Ellie knew what love was. Of course she did. She had vague memories of distant smiles, brief hugs and perfunctory kisses from her mother and some embarrassed indulgences from her father. She always did her best to earn them by being a quiet, polite and very sweet child, no trouble to anybody. Yes, a real angel. Easily ignored. And apparently, in the end, easily abandoned.
Ellie curled her feet underneath herself as she sat down on the sofa. Putting a hand to her forehead and trying to resist the urge to cry, she was unaware that Devon had come into the living room until he stood right before her. And when he crouched down so he could wrap his arms around her, silently creating a secure refuge with his body so she could allow the tears to flow when wracking sobs began at the memory of her parents' desertion, Ellie repeated in her mind that, yes, with Devon, she finally knew what love was.
Devon knew what love was. Of course he did. All the time he had been growing up, his family showered him with love in the form of expensive gifts and lofty expectations. Devon's younger brothers seemed to accept it all and expect even more – their own cars, computers, spending money. Devon tried to feel the love of his parents as they offered it. But the love they offered seemed hollow somehow.
Devon finally came to the conclusion that he was an ungrateful son and seriously applied himself to his studies, determined to earn his parents' love by becoming a surgeon, like his dad Woody (even if he would never be as brilliant as his dad, as he was often reminded by both his mother and his father) and put away his dreams of a career in sports.
He looked up from the medical journal he had been flipping through at the dining table and watched Ellie move around her kitchen preparing their supper. She must have sensed his gaze on her, and she turned her head towards him, her eyes and face lighting up when she saw that he was looking at her.
Basking for a moment in Ellie's quiet acceptance of their relationship, Devon considered that, yes, he did indeed now know what love was.
Casey knew what love was. Of course he did. Well, maybe not at first, what with his mother and her drinking and his father and the man's emotional remoteness after she had walked out on them. Or even when he enlisted with the Marines, in competition with all the other young bucks in their climb up the military ladder indulging in hasty one-night stands with the army rats they picked up at bars near the bases where he was posted.
But later on, when he was finally at a high enough rank that he didn't have to strive so much, when the brass could let him in on some of the more secret workings of the government, that's when he discovered it. Casey loved his country and the ideals it stood for. He could mostly overlook that not everybody was interested in sticking strictly to those ideals. As long as Beckman and the people who surrounded him were on the same page, well, everything was fine.
So the job was enough. Certainly it was. It had to be.
Casey sighed and poured a generous splash of scotch over the ice cubes in his glass, unwrapped the frozen burrito he had heated in the microwave, then placed the surveillance system headphones over his ears as he mentally reinforced the stout wall of patriotic love that encircled and protected his vulnerable and yearning heart.
Sarah knew what love was. Of course she did. She couldn't remember her mother, really. She had seen some blurry photographs and used to look at them quite often for a period in her life. But when Sarah had gotten old enough to work with her father, she had abandoned the photos, and Jack Burton had become her whole world.
And he loved her, of that she was sure. If she did her job properly. Sarah could tell he loved her, because he showed it with a jaunty smile and an offer of Rocky Road. And a chance for her to prove her love for him over and over again. First some small shoplifting, then slightly more complicated cons, then by throwing herself in front of cars and buses and armored trucks.
Then he was ripped from her life and Sarah was on her own. She only had herself to rely on. Even Director Graham and the CIA, as solicitous as they were of her health and condition, couldn't be trusted. So Sarah had to learn to love herself. And to trust no one. Ever.
Hugging her arms tightly around her chest, Sarah shivered a bit before reminding herself that, no matter what else happened, she always had herself. And that she loved herself. Pretty sure she loved herself.
Chuck knew what love was. Of course he did. He experienced love every day of his life. He loved his mother still, even though he could barely remember her now. He loved his father and understood the man much better than when Stephen Bartowski had left Chuck and Ellie to their empty plates waiting for the promised pancakes. He loved his sister in the way that only people who had survived the same life-changing tragedy could. He loved Morgan and Devon and even Big Mike and the Nerd Herd for their various quirks and peccadilloes, just because they were a part of his life.
He even loved Casey, maybe because the man was so closed off and seemed to need love from any source so badly.
And he loved Sarah with all his heart. He loved her in the morning when she first opened her eyes after an overnighter in his bed, because in those moments before she remembered about her CIA job and the cover of her assignment, he could imagine that he saw a spark there that said maybe she had some feelings for him too. He loved her in the afternoon when she studied a file or cleaned a gun in Castle, her devotion to a job she took seriously obvious in her every move. He loved her in the evening when they were on a fake date out at a restaurant – or eating with Ellie and Devon or hanging out with Morgan – and she laughed an entirely genuine laugh while sliding her eyes over to him as though they were a real couple sharing a secret.
But mostly, he just loved her for no particular reason at all, without strings or conditions or expectations. Without waiting for her to love him back. Because of all the people who surrounded him in his life, Charles Irving Bartowski was the one who truly knew what love was.