A/N: This is it, folks: The end of this story. The epilogue is in the form of vignettes from Chuck and Sarah's life after the events of the previous chapter. Expect humor, family moments, fun and fluff.
Thank you for sticking with the story during the few months it took me to write it and for all the encouragement and support you so generously provided. I'll try and start another one soon.
Sarah let out a cute snort and snuggled deeper into her pillow when she felt the mattress move. "Don't get up yet, stay in bed," she murmured sleepily.
Chuck ghosted his lips over her cheek and smiled. She was definitely not a morning person, especially recently. "Sorry, Miss I'm-between-jobs-right-now," he whispered in her ear. "I've got to go to work."
She rolled on her back, opened one eye and pouted pleadingly. "Stay?"
"I would if I could, but I have an important appointment. Not all of us got a generous severance package from the CIA, you know."
Her pleading look morphed into a (still sleepy) death glare. "You're a millionaire," she pointed out. "You can afford to be a little lazy. Also, it was you who told me to take some time off to spend with my family before starting my new job."
"That I did," he admitted.
"Then I'll have you know that chasing after an energizer bunny of a baby sister is downright exhausting and, like I predicted, she wants a pony now. Let me sleep." She turned her back on him and curled up in a ball under the covers. He smiled and left. Secretly, he was pleased with the way things were shaping up. Sarah had jumped on his offer to join his company and had also gratefully agreed to his suggestion to take time off to spend with her parents and sister – and also her best friend, who happened to be in town. It left him free to concentrate not only on work, but also on finishing the last few credits he needed to get his degree from Stanford.
"We can do lunch," he said as he straightened his tie. "I'll text you when the meeting is over."
She just waved her acquiescence and goodbye and then her arm flopped down on the bed. She was out like a light.
He heard the tell-tale click-click-click of her high heels outside his office door and hastened to hide the browser tab he had open. He also schooled his features into an expression of detached interest as he studied site traffic statistics on another tab.
"Whatcha doin'?" Sarah asked cheerfully, not bothering to knock as she entered her boyfriend's office.
"Just thinking," he replied. "I think we may have to increase our server capacity soon."
"But the last upgrade you did was just after I quit the CIA," she said, puzzled.
"The new games have attracted considerable interest. So far, I've been able to keep things smooth by using spare capacity from the lower traffic sites, but with spring break coming up I expect traffic to increase quite a bit."
"Can't leave all those high school and college students without their games on spring break," she said seriously. "You'll do it. I have complete faith in you."
"The technical stuff isn't a problem. Finding space is. When I first rented this place, it appeared huge, but now it's becoming too small. Should I start looking for a place to buy, a place big enough for future expansion?"
"You're the boss."
"And you are my right hand. What do you think?"
"Moving our operations into a privately owned place definitely has advantages. Plus, the way the real estate market is, we'll have no problem finding something both good and affordable. I'll talk to my Dad. He can help and he'll do it for free."
"Sarah, I don't want to take advantage of your father. I'll pay him whatever the going rate is."
"He won't accept payment," she countered. "I know him well. And don't you dare go to another real estate agent."
"Then I'll figure out a way to pay him back."
She rounded the desk and sat on his lap. "The way he sees it, he owes you for saving my life back when we first met. Thanks to you he still has me to tease with how similar to me Molly is turning out to be."
"Speaking of Molly, did she like the robotic pony Dad and I made for her?"
"You and Stephen are probably her favorite persons right now," she laughed. "Seriously, you two should think about selling it on the market. You'd make a killing."
"You know a lot of little girls who'd like a ride on a steerable, programmable robotic miniature pony?"
"I was one of them," she said. "Well, I wanted a real pony, but a robot like the one you gave Molly would have been an acceptable substitute."
"Then maybe Dad and I should build a full-size horse for you."
This had the expected effect. She laughed hard. "Chuck, your nerdiness is so adorable, but I don't have any place to keep it."
"It doesn't need a stable. A garage will suffice," he said, managing to sound serious.
She glared playfully at him. "I don't have a garage. Besides, Vivian likes me. She invited me to drop by and ride Norseman any time I want." Norseman was a magnificent young chestnut stallion with a blond mane, the pride of Vivian's farm and also had a unique personality. He was mulishly stubborn and didn't let anyone he decided he didn't like ride him, but he'd taken a liking to Sarah from the get-go. He even put up with Molly pulling at his mane or playing with his ears when she hitched a ride on him with either Vivian or Sarah or when they lifted her up to pet him, because he thought the little human was funny. Go figure.
"Maybe Dad and I should expand into the toy industry and use your sister as our unofficial product tester," he mused. "We could give her a robot kitty, a parrot programmed not to repeat profanity, a puppy…"
"Stop," she interrupted, now barely able to control her giggling. "As interesting and, I admit, tempting as these sound, A, you can't corrupt Molly like this and B, aren't they going to be prohibitively expensive for the average family? I thought the pony was a one-off, a custom job."
"It was, but since we are going to be using basically off the shelf components, including the parental remote control and the gyrostabilizers, a mass produced version shouldn't end up being unaffordable."
"Then as the marketing research executive of Nebula Games I should do my job and see if there could be sufficient market demand for your toys to justify getting them into production."
"Your job can wait. Right now I need some quality time with my gorgeous girlfriend and then we're going to see your Dad about buying a bigger place."
"I'd like that," she purred. "By the way, don't make robotic kitties or puppies. I'd hate to see real animals remain in shelters because the people who could have adopted them preferred a cleaner, and cheaper in the long run, robot for their kids."
"I like the way you think," he said, nuzzling her neck. "And I agree."
Their moment was interrupted by Devon, who entered Chuck's office. "I thought I'd find you two here," he said, startling the couple and causing Sarah to almost fall off of her boyfriend's lap. "I need your help."
"Name it, bro," said Chuck.
"If all goes well we'll be calling each other bro literally. I went to see your parents and now I'll ask you the same question: Do I have your blessing to ask for your sister's hand in marriage?"
"Just the hand?" Chuck joked. "You can have all of her, especially if you manage to keep her off my back… OW! Sarah! That was uncalled for!"
She looked at him with narrowed eyes. "Your sister just wants what's best for you, Chuck. I'm with her all the way."
"Just what I was afraid of. You two are totally ganging up on me." He turned his attention to Devon. "So, Captain, you have my answer."
"I do and thank you. There's also another thing I have to ask you. Just before visiting your folks, I went to my safety deposit box and took my great-grandmother's ring." He held up a velvet box for Chuck and Sarah to see. "I want to leave it with you for safekeeping. If I so much as bring it to the apartment, the surprise will be ruined. Ellie's a bloodhound and she'll smell diamond."
"We'll take care of it," Chuck promised Devon. "After all, I have someone I trust implicitly and she's kind of an expert at subterfuge and security." He glanced meaningfully at Sarah.
"All you need to do is call us when you're ready to propose. I'll stash the ring in Chuck's safe in our place." She had moved in with Chuck a couple of weeks previously and they were both thoroughly enjoying their new cohabitating status.
The call came two days later and they were only too glad to help with the proposal preparations as well. And so, Chuck and Sarah were crouched in the courtyard, arms around each other, peeking inside Ellie and Devon's apartment through the living room window. They witnessed the moment Devon pulled out the ring box and Ellie's reaction, from the squeal she let out to her almost tearful acceptance of the proposal.
One of the advantages of having a job like Chuck's was that one could work from practically anywhere with a good computer and a fast internet connection. In addition, he had people who could be trusted to handle any emergency in his absence and of course he could be reached via email or Skype. There were therefore no obstacles to taking a vacation with Sarah. Right now, she was in her Porsche, driving towards the Bartowski family cabin near Bishop to meet her boyfriend after taking care of some errands in the city. She was also on the phone with her former boss Langston Graham.
"I appreciate it, Sir," she said as she eased the sports car towards the freeway exit. "I hope it won't be any trouble."
"It's no trouble at all. You and Mary deserve so much more than the simple phone call I'll need to make. What do you think of your new life and career, by the way?"
"No offense, sir, but I'm really, really happy."
"None taken," he assured her. "After all, I think it's good for business to keep Stephen and Mary happy. We are still their clients, you know."
"Yes sir," she said. "Have a nice day and thanks again."
She reached the cabin before long and parked next to the old Ford Bronco Chuck had borrowed from his father. He was sitting on the porch swing and looked up, his face breaking into a wide smile at the sight of his beautiful girlfriend, clad in a flowing sundress, sandals and wearing her sunglasses and a matching scarf worn as a headscarf to keep it from getting blown into her face as she drove with the top down.
"This place is beautiful," she said when he came up to her and pulled her in for a kiss.
"I know, right?"
"What have you planned for us?"
"A whole string of surprises," he said, picking her up and carrying her bridal style inside the cabin.
Happy news awaited them when they returned, completely refreshed, to the city. Thanks to her pulling some strings Ellie and Devon were going to have their dream wedding on a beach. She of course was going to be the maid of honor and Chuck the best man. The wedding, which took place a few days later, was one for the history books. Another surprise came from Morgan. Alex, the sweet girl he'd been dating (and who was also Molly's babysitter of choice), turned out to be John Casey's daughter. Sarah teased the big tough man relentlessly but in good humor when she saw how his wife and daughter had him wrapped around their little fingers. Naturally, he teased her back, seeing how she acted around Chuck.
One day the following year, while Sarah was with Ellie, who was on her third trimester of pregnancy with a girl and had gone to the hospital for a checkup since Devon had been called in to perform an emergency surgery, Chuck went to see Sarah's parents.
Emma greeted him warmly and Molly, who was now three and a half years old, immediately attached herself to his legs until he picked her up and propped her on his hip. "Chuck, what a pleasant surprise," Emma said. "I thought you'd be at work right now."
"That's what Sarah thinks. I need to talk to the three of you, however."
"We're all ears," Jack cut in. "Take a seat, son." As he guided Chuck to the living room, he noticed how formal he looked with a tailored suit and a tie on.
"I know you guys are busy, so I'll make it quick," began Chuck. "By now you know how much I love Sarah. We've been living together for a while, we've found our rhythm and now I believe it's time to take it to the next level. I'd like to have your blessing to ask her to marry me."
Molly spoke first. "Sarah is my big sister and I love her very, very much," she said, her big blue eyes boring into Chuck's. "I want you to treat her like a princess."
He looked at the little girl with a big smile. "Molly, I want to do better than that. I want to make her my queen."
She pondered it for a second. "Deal," she said, holding up her hand for a high-five. He gladly obliged her.
"The little one has spoken," said Jack. "And she speaks for all of us. I know you'll do right by Sarah, son. I don't think Emma and I could wish for a better son-in-law."
Emma just nodded, visibly moved. Her dreams for her big girl were coming true. A very nice young man was going to propose to Sarah. Not trusting herself to speak without breaking down, she just enveloped him in a hug.
Chuck proposed to Sarah the night Clara Woodcomb was born. It was a double dose of happiness for Sarah Walker: she became an aunt and a fiancée on the same day.
Their wedding took place at the Palos Verdes Beach and Athletic Club, not far from where they'd first met. It wasn't a grand affair, just family and friends, but Sarah was amazed at the lengths Chuck had gone to in order to have not only Carina, but also Zondra and Amy, plus some friends Sarah had made while working at the mall attend. They went on a tour of Europe for their honeymoon, making full use of a sleeper compartment in an antique train taking the scenic route from Paris to Zurich.
Sarah entered the compartment, shedding her long black silk dressing gown and kicking off her flip-flops after handing two ice creams to her new husband. "I ran into the conductor when I went to pick up our ice cream," she commented offhandedly. "He said something along the lines of us finally deciding to actually set foot outside this compartment."
"Well, we're newlyweds. What did he expect?"
"Anyway, I also ran into another guy we know. I mean, we don't know him personally, but…" she reached for her discarded dressing gown and fished a piece of paper out of a pocket, handing it over.
"You got Juan Diego Arnauldo's autograph? He's on this train?" They'd both watched films starring the versatile Basque actor, both comedies and adventures, and they considered him one of their favorite actors. "Come here, Mrs. Bartowski."
"I know what you have in mind," she purred seductively into his ear. "But I wanna have my ice cream first." She laughed at his childish pout. "I promise, it'll be worth the wait."
"Honey, I'm home!" Chuck announced as he dropped his keys in the bowl by the door. "Sarah?" Again, there was no reply. This was strange, because he'd sent her home early. She'd insisted on going to work even though she was sick. "Babe?"
He finally found her in their bedroom, curled up in a fetal position on the bed, tightly clutching Bunny, her childhood stuffed dog, her body shaking with quiet sobs. "Sarah, what's wrong?"
She didn't reply, instead turned and snuggled into his arms.
He kissed her forehead and rubbed soothing circles on her back. "Sarah, you're scaring me."
"I'm scared too," she said in a small voice. "But I'm also happy. I'm not crying because I'm sad, Chuck, but because I'm both happy and scared shitless." She swallowed thickly and gave him a small plastic stick. The plus sign was unmistakable.
"You… we… we're pregnant?"
She nodded. "I realized I was late when I went to the drugstore to get something for the stomach bug we thought I'd caught, so I got a pregnancy test instead."
"We made a baby! I gotta call Mom and Dad!"
"So… you're happy too?"
"Happy? I'm ecstatic, Sarah! We're going to be parents!"
"I have an idea," she said. "I'd like to start babysitting Clara more often, just to get the feel of having a baby around."
"I believe that can be arranged. Oh, and, Sarah? You may want to watch your language from now on." The answer to his teasing came in the form of a pillow flying into his face.
The big shock came during their first scan. When the doctor announced that they were expecting twins, she laughed at the slack jawed expressions of the couple. Needless to say, their families were really excited too. Mary and Emma were a big help, especially since Chuck and Sarah decided to buy a bigger place, settling on a nice house across the street from their apartment, which they gave to Morgan and Alex rent-free.
When Jackson and Yvonne were born within six minutes of each other, the waiting room of the Westside Medical's Maternity Ward was crowded with parents, siblings, other family members and close friends of the happy couple. Molly couldn't stop bouncing, impatiently asking to see her niece and nephew. When her turn came to see them, she was practically buzzing with excitement, but managed to keep mostly quiet around the babies.
"Home at last," sighed Chuck as he opened the door for Sarah to enter. She'd insisted on carrying the kids from the car to the nursery.
"Uh-huh," she replied and yawned.
"Want me to take them?"
She gave him the stink eye. "I'm just a little tired, that's all." Tired would be a gross understatement. The delivery had been long and painful, so much that she'd privately joked about not even her CIA training having prepared her for this kind of torture. But holding two perfect tiny human beings in her arms, that she and Chuck had created, had made it worth all the discomfort she'd experienced. And so far the two were perfect little angels, even requesting their parents' attention at the same time, which was a relief.
"I love you, Mrs. Bartowski."
"I love you too, Mr. Bartowski. Now, let's put these two to bed and get some rest before they decide they want something.
"Can't argue with your logic," he conceded, leading the way to the nursery. They were both thinking the same thing. If there was such thing as a perfect life, theirs was the closest to it.