Four Nerdy Meals
Summary: Three meals Chuck shared with his children, and one they shared with him.
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: Yes, I still exist! Most of my writing is confined to prompt fics at my Tumblr now, but at some point I do want to put all the little snippets I have there up here, too. But for now, enjoy this little one-shot I wrote the other day. Thanks to LeighLeighLa for letting me play with Willow, Case and Logan, too. :-)
This was inspired by the chalkboards at Not A Burger Stand ( tastefullyoffensive dot tumblr dot com/post/93372421130/how-to-get-10-off-your-order-at-not-a-burger).
It all starts with Willow.
She's so much his daughter that it's almost like looking at a little girl version of himself, Chuck sometimes thinks. She's got the curly hair and big brown eyes and clumsiness; she loves stories and movies and is anxiously awaiting the day she turns five, when she can start using the XBox and PlayStation instead of just the Wii.
So when Chuck reads about a restaurant in Burbank, where you can get ten percent off your order by following nerdy instructions, he knows it's the perfect place to take Willow. He starts following the restaurant's Facebook page, where each week, a new instruction is posted. It takes a few weeks, since he's not quite ready to get Willow into Lord of the Rings or Deadpool yet, but then, the perfect instruction is posted.
He prepares by watching Frozen with Willow and imitating Olaf. Willow, who loves Olaf, immediately gets in on the game and soon has a pitch-perfect take on the lovable little snowman. Then, on Saturday, when Sarah is going to a baby yoga class with Case, Chuck springs the news on Willow.
"Willow? Would you like to go have lunch someplace that likes Frozen just as much as you do?"
Her eyes go big. "They do? Do they have reindeer like Sven?"
"Um, no," he says, stroking her hair. "I don't think so, since reindeer wouldn't like it here in California. But maybe we'll be surprised."
She's so excited that Chuck has a hard time getting Willow dressed and out of the door. In the car, she treats him to slightly-off-key versions of Let It Go, each one with dramatic gestures "just like Elsa, Daddy!"
Seeing his daughter so excited makes Chuck happy. He doesn't really care if Willow or Case follow in his footsteps and like video games or comics or anything that's traditionally nerdy. But he does care that they get excited about things-about ideas or people or something. The last thing he wants is for his children to be mini-hipsters, too bored to see the wonder in being alive.
It's easy enough to find the restaurant, and Chuck holds Willow's hand as they walk up to the front door. But Willow comes to a halt as she sees the chalkboard with the drawing of Olaf. "Daddy Daddy Daddy!" she says, pointing at the sign. "Look, it's Olaf!"
Chuck crouches down. "I see! Let's read the sign and see what it says."
As he reads each word, he uses his finger to help Willow to follow along, since she's already learned her letters and is getting close to being able to read. "Order in the voice of Olaf and get 10% off! Unfreeze our heart and it's free!"
If it's possible, Willow gets even more excited. "Daddy, Daddy, I wanna order in Olaf's voice! Can I, can I?"
"You sure can, pretty girl," he says, kissing the top of her head. "Let's go inside and get some lunch."
They end up not having to pay for their lunch. Because Willow marches right up to the counter and says, in her best Olaf voice, "Hi, everyone! I'm Olaf and I like warm hugs! And hot food!"
And Chuck feels pretty certain that Willow's nerdiness is a forgone conclusion.
Case isn't an obvious nerd. Chuck and Sarah call him their little daredevil, but the nickname has nothing to do with comics' Man Without Fear. Although it kinda does, because Case definitely is fearless. He's always ready to go, always trying something to see what happens. It means he's already broken his arm at the age of five, leading to Chuck trying to encourage Case to find some less-dangerous hobbies. But it's tough.
About the only thing that sticks is Legos. Case loves The Lego Movie and watches it over and over, usually while he's putting together the colorful blocks into bazooka guns or cars that can fly in his imagination. And since Chuck loves Legos too, they usually spend a lot of time together.
So when the family's favorite restaurant has a special offer in exchange for donating some Legos, Chuck knows it's Case's turn to be introduced to what he's taken to calling Nerdy Eating with Daddy.
"Hey, Case? Would you like to help kids who don't have Legos?"
Case's blue eyes narrow a little. "Some kids don't have Legos? Why not?"
Chuck strokes his son's shaggy, dark-blond hair. "Maybe because they don't have a house to live in, someplace to keep their Legos. Or their parents don't have the money to buy them Legos. Or maybe they've just never seen them before."
"Oh," Case says, returning to his latest Lego creation. Chuck lets him snap a few more pieces into place, giving Case time to figure this out. "So how can I help?"
Smiling, Chuck gestures to the several containers of Legos that are spread out on the floor. "You could donate some of your Legos, to those kids who don't have any. And as a reward, you and I can have lunch together, just the two of us."
"No Mommy or Willow or Logan?" Case asks, sounding surprised. Which makes Chuck wonder if maybe he's not spent enough time with Case, one-on-one. Sarah's so good with Case: they have a lot in common and Chuck loves seeing Sarah cuddling with Case. But maybe that means he doesn't know his little daredevil that well.
Chuck wraps an arm around Case. "Yep. Would you like that, buddy?"
Case nods eagerly. "I'm gonna pick out what Legos to donate!" Like a little whirling dervish, Case starts moving around the playroom, making rapid-fire decisions on which Lego sets to contribute. It makes Chuck's heart swell with pride when he realizes that Case isn't just picking the sets with missing pieces: he's offering up some of his favorite Lego minifigs.
Once Case has finished, Chuck gets a plastic bag and they load up the Legos, then they head out to the car. The traffic is pretty bad today, so Chuck pops in The Lego Movie for Case, who watches enraptured as always.
When they arrive at the restaurant, Chuck makes sure to lead Case by the chalkboard containing this week's offer. Case beams at the chalk picture of Emmet, then looks up at Chuck. "What does it say, Daddy?"
Leaning down, Chuck reads slowly. "Sing Everything is Awesome and get 10% off your bill! Bring us Legos. No joke. We just want Legos."
Case grins. "We have Legos! And we can sing the song together!"
"Oooh, you might have to help me, Case. You know the song a lot better than I do," Chuck says, because while the song is very much an earworm, he wanted Case to teach him something about being fearless. Because Chuck doesn't really like to sing in public, even though Sarah thinks he's crazy.
"I can, Daddy. It's the best song ever." Case tugs on Chuck's hand and pulls them into the restaurant, where he does an enthusiastic rendition of Everything is Awesome, backed up by Chuck, before happily turning in his Legos.
Logan Bartowski is very, very shy. Not just shy-nervous and naturally anxious. Chuck doesn't really know where it comes from in the family: maybe it's from his dad? Either way, both he and Sarah realize that they probably baby Logan even more than the youngest in a family normally would be. So as Logan starts getting older, and as they see that he might have some extra challenges with starting school and leaving the nest, they begin working on ways to give Logan some extra confidence.
It's Sarah who suggests the classes in singing and Spanish. "He likes humming a lot, and he definitely seems to have inherited your voice. It'd be great if he got a jumpstart on learning Spanish, too. And in both cases, he knows he'll be on his own in class, but only for an hour."
Chuck agrees and they start the classes. They don't go so well at first. Logan doesn't open his mouth at all in his first singing class, and he gets so confused in the first Spanish class that he starts to cry, so much that the teacher asks Sarah to take Logan home early.
Before Logan's next singing class, Chuck decides to have some father-and-son time. So he takes Logan to the restaurant. He hasn't checked to see what this week's nerdy instruction is, but this time it doesn't really matter. He just wants to make sure Logan feels safe and happy before his next class.
But they're in luck, because the instruction is to talk in Mario's voice for ten percent off their meal. And while Logan is shy and somewhat withdrawn, he loves anything to do with Mario. It had been his Halloween costume for the last two years, and he was already asking if he could be Mario again this year-and asking Chuck to be Luigi.
When Logan sees the drawing of Mario, his normal smile, so timid and shy, is replaced by a big, beaming one-a smile that Chuck doesn't see nearly enough. "Daddy, it's Mario," he says, pointing at the chalkboard.
"It is," Chuck says. "Can you read what it says?"
Slowly, Logan manages to read most of the sign with a little help from Chuck. He looks at the sign for a moment after he finishes, then looks up at Chuck. "Can I do that?"
The fact that Logan is willing to attract attention like this makes Chuck wonder why he didn't try this a long time ago. This would be the perfect way to help Logan come out of his shell. Or at least get the ball rolling. It was all about small steps that combined to make Logan feel good enough to let his light shine.
"Of course you can, Logan," Chuck says, rubbing his back. "I think that's a great idea."
It was, actually: Logan flawlessly imitates Mario and even does a little jump just like the 8-bit version of the character-a move that he normally only did at home. Everyone in the restaurant claps for Logan, and although he stays close to Chuck and holds on to his jeans leg, Logan's smile doesn't fade away.
With a smile, Chuck looks around at his family. Now that the kids are older, there's less times when it's just the five of them. But with Logan graduating from college summa cum laude, his older brother and sister came home for the occasion.
Willow is lost in a book, twisting some of her curls around her finger. Case and Logan are playing Lego Star Wars, Case moving around in order to get his Jedi to do what he wants while Logan leans back in his chair, his hands relaxed on his controller. And Sarah is curled up against his side, flipping through a magazine.
This is good.
"Anyone hungry?" Chuck asks, rubbing Sarah's shoulder. "I thought I'd throw some burgers on the grill."
"I could eat," Case says. "Logan, c'mere so I can throw you into this crowd of Stormtroopers."
"Okay," Logan says, before glancing at Chuck. "And I'm hungry, but we're going out tonight."
Chuck grins. "So sayeth the new graduate?"
Logan grins back, his eyes on the screen. "So sayeth Mom."
"Which means we're going out," Willow comments, lowering her book.
"We are?" Chuck asks, looking around the room. At the answering grins and smirks he sees, his eyes narrow and he looks at Sarah. "What's going on?"
"It's a surprise," Sarah says, kissing his cheek and pulling away to rise to her feet. "Boys, save your game. It's time to get ready."
Chuck gets up, too, feeling confused. "I thought Logan didn't want a graduation dinner."
"He didn't, until I came up with this idea," Sarah says, pecking Chuck's lips. "C'mon, let's go get into our costumes."
"Costumes?!" Chuck yelps, his glasses falling from his forehead down to his nose. "There's costumes?"
"You'll like this one, Dad," Willow says, bouncing up to kiss his cheek before dashing up the stairs.
"Yeah, Dad," Case says, standing up and grinning. He follows Willow, with Logan at his heels, as Chuck looks at Sarah.
His wife of nearly thirty years and the mother of his children gives him that secretive little smirk that has always made him a little nervous ever since the first time he saw it. "Don't worry, Chuck, it's nothing embarrassing. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm about to make your dreams come true."
"You did that when you told me you loved me for the first time," Chuck says, feeling a bit dazed.
Sarah's smirk shifts into a happy smile. "I'm pretty sure this is better. We're going to Not a Burger Stand . . . where today, in honor of May the 4th, Star Wars costumes mean you eat free."
Chuck does a double-take. "What?" How had he not heard about that? Over the last three decades, the Bartowskis had been loyal patrons of Not A Burger Stand, following the restaurant through moves and even one very sad year when the restaurant had closed down. Chuck was the one who followed the restaurant's promotions and made plans for the family-how had he not known about this Star Wars-related one?
"I might have pulled some strings so you wouldn't know about this one, so it could be a surprise. Logan helped me-you probably shouldn't have taught him so much about hacking," Sarah said with a grin. "Now, c'mon-you're gonna love what the kids came up with for their costumes, and for us."
"It better be Han Solo and Princess Leia for us," Chuck said without thinking, then burst out laughing at Sarah's surprised face. "Really, baby? Could we be anyone else?"
"So now I know why Willow and Case gave me that look when I suggested they be Luke and Leia," Sarah said, giggling softly. "Yes, we're Han and Leia. So let's go get dressed and get over to the restaurant before they're completely swamped."
It was crowded, yes. But it was worth it, to see Case and Logan as R2-D2 and C3PO respectively, and Willow as Mara Jade. For Morgan and Alex to show up, with Morgan in a full Chewbacca costume. And while Sarah didn't go for Slave Leia this time-"three kids ruled that one out"-seeing her with the cinnamon buns hairstyle was something he was never going to forget.
But best of all, it was having the people he loved most, taking part in one of his nerdiest loves. It made Chuck realize that he must have done a few things right to end up here. So even though it was a bit sad, realizing that the last of his kids was an adult now, he knew he had brought them up right.
And he had done it all with Sarah. Who would have thought that? Not Chuck. And he was so happy to have been proven wrong on that.