What if Kate hadn't been shot at the funeral? We wouldn't have Rick's "Kate, I love you… I love you, Kate." What would have happened? Would they have the guts to talk about everything they'd just been through?

xxxxx

The funeral was over, and the small group of friends was having difficulty walking away. The backhoe driver got tired of waiting, and finally began pushing dirt into the hole. The action provided an ominous sense of finality. Castle was the first and only one to speak, "The Old Haunt. Let's go raise a glass." The others nodded and found their way to their vehicles. Beckett parked her Crown Vic back at the motor pool, changed into jeans and a tee shirt in the precinct locker room, & took a cab to the bar. As she rode in the taxi, she wondered if she'd have a moment alone with Castle. She meant what she said in the eulogy - that she was lucky to find someone to stand by her, and she wanted to apologize for her cruel words the other night in her apartment. She'd been going over what to say to him for days, but had pretty much said nothing at all. He clearly didn't know how to take it. She wasn't even sure he got it during the funeral - that she was trying to communicate to him that she was lucky to have him at her side. Castle could read her quite well, usually, but after she'd said they were over, he seemed to have shut down. She had to tell him how thankful she was that, despite her biting words, he'd continued to have her back, even when she didn't want him to, in the hangar. She saw him internalize it when she spoke to him, Ryan, & Esposito; referring to the four of them as an "immediate family." But she knew she needed to say it clearly to him alone. Hinting at things with Castle was so easy; talking to him straight out was so damn hard.

As she walked into the bar, she saw everyone with their glasses or bottles raised & Castle offering a toast. She smiled. Even when he was upset, he was still charming. She ordered her drink and walked over to the booth where her friends sat. She slid in next to Castle. It felt good, right, being there at his side. He was an excellent partner. She ignored the conversation and looked at him. Castle felt her eyes on him and looked down into them. He saw her apology in them. He gave her a half-smile, lightly bumped his arm against hers, and offered a look of silent forgiveness.

He breathed a sigh of relief. This wasn't all he wanted, not by a long shot, but it was them. Back to normal & having silent eye conversations. He reached over to gently set his hand on her knee. The small gesture flooded her with a sense that everything would be okay. She'd touched his knee like that once before, after the Triple Killer got away, and he'd held her hand & accepted her comfort. Now it was her turn. She took his hand and laced her fingers between his. She smiled to herself that half of the conversation she'd been worrying about was over, and neither had spoken a word.

She still wasn't listening to the conversation, but could tell that Castle was half-way participating in it. She could also tell that he was paying far more attention to how she was holding his hand than to the conversation. She gave his hand a small squeeze and leaned towards him. He brought his gaze to hers and asked with his eyes, "What is it?" Kate swallowed, resigned herself to how he could melt her with just a look, and simply said, "Thank you." His sweet smile accompanied her favorite answer: "Always."

xxxxx

More to come!