.

Bonjour, FanFiction followers! I know I've currently got a couple other stories going on, but, every year, I get majorly inspired to do Christmas fics, and this year, I'm adding a Castle one to my repertoire. Makes since, I thought, since that's completely my obsession. XD

This story is because the internet severely lacks Ryan fics. And because it especially lacks Beckett/boys siblinghood-bonding fics. And especially good ones. ;) I dunno, the inspiration for this scenario happening just hit me like a lead brick.

I don't own/claim to own Castle or any of its characters. Also, the title of this story is a reference to the guardian angel in the movie that's mentioned later. Enjoy.

.

.

A whirl of snow blew down the street, and Kevin tightened the thick grey scarf around his neck, wondering why he always wondered what he was doing when he did this. Or something.

The station was officially closed, at least to everyone but the most necessary patrol officers, working the shortest possible shifts, manning phones, monitoring paperwork. Captain Montgomery had come out of his office at eleven that morning, buttoned his overcoat, flashed them a smile for the season, and all but kicked his detectives off the premises until December twenty-sixth, no exceptions allowed. Before anyone could even manage a 'thanks,' practically, the Cap was out the door himself, off to a Christmas with the wife, the kids, big dinners and warm fires and good brandy; all the right clichés.

It definitely wasn't a present to waste, and Kevin hadn't. He'd been with Jenny all day, and his mother and dad and sisters were all still back at the apartment together, cleaning up Eve dinner and talking about God only knew what, and Kevin was sure he probably wouldn't want to know even if they offered. Now, it seemed he was the only one on the bustle on the streets who wasn't going home: everywhere around him, there were people with shopping bags and boxes, in groups and alone, in ratted hoodies and expensive furs and ducking into taxis. Their days were all done already. But him, he had one thing left. Something he'd done for three years now, and it was too important not to be his priority right now, even in the cold and light flurrying snow of eight-thirty at night. Because above all, Kevin Ryan still believed in Christmas.

Crossing his arms around him for warmth, Kevin turned up the corner, squinting to make sure he was approaching the right address. Last year, before the freak bomb incident, he hadn't had to check. Things changed. He was okay with acknowledging that.

Turned out he had the right door. It had just about the crappiest little doorbell known to man, but at least there was a light fixture in the arch over the stoop. Of all the days of the year to have to be paranoid, he'd rather not have it be this one. Extending a black-gloved hand, he pressed the buzzer twice, despite the mild worry that it would snap off, shatter like ice, and never do anyone any good ever again. Maybe it could hold out one more day. Just like the rest of them.

.

.

.

The glow of a black-and-white movie filled the living room. "It's A Wonderful Life." The film had always been one of Kate's favorites. Johanna's favorites, actually. And so the tradition continued, since most of Johanna's favorite things had turned out to be hereditary over these years.

Kate sat on the far end of her couch, which was basically the only piece of seating furniture that could fit comfortably in her place of temporary residence. 'Temporary' being a word that she took a lot of comfort in, especially when she woke up and walked into a wall, which she'd be ashamed to admit had happened more than once. She had both legs tucked up underneath her, was picking bites of ice cream from a pint with a disposable spork, and sported the sweatpants and clip-tangled hair of a girl who took advantage of mandated time off. What else was there to do, anyway? Captain was right, and it was sweet of him to give them the time. No one had to know that she didn't have plans with her dad until tomorrow.

Yet apparently, someone did, because there was a buzz at her front door.

Sliding into her slippers on the floor, Kate got up and turned down the volume of the movie without bothering to pause. She'd seen it so many times every year that she could probably recite it from memory by now. It took her all of ten seconds to reach the door, and, pulling back the chain, she opened it just a crack…until she saw who she saw on the other side. Then she drew it wide.

All at once, Kate knew she really shouldn't be surprised. This wasn't the first time this had happened, even…still, as he looked up from the concrete steps to her face, blue puppy eyes reflecting the temperature and snowflakes in his hair, Kate had to reflect that she could debate with herself some other time. "…Ryan…"

She didn't waste time in stepping aside for him, and she shut the door after ushering him inside, pulling his scarf off him and hanging it over the radiator. "Hey," he greeted. "I know, you said you didn't need - oh, thanks - said you didn't need anybody to worry about you, but…well, don't consider it worrying. I just wanted to drop by. Make sure you were…Yuletiding. Y'know."

Something between a wry smirk and a sentimental smile slid onto Kate's face. She crossed her arms. "I'm Yuletiding," she promised. "But that's still worrying."

"Actually I prefer 'active participatory monitoring,' it just sounds cooler."

"Call it what you want, I can interpret."

Ryan batted a hand over his right shoulder, then switched and de-snowflaked the left one, getting back to seriousness. "Come on, Beckett," he said more gently. "We have to do this every year? You know why I'm here."

She wasn't sure why that made her look down, a lump catching in her throat, but it did. Maybe because she suddenly felt a distinct reminder of that old loss again. There was just something about people who cared…they just tended to bring that out. Probably why she hadn't accumulated many. Kate made herself glance back up: he'd made effort for this, so the least she could do was the same. "I do," she said simply, as if anyone would know more was coming.

"And you know I'm not leaving until you give me some kind of clue you're okay here. And a real one. Fake doctor's note doesn't count."

It was sentences like that - aside from the quippy part at the end there - that almost made Kate wish no one could be candid outside of work. She needed to hear things like that, badly, which was exactly why she didn't want to. She nodded, uncrossing a hand to gesture back at her television. "Really, I'm set, I promise. Go home, Ryan, it's okay. Really."

Yet placating him wouldn't be quite that easy. Once he saw her idea of 'company,' his expression started to look like somebody'd told him Richard Simmons was in the bathroom. He pointed at the TV. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"That's your Christmas Eve."

She lifted her chin in defense. "Yes. Yes it is."

"For God's sake, Kate…"

"Leave it alone, Kevin. Just don't."

Something in Kate's voice was darker that time. Wearier. Like she was preventing something else from showing. And honestly, she should have seen all of this coming. No one from work would be happy with the way she was celebrating, but what did that matter? They all had families to surround themselves with. Families that, as much as she liked, she couldn't picture herself intruding on. Which was why she especially should have expected his next question. "Why'd you turn down Castle?"

"…Because it wasn't my place. It's Christmas; families should be together," she exhaled, evenly and stubbornly. Turning away from her fellow detective, she busied herself, re-arranging her few, cheap couch pillows and picking up papers from the coffee table. "I'd ask how you know, but I really just don't need to know at this point," she added. It was getting annoying how her private business was usually precinct knowledge, but, then again, the boys could have been standing there when Castle had asked her yesterday afternoon, and she wouldn't have noticed them. She was too busy stammering out an excuse.

"Exactly. Families should be together," Ryan countered, undeterred. He gestured to where he stood. "I'm here, aren't I?"

Kate knew what he was getting at. The reminder of the fact that he'd checked on her didn't stop her from rolling her eyes, but at least she did it gently. "That's a work family. It's different."

"A group of irritating people by any other name would be as irritating."

"Huh, you sure? Good practice."

"Kate." Damn him; she wished he'd stop bringing the conversation back to places she didn't want it. Especially when he used that rarely-used tone, and she couldn't argue. "Look. I know you're not exactly taking the whole 'alone' thing that well. You don't have to pretend to be."

"Who says I'm not just fine being by myself?" she persisted.

"Well. There's the fact that you're sitting here watching 'It's A Wonderful Life,' which is basically the most depressing Christmas classic on the shelves, up until the last ten minutes. Watching that by yourself is like asking for the blues… Then, you're arguing with me, which you wouldn't do if I wasn't right; you'd just ignore me. Aaaand you called me Kevin. You haven't done that since my third month when you were making a point to everybody that you wouldn't 'accidentally' call me Morris anymore."

"Yeah, well, keep bugging me and I might start again."

"Look," he sighed, raising his palms, "I'm not asking you to put on an elf costume and joyride a sleigh through Central Park."

"Thank God. And don't," Kate muttered.

"But, all I'm saying is…isn't there somebody you'd rather go spend tonight with? Your dad maybe? I know you already said no to everything else, but that, at least…"

"He's still visiting his sister in Des Moines," she answered. "I'm picking him up tomorrow and we're spending Christmas Day together."

"Then come with us."

"…No. Thank you, but again, no. I can't; it's you guys' time to spend together."

"So go to Castle's."

"Bite me, Ryan."

The other detective exhaled and dragged his hand down his face, as if he wasn't sure what he'd do with his coworker but 'strangulation' was one of the rising options. "Fine," he said - and just as abruptly, he started taking off his coat.

Kate blinked. "Uh…what are you doing?"

"Staying." He didn't even miss a beat.

A few more passed before she spoke, though. "I…you don't…Jenny."

"Jenny's fine, I'll be home by midnight and she's surrounded by my parents and sisters and bad eggnog," Ryan assured, settling down cross-legged on the rug, seeing's how it was the second-best place to sit in there. Casually, he dropped another announcement: "Javi's on his way, too."

For some reason, an alien landing wouldn't have surprised Kate more right now. "What…here?" She supposed that reaction was just part of the routine by now. Call it an odd little tradition.

"What's even mildly surprising about that? He usually beats me here."

"I wouldn't say usually. Twice…"

"I've only ever come over on Christmas twice," he pointed out.

"Well…yeah."

"Then he usually beats me here."

Kate sighed, and she recognized that, whatever was in her that compelled her to argue, it was probably going to lose. Secretly, she was oddly pleased by that, but she wouldn't be herself if she didn't give selflessness one last shot first. "I don't suppose I'm gonna be anything besides ignored if I flat-out order you to get out of my apartment?"

"Pretty much." Reaching up behind his head, Ryan grabbed a throw pillow and wedged it between the couch and his back. "You plan to share that ice cream, right?"

Before she could craft a reply, she heard a door thump at the curb. A suspicious glance at her new carpet-dweller, two steps to the window, and a quick brush of the curtain, and Kate instantly knew she recognized that car. As in, she saw it daily. Same as the figure emerging from it.

Very, very fleetingly, a smile - a pure, rare one - leaked across Kate's face. It was gone again when she turned around, walking for the door. "I'm going to kill you, Ryan."

He smirked up at her from the floor, knowing all too well. "Merry Christmas to you too, boss."

.

.

So there it is! ^^ I hope you guys liked that as much as I did. I love getting the chance to write scenes like this. On another note, it IS A ONESHOT, so as much as I appreciate seeing you guys Story Alert my stuff, it won't do you much good for this one. XD

Also, as I say on every chapter of all my stories: if there's anyone (ages 14 and over) interested in joining a free, writing-based Castle roleplaying forum, check out the bolded paragraph in my profile. Thank you.

Lastly, but certainly not least, please review, you guys. Just a few seconds to let me know your favorite parts or something would really make my day - it does, I'm not even kidding.

So, thanks for reading, everyone. Merry Christmas; peace and love.

-CV

.