Disclaimer: I definitely don't own Castle. They would still be on the air if I did.

A/N: Thank you so much for your continued patience and your wonderful words of encouragement for the previous chapter. I hope you enjoy this final chapter of the tale.

CHAPTER 12

"I got your letter, Kate."

Kate just nodded, figuring that was why he had turned up. In the time since he had asked for this lunch, she had run a few scenarios through her head for why he was here. Maybe he was coming to say goodbye to her in person, to tell her to leave him alone, never contact him again. He didn't say 'Always' when she thanked him for the coffee, and his tone of voice all morning was cool and detached, so she had resigned herself to a negative outcome. She was broken out of her musings when he reached out and took her hand across the table, obviously to get her attention.

"Thank you for writing it. That must have been hard for you."

"Oh, God, Castle, you don't have to thank me for anything, I just wasn't sure you would even read it."

"Of course I read it. It took me a few hours, but I am glad you persevered, and gave me the space to absorb the content myself."

Kate nodded, and waited for more, but when there was none forthcoming, she dared to ask the question that had been on her mind all morning.

"What now?"

Castle nodded to acknowledge the question, still holding onto her hand, and squeezing it gently. When he looked at her again, she could see all the pain in his eyes, and it brought tears to hers again.

"I am still mad, Kate. You could have told me the truth, and I would have waited. But to lie to me for almost a year, and to find out the way I did, that hurt. I felt like you didn't trust me, you didn't care enough about me to let me down gently."

"No, No, Castle, that's-"Rick raised his hand to stop, and she swallowed the rest of her words.

"I know now that is not what you were doing, but I had nothing else to go on at the time. We need to work on our communication skills if we are going to be partners again."

"Is…is that what you want?" Kate asked, her heart in her throat, for this was the moment when her dreams came true or failed forever.

"I got the impression from your letter that is what you wanted. Have you changed your mind?" Rick asked, and now his insecurity was on full display.

"I want that, God yes, I want it all with you, I just don't know if you can forgive me." Kate let the tears brimming in her eyes fall, and Castle wanted to reach out and wipe them away, but they were not there yet. They had to start this thing right, and for that, there had to be full disclosure.

"It will take time, I think, to forgive you, but I want to. My feelings for you haven't changed, Kate. I just need you to give me the time to trust you again, and we need to be open and honest with each other, no more secrets, no more lies. Can you do that?"

Kate was nodding before he was finished, but Castle didn't seem to be totally convinced, so she backed up her actions with words.

"I can give you whatever time you need, Rick, and I will try to be open and up front with you, I really will, but I need you to keep me accountable as well. You can read me better than anyone ever has, you're the only one who knows me better than I know myself sometimes. I need you to call me out if I am retreating. Can you help me with that?"

"Always." They were both smiling now, and Kate reached over with her other hand to clutch his with both of hers, and finally he reached forward to catch a tear, still falling unnoticed down her face. She leant her cheek into his palm, and his hand lingered there until they were interrupted by the waitress come to take their plates.

Conscious of the time, and having to return to work soon, Kate asked Castle how they should proceed from here.

"Well, I will escort you back to the precinct and keep you entertained during an afternoon of obviously boring paperwork, then how about I take you out on a proper first date?"

"Sounds perfect!"

The end.

Epilogue to follow.