|Chuck vs The Rancher's Daughter
Author: Jameson Black PM
His first job out of college wasn't exactly what he had in mind, but he needed money for his start up company and Jack Walker needed his services. Sarah Walker had everything she wanted, or so she thought, until Chuck Bartowski entered her family's life.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Chuck B. & Sarah W. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 29,962 - Reviews: 171 - Favs: 88 - Follows: 143 - Updated: 10-23-12 - Published: 05-13-12 - id: 8113406
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chuck vs The Rancher's Daughter
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck.
June 15, 2004
Software Developers Convention
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Las Vegas, NV
"Remember Morgan; let me do all the talking."
The smaller man gave his best friend an eye roll. "Dude, you've only reminded me like every five minutes since we left Los Angeles." Morgan paused his unpacking and took in a breath. "Look Chuck, I know you're the guy with the engineering degree from Stanford and I'm, well what am I again?"
Any other time Chuck would've laughed off his best friend's remarks, but his stomach was in knots and his palms were sweaty just thinking about where he was and how important this event was to launching his business. His business! It sounded so good just to be thinking about it.
He felt like a minnow among sharks.
Setting up their own booth on the convention floor for the biggest annual software developer's convention and exposition in one of the most luxurious hotels in Las Vegas was just the first step. Whether Morgan knew it or not, he had played a big part in helping reach this point in his life, although the journey wasn't always easy.
"You're my best friend, Morgan, so listen … again," Chuck began, digging brochures out of a box. "You know we," he emphasized the word, "came for one reason and one reason only. We," he motioned between both of them repeatedly, "need capital to start up Carmichael Games and to complete the final testing and marketing of our first game. You do hear me using the words we and our, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, I hear you buddy," Morgan conceded.
"I'm hoping to subcontract our services to one of the bigger companies here to get that capital. Attending this convention gives us our best chance to meet all the big players in the software development field."
He put his hand on Morgan's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Your job is to set up the laptop and the projector and play the video we came up with and hand out our brochure and business cards. If you need me, text me and I'll be right back."
Chuck turned to leave, but after two steps he suddenly stopped and turned. "Oh, and don't bother looking for games on there, I took them off and I disabled the internet card. This is serious business, buddy, ok? You don't want to work at the Buy More forever do you?"
The bearded man shook his head side to side. Obviously his best friend was going to make him work, something he never did at the Buymore. This sounded so much more exciting the first time he'd heard Chuck talk about it.
"Oh, and make sure the candy tray stays full and that our business cards and company brochures are on the table at all times."
"Chuck, do you really think anyone's going to stop by our booth. Seriously! I mean we're at the very back of the convention hall and our booth isn't much bigger than a large refrigerator box. I told you we should have had Ellie bake us some cupcakes. We'd have a crowd around us in no time, man."
Chuck crossed his arms and laughed. "Look Morgan, you and I both know that you would have eaten half of those during the trip over here and besides, I don't think people will take us serious if we're handing out cupcakes."
Morgan's face exuded a look of defeat. "I don't think it would matter anyway. I mean Roark's got the whole front wall of the convention room and has hired the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders for entertainment and he's giving away ten Roark laptops."
"Morgan, we're …"
"And Microsoft is giving away coupons for a free massage here at the hotel along with twenty copies of their latest Office Professional software."
"Morgan, we're …"
"And dude, Apple is giving away fifty of their newest IPods with tickets to the latest shows here in Vegas and we're handing out peppermint candy."
Chuck paused for a moment when he saw the disappointment on his friends face. "Morgan, chill out man. We're not here to compete with them. We're here to hopefully get a few projects from some of the companies here."
Morgan didn't look convinced, but he began setting up the booth anyway. "Alright, Chuck, you're in charge. All I ask is that I get to make at least one sweep through the exposition before it shuts down."
Chuck shook his head at his best friend. Morgan was probably the last person he should have asked to work on his new game, but he really owed the little man a lot and he had some needed talents. He was by far one of the best video game critics he knew and even if they were best friends, he could always count on Morgan to give him an honest answer.
Last day of the convention …
Having visited every booth … twice, and talking with representatives of every software company in attendance, Chuck still hadn't received any offers for contract work. Oh they had taken his resume and most had offered him a permanent job with all the perks and benefits that entailed, and if he was honest, the thought of accepting did cross his mind a few times. After taking their business card though, he had politely refused.
Chuck knew planning was key to any success, something he and his sister Ellie had to learn to do just to survive. It taught him to think outside the box and never every give up. So as he made his way back to his booth, he called back to those memories for support. No way was he giving up on those things he wanted, not just for himself, but hopefully one day, his own family. The future he envisioned was intertwined in a special area of his brain, and he made sure to fire those neurons every day, for fear they leave him like a long forgotten memory.
The sight of his empty booth caused him to frown. Not only was it unmanned, but he could tell that the twenty brochures he had so carefully and proudly laid out during the first day of the convention were still there, untouched.
There were eighty more in a box under the table that would probably never see the light of day.
Scanning the nearby area, Chuck saw no sign of Morgan Grimes. Letting the disappointment wash over him, he reached in his jacket for his phone, his hands fumbling through the business cards he had collected from prospective employers. He had already accepted the fact that coming here had not been one of his better ideas, but his mind was already formulating a new one, one that involved turning his five year plan into an six or seven year plan.
The dream may just take a little longer, that's all.
When Morgan answered the call on the fifth ring, the sound of someone clearing their throat behind him got his attention.
"Excuse me, but is this your booth?"
Chuck turned to see a middle aged man looking through one of their brochures and quickly disconnected the call. He'd apologize to his friend later.
"Hah, yeah that's me. Charles Bartowski," he replied nervously extending his hand.
The man looked up from the brochure and took the proffered hand and shook it firmly while looking him right in the eye.
Chuck nearly grimaced at the man's firm grip, but returned it with his own. The man seemed to appreciate the reciprocation.
"Jack Walker. It says here you do custom programming."
"Yes, sir, I do."
Jack paused as he scanned the brochure further. It was only a moment, but in Chuck's mind, it seemed to take forever and he could begin to feel the anxiety begin to set in.
He wasn't sure what to do with his hands at first. They seemed to have a mind of their own, wandering from front to back, crossing and clutching each other in a nervous fit. He heard Ellie's voice telling him to calm down, so he slipped one of the appendages in his pants pocket and tried to collect himself.
"How long have you been in business?"
No matter how much he had practiced the answer to this so obvious of a question, he still felt awkward when he answered it. Experience; it was his only weakness.
"Well, sir, to be honest, I just recently graduated from college. I'm starting up my own company."
Jack's blue eyes narrowed for a moment and Chuck's mind began to whirl with disappointment. That answer would surely end their discussion.
"I see. Where'd you go to college?"
Chuck felt his six foot four inch frame stand a little straighter. He was quite proud of his academic accomplishment.
"Stanford. I received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a major in computer engineering."
Every time someone asked him this question, he could hear the pride in his own voice. He wasn't being arrogant, but he was just proud of that achievement, especially since he'd done it pretty much by himself. Sure his sister was his support system, but she was miles away during most of those four years and it was solely up to him. That satisfied feeling disappeared though when he saw Jack begin to take notes.
"That's a good thing, right?" He had to force his hand to stay in his pocket.
Finishing his scribbles, Jack looked back up at the young man. "So you want to start a custom programming company?"
"Actually, no," he stopped and took a breath. Now was not the time to ramble. "I'm starting up a video gaming company, but I need funds to get things going. I came here to hopefully get a few projects to build up my capital."
Nodding his head, Jack let his eyes wander the adjacent areas. "So, if you don't mind me asking, how many projects have you gotten already?"
Chuck tried not to let his face fall, but he knew the man to would see it anyway. Jack had the look of a hawkish judge when he stared at you as if he was expecting a lie.
"Actually, none. You're the first person to stop by."
Jack didn't look surprised. "You're not exactly in a prime location." His smile took some of the sting out of his observation causing Chuck to relax a little.
"Yeah," he grinned, "the cleaning staff comes by more often than potential clients I'm afraid. It was really all I could afford."
Jack shook his head knowingly as a chuckle escaped his growing smile. "It's hard starting out."
"Yes, sir, it is, but I'm determined to see this through. I really want to try and make a go of it by myself if I can."
Chuck started freaking out when he saw Jack pause in thought, he knew the man was just seconds from turning around and leaving. God, I'm an idiot! Pushing through the silence, he decided to speak.
"Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Walker?"
Jack was startle out of his thoughts and Chuck wondered just what the man was thinking about. "I'm looking for someone to do some specialized programming, primarily security, but other things as well. Do you have any experience setting up security systems?"
Chuck's confidence grew in a millisecond. Finally something he actually had real experience in.
"Actually, I do. During high school and the summers while going to college, I worked at a Buy More. It's an electronic store," Chuck added when he saw the confusion of the man's face.
"Anyway, I installed security cameras and set up security systems for customers. I even customized the installation for some by letting them monitor and control it from their computer at home and work."
Jack nodded his head for a minute as he continued to look through the brochure. "Have you ever worked for any oil companies or ranches?"
For a brief moment, Chuck thought the question odd.
"No. Ignoring the burger joint I worked at for two weeks, the Buy More is the only place I've ever worked."
Jack smiled at the answer. "Are the references on here current?"
"Yes sir. The first two were my college professors and the last one was the manager for the Buy More."
"Alright, let me do a little thinking on this and get back to you, Charlie. How long are you here for?"
"I was planning on leaving tomorrow, but if you need me to …"
"How about I call you tomorrow, say around lunch time."
"Sure, that'll work."
Jack nodded and the two shook hands.
"Thanks for stopping by Mr. Walker. I hope I can help you out."
Chuck frowned at his last words. "The man must think I'm an idiot," he mumbled to himself.
Jack pulled out his phone as soon as he left the convention hall and made a call to someone he hadn't talked to for a while.
"Stan. This is Jack Walker. Doin' fine, thanks. Hey, I need everything you can get me on a Charles Bartowski of Burbank, California and I need it by noon tomorrow."
June 28, 2004
Somewhere near Big Timber, Montana
He was lost.
The unfolded map strewn across the passenger's seat wasn't any use either, but this was the road the old man at the horse stable 30 miles back said to take. By his estimate he'd traveled 20 miles or so from what the locals called the main road, which should have put him near the Walker Ranch, yet there was no sign of it.
There wasn't even a cow or horse in sight.
He thought how helpful an onboard GPS unit would be as he pulled the rented Jeep Cherokee off the side of the road. Glancing at the fuel gauge, he leaned back in the seat and shut down the engine.
The fuel indicator was pegged at a quarter of a tank, a silent reminder that he should have filled up in Big Timber. This wasn't Burbank, where gas stations were on every other block. This was literally out in the middle of now where.
He wasn't used to driving these long distances, especially in a vehicle that consumed so much fuel it literally needed its own oil tanker following it. The last vehicle he'd driven was a Toyota Matrix used by the Nerd Herders at the Buy More. That vehicle could be driven for weeks until it needed a fill up.
Frustrated, he gave up on the map and stepped outside the vehicle to stretch his legs. The heat from the afternoon sun radiated from the asphalt road and hit him like a blast furnace. Suddenly he was loosening his tie and slipping out of his suit jacket.
He knew he should've just dressed business casual, but Ellie insisted he wear a suit. She'd even found him a decent one in a second hand store since he didn't want Jack Walker seeing him in the same one he'd worn when he first met the man. Of course the price of a suit was getting a professional haircut, his first. Even now, fresh out of college and off to his first job, his sister was continuing to look out for him, just like she'd been doing for the past ten years.
Maintaining professionalism is important, Chuck.
He smiled at the memory. She was a doctor after all and being professional was part of her job and like the other things she'd taught him, this was another he'd sock away in a memory bank.
Jack Walker hadn't exaggerated when he said how big and open the area was. Surveying the surrounding area, he found that even in this vast openness of rolling prairie, surrounded only by distant mountain ranges and timber land, his visibility was limited. The road ahead rolled on like a continuous wave, dipping and rising just like the barb wire fences and grass covered terrain that bordered it on both sides.
Clinging to the hope of finding someone to give him directions, continuing ahead was probably his best option. The problem was he hadn't seen a vehicle since he'd turned onto this unnamed narrow two lane road.
Carefully, he climbed up the back of the Cherokee and onto the roof. It wasn't really a bright idea, knowing his clumsy nature, but he got on top and stood on the luggage rack, spreading his legs to steady himself. He slipped off his sunglasses and looked up the road, catching a glimpse of light reflecting off the rear window of a car sitting by itself on the side of the road just over the next hill.
With a new sense of hope, he hurriedly climbed down from the vehicle, stumbling only once, eager to see if someone was there that could give him directions.
As he steered his vehicle off the road and brought it to a stop just behind the other vehicle, he watched a woman open the driver's door and get out. He did the same and walked toward her, his eyes catching sight of the open trunk and a flat tire on the left rear side.
"You need some help, ma'am?"
Chuck watched as the woman, who appeared to be in her sixties with slightly graying hair, carefully give him the once over. "Just stop right there. I've got a gun," she shouted, "so don't try anything!"
Even though he didn't see a one, Chuck threw his hands in the air and gulped. "I'm not going to hurt you, ma'am. I saw your car and stopped to see if someone could give me directions. I'm not from around here and I'm probably lost. We'll not probably, I'm pretty sure I am … lost that is." His eyes glanced down to the flat tire. "I'd be happy to change that flat tire for you, though," he finished nervously.
The woman stood silently for moment, pondering his words and letting her eyes bore into his. "Who are you looking for?"
Chuck took in a much needed breath. "The Walker Ranch, well and Jack Walker."
She continued to eye him curiously, keeping one hand concealed just inside the vehicle. "Where are you from?"
Chuck felt the sweat running down his backside now, not sure if it was the heat or the threat of being shot. "Burbank, California. It's just outside Los Angeles."
The woman didn't speak, but she never took her eyes off him either. Suddenly, she let out a sigh and seemed to relax.
"Well city boy, do you even know how to change a flat tire?"
Chuck ignored the barb, happy to change the discussion. "Yeah," he sighed in relief, "but I'll need to let my hands down to do so."
She gave him a nod.
Wordlessly, he began removing his shirt and tie and approached the trunk of her car and looked inside. It appeared she'd tried to remove the spare tire and jack from its mount, but hadn't succeeded. Suddenly he heard the tired voice of a young girl coming from inside the vehicle.
"Grams, I'm thirsty."
"I know honey. As soon as this man changes our tire, I'll stop and get you an ice cold soda pop. Ok?"
"Ok," she replied sadly. "Can you tell him to hurry please? It's hot in here."
Chuck stepped around from the back of the car, carefully keeping his distance from the woman for the fear of startling her. "Ma'am, I've got a couple of bottles of water on the front seat of my vehicle. They may not be cold, but you're welcome to them."
The woman paused for a moment, and then urged the little girl out of the car. "Thank you. I'm sorry about earlier. Just being careful you know. We've been out here for over an hour and it isn't getting any cooler."
Chuck fished out his keys and handed them to her along with his shirt and tie, leaving him in his stark white tee shirt. "Why don't you and the young lady get in my car and turn on the air conditioning while I change this tire. If you don't mind, just lay my clothes on the back seat."
"I couldn't impose …"
"Don't mention it, ma'am," he said as he looked from one to the other. He could see they were sweating profusely and both looked a little worse for wear, but for the first time since he'd met her, a smile appeared on woman's face.
"Thank you …"
"Chuck. Chuck Bartowski."
They both managed to stretch out a weary smile just before they turned and jumped in his vehicle.
He was just beginning to break loose the last lug nut on the wheel when a vehicle literally flew by him. The wind from the wake buffeted against him, knocking him off balance. The lug wrench slipped off the nut and his knuckles slammed hard into the fender well.
He wanted to curse a blue streak, but stopped himself when he noticed the women and little girl getting out of his car and begin walking towards him. Returning to his task, he began removing the last lug nut and slid the wheel off the hub.
The screeching of tires caused him to look up, his eyes catching sight of the offending vehicle, a large pickup, coming to a quick stop about a couple hundred yards down the road, and then just as suddenly it began backing up.
Chuck pulled out his handkerchief and after wiping the sweat from his face, pulled the spare tire out of the trunk and rolled it over to the bare hub. Squatting, he lifted the tire into place and began installing the lug nuts.
By the time the pickup came to a stop next to them, he was just starting to tighten the lug nuts, thankful that his back was to the road. He was afraid he may say something to driver that was responsible for the gash in his knuckles and the throbbing pain in his hand.
Well there was another reason too. The little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes was now standing next to him, clutching the half empty water bottle with both hands, watching him work. She looked a lot better than she did before.
He heard a door open followed by a young woman's voice. "Grandma, are you ok?"
Seems grandma was pissed too because the words that left her mouth were laced with fire. "Bryce, why do you have to drive so fast? You nearly knocked over the young man changing my flat tire."
"Sorry, Mrs. Walker." It didn't sound sincere and the woman huffed in response.
Knowing her words fell on deaf ears, the older woman turned to her granddaughter sitting right next to the man she despised, his armed draped over her shoulder. "I'm fine, Sarah. I've been sitting out here for over an hour before this young man stopped to help. I was worried about your sister out in this heat with no water."
Sarah scooted away from Bryce and opened an ice chest on the floor board that was half full of beer and bottled water before her grandmother stopped her.
"That's ok, Sarah. He gave us a couple of bottles while we waited in his car, although I'm sure he could use one about now since Sadie and I took the last of his."
Sarah pulled out a bottle and handed it to her grandmother, then looked over to her baby sister.
"Hey munchkin! What 'cha doin'?"
Six year old Sadie Walker turned and gave her sister a big smile. "I'm watching Mr. Chuck fix grandma's car!"
Chuck turned and gave the little girl a smile as he tapped the hub cap in place.
"Is he doing a good job?" Sarah asked with amusement in her voice.
Sadie nodded her head up and own. "He sure is. He even gave gram and I some water and we sat in his car with the air conditioning on. It was nice and cool too."
"Make sure you tell him thank you."
"Thank you Mr. Chuck for fixing my gram's car and letting us sit in yours. Oh and for the water too," Sadie said as she held out hand.
Chuck looked over at her and grinned.
"Daddy always said to shake someone's hand that helped you," she explained.
Chuck's grin widened further as he shifted to face her. "You're welcome, Ms. Sadie, but my hands are really dirty and I don't want to get any on you. How about we do a fist bump instead?"
She tilted her head as her small face contorted in confusion. "What's a fist bump?"
Chuck held out a fisted hand towards her. "Now you do the same thing."
Sadie held out her small fist. "Now what?"
"Now we let our fist bump together, but not too hard."
The two bumped their fist together gently and Sadie grinned. "That's neat."
Chuck stood up to take the bottle of water from the woman, when a cloth hit him right in the face.
"You can wipe your hands on that," said Bryce after he threw the rag. Sarah and her grandmother turned and glared at him. Bryce just shrugged with indifference.
"Thanks," Chuck replied holding back the sarcasm.
"You ought to be more careful. Your hand's bleeding," Bryce smirked.
"Thanks, I'll be sure and do that."
Sarah noticed the blood on his hand and pulled out a first aid kit from the glove compartment and slid out of the truck.
"Here, let me see that," she said and gingerly took his hand.
Bryce started up his pickup. "We need to go, Sarah. I'm sure he can clean that up himself."
One glare from her had him turning the engine off.
"This might sting," she said as she cleaned the wound.
"Wow, not a whimper," she smiled as she dug out the antiseptic.
Chuck chuckled. "I'm crying on the inside, but if you pull out a syringe I might just run."
Sarah lifted her eyes and smiled. "Guys are such babies, right Sadie?"
The little girl nodded her head. "Daddy always makes noises when mama fixes his boo boos."
They both laughed as Sarah wrapped gauze around his cuts.
Tired of waiting, Bryce started his truck and revved the engine a couple times. "Come on Sarah, the guys are waiting."
Sarah whirled around and grabbed the open door of the pickup. "Don't let me keep you then," she growled and slammed the door shut.
Bryce shook his head and took off without another word.
Sarah turned around still fuming. "What's wrong sis?" Sadie asked.
Sarah's face softened and she knelt down in front of her sister and gave her a hug. "Nothing's wrong, Sadie. Are you ok?"
The young girl nodded. Sarah released her and pushed the hair covering her young eyes while she looked her over. She looked tired and was still sweating profusely. Sarah wet a paper towel and wiped the girls face.
"Come on, let's get in grams car and turn on the air conditioning. How about we stop and get you some ice cream."
Sadie nodded happily. "And Mr. Chuck too? He is sweating a lot too."
Sarah grinned and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "Ok, I'll ask him."
"I've got some hand cleaner in my car if you want to get that grime off," Mrs. Walker offered. "It's waterless. I've also got some paper towels in here so you don't have to use that dirty rag Bryan gave you."
"Thank you, Mrs. Walker."
"No, Chuck, thank you for changing that tire for me."
"Glad I could help, ma'am."
"Now, Roy's place is about two miles up the road. It's part convenience store, part gas station and part beer joint. My son's ranch is twenty miles past that on the left."
"Ok, great. Let me change out of this dirty tee shirt and I'll be on my way. Is there anything else you need, Mrs. Walker?"
"No," she smiled. "I've got to get these girls home."
"I understand," he smiled then turned and went to dig a clean tee shirt out of his luggage.
"You ok, grams?" Sarah asked as she reached the back of the car.
"I'll feel better when I get your sister home. You ready to go?"
"Yeah," she replied looking around for the man that had helped out her family. "Where's …"
"He's behind his vehicle getting a clean shirt."
Sarah quickly walked to the back of his vehicle. "Chuck, Sadie wants to buy you some ice cream for …. Oh, excuse me. I'm sorry," Sarah replied as she whipped around and stared out at the field.
Chuck froze at the sound of her voice, his dirty tee shirt half way over his head.
"Can a guy get a little privacy, please?"
"Uh, yeah. Sorry," Sarah replied and made her way back to her grandmother's car.
"Sarah, are you ok?" her grandmother asked.
"Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah."