Two Meanings

Disclaimer: I own nothing except for a shamefully large shoe collection.

Author's Note: Sometimes I get inspired by a song. Sometimes it's a whole song, sometimes it's a verse or a chorus. In this instance it was one line, or six words. They're from 'Lego House' by Ed Sheeran, and you'll see them below. I heard them while I was driving to work one morning, and I spent the remainder of the drive repeating the first three lines of this story to myself so that I wouldn't forget them before I had a chance to write them down. And from there, grew this. It's my favourite kind of writing (I have laryngitis and I have had no voice for 11 weeks so this gives me a well coveted chance to 'talk'!). On with the story, it's set at some undefined point in the near future, but assumes that their secrets are out and they are together. I take my inspiration for the lingering effects of her injury from Kill Shot (although I don't mention it specifically) which suggested to me that she does still suffer at times. That's just my interpretation. I hope you enjoy, and as always I really love the response from this fandom so I would absolutely love to hear what you think.

Two Meanings

My three words have two meanings.

- Ed Sheeran, Lego House.

I love you.

I heard you.

The two are synonymous in their relationship.

The first time she spoke the words after their secrets came out, she remembers how the look of sheer, unfiltered hurt on his face that he tried so, so hard to hide had hurt so much more than the way the cold weather has been wreaking havoc on the muscles and scars that have only far too recently healed. Alone in her bed that night with tear tracks on her cheeks and the look on his face in her memories she had wondered whether, even after everything they've been through and all the summers they have spent apart and survived and somehow come out of the other side better for, this really might be the thing that breaks them. Whether this might be the one thing that they really can't come back from.

She's Kate Beckett, though. She doesn't give up without a fight.

So, she got creative.

The touch of her fingers on the inside of his wrist. A kiss, pressed to the sensitive skin just beneath his ear. Her arms, wrapped around his waist as she stands behind him in a darkened break room when she really wouldn't be touching him at all if it weren't for the horrors of their current case flashing behind both their eyelids. The way she lets him help her, when her scar pulls and it makes her body want to curl in on itself.

I love you, without a single word being spoken.

How she curls up in an armchair in his office on her day off and reads while he writes. The fact that she is well on her way to making up for those hundred coffees, and the way she falls asleep next to him every night now, even when they're mad at one another.

Because she's learnt the hard way that fights really can make them stronger.

They're Castle and Beckett, even when they're just Kate and Rick. They argue, they banter, they bicker. It's who they are. It's what makes them who they are.

It's their partnership.

Just because they are more than their work now, it doesn't mean that the fundamentals of who they are and why they work will change. They'll still argue. Still fight. It's how they started, and it's how she expects they will always be. Someone will still shout and someone will still probably leave. But they won't break.

They'll come back.

If I love you (I heard you), the very thing that's supposed to keep them together can't break them, she's beginning to believe that actually, nothing will. It won't be easy, she's not naïve enough to believe that happily ever after exists without hard work and determination, but she also knows that the best things in life never are easy. And he's one of the best. So if it takes a little more work than most relationships, so be it.

If it takes not speaking three words she really does feel for him, so be it. She'll adapt. Just like she adapted that summer in her father's cabin. She's no stranger to the process, except this time she won't be adapting on her own. And maybe she's a stranger to that, but so is he. They've battled the hopeless, the scary, the downright ridiculous and sublime, and even the inevitable, emerging on the other side with battle scars, some more literal than others, but emerging nonetheless.

Maybe those three word just aren't part of their story.

Because he doesn't say them, either.

He wants to. He thinks it, and he definitely feels it – she can read it all over his face. But then just at the moment where her heart starts to beat a little faster and she thinks that maybe enough time has passed for the words to have absorbed the meaning of this new, wonderful, amazing relationship they have rather than past memories and pain, the look on his face interlaces with that pain and the hurt and the anger that she knows he still keeps buried just beneath the surface, and she finds herself pressing her fingers to his lips, or kissing him with a desperation that she knows says I'm sorry and I love you and I heard you and you don't have to say it, all rolled into one.

And when she thinks about it, they have always been about what isn't said, rather than what is.

That's not to say he doesn't have his own ways of saying it too, though. He's a writer, but that doesn't mean that he always needs to write a story with words. He loves her with his whole heart and even when the hurt does cross his face, it doesn't dampen the love there. It feels good, to be loved that much. It took her a long time to get there, to let him, but she wouldn't go back now for anything in the world. So if that means that their story is a little less… conventional, than others, well she's okay with that. Smiling at the thought, she shifts back against him a little, the bare skin of her back meeting the soft, soft white cotton of the t-shirt he's wearing. She feels him lift his arms a little more in response, shifting and changing his position a little so that he can continue to ease his fingers gently into the tense muscles of her shoulders and neck. He catches a particularly taut knot, and she lets out a sigh as he pushes gently until it gives.

Yeah, that definitely says I love you.

The coffee he still passes her every morning. The flowers he still shows up at her door with now and again, that never fail to make her melt just a little even though she's adamant that she is not a sentimental, romantic girl. The hand that is warm at the small of her back as he guides her into his loft after a long day at the precinct.

I love you.

The way that he has painstakingly learnt every single one of her tells. Every little sign that shows when the pain that still lingers from her shooting gets too much. The way that he even learnt them if the pain isn't too much and they only mean that it hurts. How he went one step further and learnt every trick in the book that helps (and a few that don't, but are some of the most thoughtful gestures she can remember). Even though she had kicked him out of her life when it had really counted. Pushed him away when it really would have helped.

Every time he touches her when she aches or hurts, with a gentleness she doesn't know why she never thought he would be capable of, then she knows. Knows how much she gave up, but more than that knows just how much he loves her. How much he has loved her all along.

And she knows that really, as much as she would never give up being one of the lads and as much as she might deny it to anyone but him, she is a sentimental, romantic type of girl at heart. When it counts. Of course it also helps that he can be a good old-fashioned gentleman when he wants to be.

When it counts.

The two are definitely not mutually exclusive, as it happens.

This relationship they have somehow created might not be anything close to what she thought she would want when she was a little girl, but somehow it's better than anything she ever imagined. Be it the abstract dreams of a little girl or as a grown woman trying desperately to fight her feelings for this writer.

Her writer.

Who stills his hands eventually, warm and steady and constant on her shoulders and bringing her back to the present as she reaches a hand up to rest over one of his.

"Thank you," she murmurs, breaking the comfortable silence that had fallen between them as she lost herself in her thoughts and luxuriating in the looseness of the muscles she had struggled to relax less than an hour before. .

"Always," he tells her softly, his voice low and private and intimate against her hair, and she wonders for whether maybe it's just that they've developed their own three word exchange to replace the three words that have two meanings. He's moving before she can give it too much thought though, turning her in his arms so he can slide his own around her waist. Moving with him easily, she anchors her knees on either side of his hips and oh, it feels good and familiar and comfortable and secure but always, always exciting as he kisses her while every warm contour of his body welcomes her.

They fit together better than she thought they would. That's not to say that it wasn't hilariously awkward in the beginning, but she had laughed harder than she'd ever laughed in bed before, and somehow that had only fuelled their desire because it had been electrifying in its awkwardness, every time.

Of course, they found their groove eventually, sooner rather than later if she's being honest. She's never been a big fan of confessions of love during sex anyway if she's honest, so it's one absence she actually doesn't miss. It's always felt a little bit contrived for her, like a badly written romance novel, and whilst she might be romantic and sentimental at times, she would be the first to confess that during sex doesn't tend to be one of those times. The ways he has to show her how he feels mean more to her (and that's not to say that none of those ways include sex. Far from it, in fact).

She does find herself a little concerned by the sheer physicality of their relationship sometimes, particularly in the weeks where they seem to spend more time in bed than out of it, but she's learning to be confident in their relationship because they might be different and unconventional in more ways than just their sex life, but it works.

Besides, she's never really been a fan of normal.

And then as if he can read her mind, she's smiling and even laughing a little as he executes a move that she knows is lacking some of the smoothness and finesse he was hoping for, but she finds herself on her back with the comfortable heaviness of his body over hers and she never wants him to stop making her laugh in bed, whether it's intentional or not. His lips are on hers again before she can think of voicing any of that, warm and pliant and full of desire even as he eases a hand carefully underneath the small of her back and takes the pressure off every single one of her aching muscles.

It's a gesture that makes her heart ache and melt all in the same moment, and she finds herself fighting the sharp pull of tears behind her eyes.

He's confident and sexy and undeniably fantastic in bed, but he's gentle and tender and loving all in the same breath. It's a combination she finds utterly intoxicating, and as she feels the light, sweeping brush of his lips beneath the eyes she doesn't remember closing, she catches her breath and almost delights in the sting of tears that she knows he will be able to see as her eyes open. Because they will tell him how much she loves him,

And as she locks onto deep, sincere pools of blue that make any doubts or concerns or questions she might have fade into insignificance, it's also the look in his eyes that tells her I love you more than anything else.

It's always been that way, even when she didn't want to see it. Even when she wasn't ready to see it.

And suddenly, all she wants is him.

So she wraps her legs around his waist and lets out a breathy moan as his hips settle confidently against hers and his fingertips skim a lazy journey up over the plane of her stomach to brush along and underneath her breasts in a gesture that says I love you and thank you and always in time with the rapid thumping of her heart.

He knows. And he knows her. That's what makes them work.

And the sex itself?

Well, that's a pretty damn perfect way to say I love you. And those three words might always have two meanings for them, but she thinks that actually, they love one another better for it.

And that is something that she's more than okay with.