coming from, and realized it was her freezer. Suspiciously and cautiously she crept closer to it. Grasping the door handle, she peeked inside. Rolling her eyes, she removed a gnome shaped ice cube, setting it in the sink. Carl's eyes blinked at her from within the ice. Kate made her way to the bathroom, to scold Nick for freezing Carl, but instead she chose to flush the toilet, taking away momentarily any hot water Nick was enjoying, replacing it with cold. She smirked to herself as she listened to Nick fight with the faucet.

After Nick got out of the shower, and threatened Carl into not spilling the beans on what he saw last night between Kate and himself. Nick further amused himself by playing ice hockey with Carl's frozen form all the way to the car. Kate simply followed, not saying a word, but loving Nick even more.

A year later, Captain Paige began to suspect "something," was going on between them, something more serious than just partners and friends, but to his credit, even after their marriage, he never said a word. He even bought them a wedding gift and sat in the second row at the service. Carl eventually dethawed from his ice cocoon, and was also present at the service. Nick just insisted he remain in shackles so he would not steal the card box. Dispite the shackles, Carl picked the locks, but out of respect for the newlyweds, he did not steal even one card. Instead, he rummaged through the guests coat pockets, finding his loot. Nick normally would have caught on and busted Carl red handed, leaving the ceremony for the sheer joy of throwing Carl in the hole, but he was too wrapped up in his bride, Kate O'Malley to notice.