A/N – A sincere thank you to michaelfmx, who faithfully trudged through my syntax and grammar labyrinths. Somehow he sorted them out. And along the way he has been a great sounding board.
From Chapter 11
October 16, 2009 3:15am, Near Kirkwood, California- High in the Sierra Nevadas
They had travelled a mile along a narrow fire road five miles from Kirkwood. They came to another road that branched off to the left and stopped. Carina jumped out and with her pen flashlight flashed in Morse Code the letters U-S-M-C. A minute later Casey emerged out of the shadows in black tactical gear carrying an M-16at port arms. He grunted and said. "So Carina did you bring the Bartowski's or did you forget. Where's Walker?"
Behind him from the shadows he heard Sarah's voice. "Right behind you Casey have you missed me partner?"
Carina laughed. "Nice to see you're awake Casey. Were you getting lonely?" Casey shook his head. Carina and Sarah together, God help him.
Carina nodded towards the cabin. "Listen I want to get the SUV hidden. Where do I go?"
Casey turned around facing towards the cabin. "I'll walk ahead of the SUV, follow me slowly. I've deactivated the mines and claymores but you never know, some of this is old ordinance that I hid up here years ago. It needs to be handled with kid gloves, or it will go off. "
Later, in the morning light, all of them would see how well chosen this location was. Casey, eleven years ago, had made a secret list of 12 places he could disappear to. This was number 3 on his list. He had actually purchased the cabin and surrounding land under an alias.
Casey was always a loyal soldier, but he wasn't naive to the ebbs and flows of the bosses' loyalty to their agents. The bosses, and fate, could be fickle. Casey's motto was 'always have your go bag ready and have a place to run to.'
The cabin was over seventy years old and made from cut pine logs. It was hidden beneath a canopy of dense ponderosa pines. The only visible work Casey had done on the cabin was to put a new steel roof on it. The cabin had no electricity. But he had brought in a small Honda generator. The water came from a spring 100 yards due east. Behind the cabin and to either side was a U-shaped cliff and a tiny outhouse.
You could only approach the cabin from the front. Inside there was one huge room with a sink and a plywood counter at one end. There was a stone fireplace at the other end of the cabin. Casey had set up six camp cots for them to sleep on. Along one side of the cabin were two card tables with six folding garden chairs that had been set up for their meeting tomorrow.
Casey directed Carina to put the SUV beside his Range Rover hidden under several trees. He then covered it with a camouflage net, making it virtually invisible from the air or from satellites.
On the journey up, Chuck and Sarah told Ellie and Devon what John Casey had done when Beckman had ordered him to hunt Chuck down and terminate him. Ellie had worked up quite a dislike for John Casey in the intervening months since Chuck had told her about the termination order.
She was only partially mollified by what Chuck and Sarah had shared but had agreed to be civil. Sarah said, "Ellie, Casey and I both lied to you. We both deceived you. Not because we wanted to but because Chuck wanted as much as possible to continue his life with you and Devon. We all wanted to keep you both safe from Fulcrum. That safety has come at a price."
Ellie was tired and running on adrenaline. "Sarah, I've come to terms with the lying and deceit. What I'll never forgive Casey for is almost killing my brother the night the Intersect went live. So what exactly was supposed to happen when he finished killing Chuck...was I supposed to come home and find him lying there in a pool of blood. Killed by the very man I, like some addled brain idiot, baked cookies for.
"I'm not stupid, Sarah. If you and Chuck say we need Casey... then ...alright...we need Casey. I'm here; I won't sabotage your efforts. Let's leave it at that for now."
Carina had the little pen flashlight. She told Chuck, Devon and Ellie to carefully follow in her footsteps to the cabin door. It was pitch dark outside, the moon had set. The temperature was 42 degrees Fahrenheit and holding steady.
Casey stopped Sarah. "Walker, you go in and get some rest. I'll take the watch for the rest of the night since I'm well rested. The sun will be up in five hours."
"Are you sure Casey? Carina and I can each take a turn." Casey gave Sarah his, 'nah, it's okay' grunt.
In a quiet voice he said, "I'd rather be out here freezing my butt off than be inside and get that look from Ellie and Devon. I'm not looking forward to when she finally corners me about the termination order."
Sarah whispered back, "Chuck and I have told them both what you did and the risks you took in standing up to Beckman. She just needs time to come around Casey. Bartowskis are built to forgive people they care about. Let's face it, Ellie doesn't bake cookies for people she doesn't like. But she'll make you crawl over broken glass before she relents and finally forgives you.
Sarah in a whisper said, "Listen, you think your talk with Ellie is going to be tough? Wait until I tell Ellie that Chuck and I are engaged."
Casey, in a voice that was way too loud, replied, "What! Walker, deep cover agents don't get engaged to assets. I'm assuming that Beckman and the CIA don't know a damn thing about your engagement?"
Sarah chuckled. "No. We'll tell everyone tomorrow after the conference call with Beckman."
Casey grunted and then whispered, "So, when exactly did Bartowski compromise you? I suspected for a long time you were fighting your lady feelings for the moron. So did Beckman. But there was never enough proof to actually go to a 49B."
Sarah hesitated. "Casey, I put Chuck through hell for months as I fought against my feelings for him. But if I'm truthful, I wouldn't have harmed a hair on Chuck's head after the first week. It took me longer to realize, to admit, that I was actually in love with him." Sarah stopped and thought back to those early days. They seemed so long ago.
"John Casey, who are you kidding? I know you resigned because Chuck had gotten to you also. You can deny it if you want, but I know the truth. Just so you know, I don't think I have ever been prouder of anyone than I was of you in that moment when you confronted Beckman. I wanted to do this then… but didn't, but now I can." Sarah moved quickly and gave Casey a hug. Casey was rigid and stiff, he wasn't a hugger but he let her hug him and gave his soft okay grunt… then a 'don't overdo it' grunt.
When Sarah went into the cabin, the group was bathed in the dim light from one lantern. Everyone was getting ready for bed. They were all exhausted. Each cot had a military supply sleeping bag and a tiny pillow. Pure luxury for a Marine.
Sarah sidled over to Carina and said, "Casey will take the watch until daybreak." Carina responded, "You get some sleep. I'll get up at dawn and relieve Casey. Ellie and Devon have agreed to make breakfast tomorrow."
Breakfast –Cabin in The Sierra Nevadas
Ellie and Devon had used the two camping stoves and the primitive kitchen to make a scrambled egg and pancake breakfast that disappeared in short order. Everyone, except Carina and Chuck, helped to clean up so they could start the meeting.
Chuck asked Carina if she would go outside with him for a minute. They were both now sitting on the steps in front of the cabin looking down the dirt road. Chuck gave a cough and started. "Carina, I think I owe you my life. Sarah told me about how you risked your career and maybe risked going to jail. Why didn't you try to capture me? Why did you hide the truth from Beckman and Sarah about what happened in Las Cruces? Sarah told me how you figured out I was on a bike." Chuck stared at Carina as if by staring he could figure her out.
Carina looked at Chuck and gave him a smile. "Because you're different, because Sarah is crazy about you. Because deep down I knew it was the right thing to do. I have a good memory, Chuckles. Remember how, on our first mission together, you forced me to go back and help Sarah. I was only concerned with getting away with the diamond. You were right and I was wrong. Sarah is my dearest friend, God I'm pathetic, who knows maybe she is my only friend." Chuck shook his head. "Carina, as long as I'm alive you have one more friend."
Chuck gave Carina a huge bear like hug that made her gasp. As he hugged her, she whispered in his ear. "Chuckie, I still owe you a tranq dart in the ass. I can be very patient, as you know." Chuck pushed her back to arm's length and looked her in the eye, where he saw just the hint of a twinkle. They both started to laugh and walked back into the cabin.
Everyone was seated around the two card tables looking at them. Sarah stared the hardest. She was dying to know what they'd been talking about. Chuck sat beside Sarah and Carina sat beside Casey.
Chuck quickly looked around the table. He took a breath. "Thanks for taking such a huge risk to meet with Sarah and me. There are two people not here with us, who should be, my dad and Morgan. But apart from them, you are the people I care most about in the world." As he said this he looked over at Casey and Carina. Chuck gave them the smallest nod of his head, to let them know that he wanted them here at this meeting.
"Sarah and I have a decision to make. We are here to talk with you about that decision." Chuck then turned to Sarah for her to take over. Sarah cleared her throat. She had conducted many important briefings, as an agent. This one was the most important one she had ever given. "I'm going to go over what has happened from the time Chuck went on the run until I found him four days ago."
Sarah spent the next hour telling the group about the last twelve months. There were many interruptions, there were some heated exchanges between Ellie and Casey. Ellie also gave Casey a small nod of her head when Sarah talked about Casey resigning rather than going after Chuck.
Chuck then told them about his last twelve months. Casey noticed that this was not the old Chuck. He was different. For sure he was different physically. Casey had noticed that first thing this morning when Chuck was putting on his shirt. There was almost no privacy in the one room cabin, everybody saw each other getting dressed this morning.
But it was more than the physical side of things. Chuck was more confident, more assured. He had a different air about him. Casey and Carina were on the edge of their seats when Chuck told all of them about the confrontation between Chuck, Orion and Beckman back in March.
Casey was royally pissed at Chuck and Orion for interfering with the USS Winston Churchill. He stood up and pointed his finger and said just that. Chuck stood up and told Casey it was Beckman's fault for giving the termination order in the first place.
It was left to Sarah and Carina to finally calm both of them down. Casey sat down but with his arms crossed for the next ten minutes. Finally Chuck finished his part of the story and the questions finally ceased.
It was Casey who spoke first. "So, what you're saying is that you and Sarah are either going on the run and so far off the grid that we'll never find you. Or, you're going to convince Beckman to set up a Team Bartowski. And you want Carina and I to be the sharp end of the spear." Sarah and Chuck both nodded their heads.
Chuck turned to Ellie and Devon. "Guys, you've heard everything. You need to know how dangerous it is to get involved in fighting Fulcrum. You could be a target, even if you're only acting as medical support. But if we go on the run, Sarah and I may not see the two of you for years ...if ever again."
Ellie spoke next. "Chuck, Sarah, I don't think we should make that decision just yet."
Chuck looked confused. "Why not sis?"
"Because until you talk with Beckman, we're missing critical information. For example, if Beckman says no to Team Bartowski, you run. If Beckman says she doesn't want Casey or Carina on the team, you run. If Beckman says no to Devon and me. Beckman either has to read us into the Intersect or put us in a bunker. You might still run and …you …might have to take us with you. "
Devon hadn't thought of that angle. He sagged in his seat and looked stricken.
Ellie was watching him intently and could see that the thought of leaving his family and friends would be an almost unbearable loss for Devon. But in Ellie's mind there was one critical question. How long could Woodie and Honey keep protecting them?
It was Carina's turn. "Ellie's right. Chuck needs to talk with Beckman. By talking with her we see which way she's going to jump. We lose nothing by talking to her. Instead, we gain valuable intel from Beckman and then we make our final decision. I say Chuckie…. it's time to call the little red-haired General. Casey?"
Casey just sat there. After a moment, he gave one of his softer grunts and looked at everyone. "Yes, call General Beckman. I've worked with that woman long enough to know if she's hiding something or if she's bullshitting us. Chuck, can you feed the conference call to my laptop so I can observe the call without her knowing I'm here?" Chuck gave a quick nod of his head.
The Call with General Beckman
Chuck and Casey worked for the next hour setting up the Satcom. Devon and Carina tacked up a white sheet to cordon off a corner of the cabin. Chuck then started setting up the encryption software.
He now had Casey, Carina and Sarah staring over his shoulders. Spies are more curious than cats ever were. They wanted to learn from Chuck and figure out what he was doing and exactly how he was doing it. At first this made Chuck a little uneasy. But finally he shrugged his shoulders and started to explain what he was doing.
Chuck explained to them he was going to use a French and Canadian communication satellite. He would route the conference images from one satellite to the other and then to Beckman's IP address. Afterwards he would alter the satellite's transmission logs, so there would be no trace of the calls.
Chuck was never more at ease than when he was deep into Nerd speak. And he got more excited as he explained why the signal could not be tracked back to the cabin. Casey and Carina looked at Sarah with raised eyebrows, as if to say 'He's good.' Sarah silently mouthed to them, 'He's amazing'.
Chuck smiled at them, he had one more thing to do. He activated a WAV file. It produced a faint but audible background noise, 'chip-chip-che-way-o'. They all looked at Chuck strangely.
Chuck smiled and laughed. "Casey, if Beckman want's to track me down, will the NSA analyze all ambient background noise and sounds? And will they eventually identify those sounds?"
Casey started to smile, then Carina and Sarah caught on. Ellie and Devon were in the dark. Devon said, "Okayyy… let us in on the joke. Chuck what exactly are you up to?"
Sarah spoke up. "Chuck what kind of bird makes that sound."
"A Kirtland's warbler."
Sarah was shaking her head. "Chuck, why don't you tell us all where you can find a Kirtland's Warbler?"
Chuck started to laugh. "Depends. Michigan in the summer and the Bahamas in the winter." Ellie and Devon smiled, it was more of Chuck's misdirection.
Finally, Chuck sat back in his chair, stretched his arms up high and moved his head around to get rid of a kink in his neck. "Okay Sarah. Are you ready to call Beckman to ask her for a secure IP address? Casey, Carina, Ellie and Devon…last chance to say no to all this." Everyone looked around the room at each other …waiting for someone to say, 'This is crazy'. Silence. Casey grunted and nodded his head. Chuck knew that grunt, it meant, 'Get on with it moron!'
Everyone except Chuck and Sarah moved behind the white sheet. They would be able to see the conference on Casey's laptop. Casey and Carina had line of sight to Sarah who stood slightly behind Chuck during the call. This was so they could signal any concerns about the call or insights into what Beckman was saying or more importantly …what she wasn't saying.
Sarah fired up her satellite phone. Chuck had added some security and created a false GPS signal. Sarah dialed the number.
There were a number of clicks and then, "Beckman, secure"
"Agent Walker, secure. General Beckman, can you give me a secure IP address so we can conference securely? I've located Mr. Bartowski, he is safe and wishes to talk with you."
Beckman gave the IP address and told Sarah to call back in fifteen minutes.
It was excruciating waiting for Beckman to call back. As they waited and whispered to each other. Sarah put her lips close to Chuck's ear. Despite the situation, her proximity and the feel of her breath on his skin sent shivers up his spine. "Chuck, I'm going to put on my Agent Walker hat. I've got my gun on my left hip. Don't freak out. I want to appear as if I'm carrying out my mission to bring you safely back." Chuck nodded and she gave him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. Chuck's computer pinged and he hit the enter button.
Chuck could see Beckman was not in her office and she wasn't in uniform. Then it hit him, of course it was Sunday, she was at home.
"Mr. Bartowski and Agent Walker. I assume, Mr. Bartowski, that you have used some devious method to make this call difficult to trace." It was rhetorical, no one answered.
Sarah cleared her throat. "Ma'am, Mr. Bartowski is safe and in good health. He has not had any encounters with Fulcrum agents or any other intelligence agency, during his…er …absence. I thought it prudent to acquiesce to his request to talk with you as soon as possible."
Beckman simply nodded her head. "Mr. Bartowski?"
Chuck started off in a neutral tone. "General, Agent Walker has informed me that there is no termination order in effect, the Beckman Doctrine is in place and that you want me to come back and work for the NSA? Is that still the case?"
Diane Beckman was looking intently at Chuck and Agent Walker. She was looking for clues or tells… anything to assist her in gaining an advantage in this call. Part of her wanted to immediately order Agent Walker to secure the asset and await an extraction team. Agent Walker was standing behind Chuck and Beckman could see she was armed. No, she wasn't going to do that. Never order an agent to carry out a task, if you're not sure they'll actually do it.
"That is all correct. Will you come back and work for the NSA?"
Chuck waited three heart beats and answered. "No. But I will help you. I will help you in find and crush Fulcrum."
Beckman beat back an initial angry response. Very few people told her no anymore. She was a second away from ordering Agent Walker to secure him. But she had much bigger problems. The unspoken truth was she couldn't bring Chuck anywhere near the NSA or CIA, it wouldn't be safe.
Diane Beckman and the Director of the CIA were desperate to find two Fulcrum moles buried deep in their respective agencies, possibly at the highest levels. Until Beckman knew who the moles were, bringing Chuck back in would be tantamount to handing him over to Fulcrum.
Sarah didn't blink when Chuck said no to Beckman. Training. But later, she would give him shit for not letting her know what his strategy was. Casey caught Sarah's eye. He mouthed, 'She's worried about something.' Sarah tapped Chuck's chair with her right foot. It was a prearranged signal that something was going on with Beckman.
Beckman gave Chuck a faint smile. "Will you assist me now Mr. Bartowski, as a sign of good faith?"
Chuck smiled back. "How can I help General?" In the next five minutes Beckman explained that she and the Director of the CIA had narrowed their hunt for the moles down to five high ranking individuals in each agency. She then asked Chuck if he would look at the photograph's she would send and see if he flashed.
Chuck touched his governor watch and said. "Send the first five photo's for the NSA." The pictures filled his screen; there was no flash. Chuck just shook his head at Beckman, nada.
Even with all her training, all could see that Beckman was crestfallen. Beckman then sent the five photo's for the CIA. All of a sudden Chuck flashed on the third photo. Everyone in the cabin noticed Chuck flashing. It was over in two seconds. Chuck gave his head a shake. It had been seven months since he had last used the Intersect.
"General tell the Director of the CIA that assistant deputy Jessica Blandford needs to be carefully watched. It looks like her time in Chile brought her into contact with Fulcrum." Beckman was now openly smiling. "Thank you Mr. Bartowski. Thank you."
Chuck then had an idea. "General, do you have photographs of the three top aides for the five top NSA people you showed me earlier?"
"Why Mr. Bartowski?"
"Just a hunch General, please humor me." Beckman's fingers flew over the keyboard. It took her five minutes to organize the photos. Finally she was ready. Chuck was waiting.
His laptop filled from top to bottom with fifteen photos. It was photo number 12 that triggered the flash. "General, I think that Colonel Kirk Bremer's last two tours in Iraq might have been where Fulcrum recruited him. The Fulcrum agent, Captain Jake Camus, was identified by the NSA and terminated in 2007. Kirk Bremer is your mole General."
Beckman stood up suddenly. Months and months of arduous work by a small select group in the NSA almost missed who the mole was. She sat back down, aware of Chuck and Agent Walker staring at her. Beckman nodded at them and said, "Thank you."
Beckman was even now planning on arresting Colonel Bremer and Assistant Deputy Jessica Blandford and dealing with her infestation of moles.
Chuck felt his chair being tapped by Sarah's foot and quickly looked over at Casey. He was holding up a piece of paper on which he had scrawled. 'She's going to arrest them, I know that look.'
Chuck had a sudden thought and blurted out. "General, don't arrest them!"
"I beg your pardon Mr. Bartowski?!"
"General, leave them in play. Now you know who the moles are, you have several options. These are high level fulcrum agents. Correct?"
Beckman's eyes widened with surprise. Chuck Bartowski's idea was interesting. Chuck didn't see Carina signal Sarah and mouth the words, 'Decoy!, Decoy!' Sarah took a second but then caught on. She spoke up. "Ma'am if I may suggest a course of action?"
"Go on Agent Walker, what is your suggestion?"
"Ma'am, if you were to arrest two other individuals who aren't Fulcrum agents, one in the NSA and one in the CIA. And whisk them away to safe houses. Put them incommunicado; but spread the word that they were the suspected Fulcrum agents. Let the word slip out that the agents were terminated with extreme prejudice…maybe, just maybe the real Fulcrum agents would be lulled into a false sense of security?"
Chuck jumped in. "Once they feel safe, they might lead you to the top leaders in Fulcrum, if …you're patient."
You could hear a pin drop at both ends of the conference call. Beckman leaned forward and rubbed her forehead with her left hand. She was deep in thought.
Beckman looked up, "Yes, yes. Doing as you suggest has huge risks but the possibility of getting to the Fulcrum leaders might be worth it." Sarah's face was fixed and she had her best neutral agent's mask on. Inside, however her stomach was churning like mad.
"Agent Walker. Until we have sprung the trap on these moles, I don't want the Int….sorry, I don't want Mr. Bartowski anywhere near the NSA or the CIA. I want you both to go off the grid for the next six months. Contact me once a month to check in or immediately in the case of an emergency. You have my private number."
Sarah coughed. "Ma'am, what exactly is Mr. Bartowski's status with the CIA and with you?"
Beckman realized this was a test. But she was unsure what the right answer was. Damnit, dealing with these two was never going to be easy. "Mr. Bartowski is an ass…no correction, per the President's directive; Mr. Bartowski will be considered a contractor.
Obviously, we'll sort out the details once the moles are dealt with. That means Agent Walker, you are protecting Mr. Bartowski 24/7." Sarah had one more question. "Does this mean, ma'am, that you do not wish Chuck to consider me as his handler?"
Beckman didn't let on but she now had no doubts that they were a couple. "That is correct Agent Walker."
Beckman sat back and waited. It wasn't long before she saw Chuck smile. She felt her own tension ease a little. She had guessed correctly.
But Chuck's smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared. He wasn't fully satisfied, this tiny woman, who had ordered his death twice before, could be trusted. He had a question for her.
"General, is the Intersect dangerous to its human host? Is it harming me, is it harming my brain?"
And so it all came down to this moment.
Beckman's next answer would determine everyone's destiny. Beckman was stubborn, often stiff-necked and rule bound. She knew far too many secrets that would never see the light of day. But the last year had taught her never to underestimate Chuck Bartowski.
She didn't know how he knew …but every fiber of her being was shouting... 'He knows'.
"Mr. Bartowski, the Intersect is not benign. The harm it does is related to who the human host is. You have done far, far better than anyone else. But yes, it is harming you. We're working on a 'dampening device', but it is still theoretical.
Chuck gave Beckman a ghost of a smile. "General, I have a favor to ask? While Sarah and I are off the grid, I want my sister and her fiancé protected. Obviously, the question is who can we trust while the moles are active? I think you know where I'm going with this…"
Beckman, with a thin smile, shot back at Chuck. "Why do I feel you might have a solution to that particular problem, Mr. Bartowski?"
Sarah moved forward. "General, the only people we would trust are John Casey and Carina Miller. Can you make that happen ma'am?"
Beckman nodded yes. "Is there anything else Mr. Bartowski? I have moles to catch. No? Excellent. Beckman out."
Chuck killed the connection and stood up and gave Sarah a huge hug. "God, Sarah that woman scares the shit out of me."
Casey and Devon took down the white sheet. Everyone except Casey moved towards the two card tables and sat down. Casey went to the only cupboard in the entire cabin, reached down and grabbed a bottle of Johnnie Walker –Black Label and some paper cups. He poured everyone a healthy portion. "Here's to Bartowski. Are are you sure you're great, great, grandfather wasn't a riverboat gambler? Because believe me, Chuck you just rolled the dice and won."
Chuck raised his paper cup to the group. He took a large sip too quickly and coughed. Chuck looked over at Ellie and Devon and knew they were not happy with Casey being one of their protectors.
He directed his question to Devon. "Devon, have you ever cornered a rat?" Devon shook his head no. But was pretty sure where Chuck was headed. Devon looked over at Ellie.
Chuck continued. "If I don't miss my guess, Fulcrum is going to be that cornered rat in two or three months. Beckman will get them. Fulcrum will viciously strikeout at anyone and anything in their last moments. That may include you two. Ellie, I love you so much. You need to be safe. Nothing can happen to you.
"Sarah will be protecting me. I trust Casey and Carina with my life so should you. Ellie looked over at Casey and shrugged her shoulders in a gesture of surrender. She nodded her head. "Okay Chuck, I'll make it work. Thank you Casey and Carina, Devon and I appreciate what you're going to do for us."
Casey poured another round. A sense of relief from their conference call with Beckman and the whiskey warmed the group up. The volume of conversation grew steadily as everyone talked at once about what was going to happen next. Sarah grew quiet and reached into her jacket into a little secret pocket. She pulled out the engagement ring and put it on her finger. Carina noticed what Sarah was doing first. Her eyes grew wide. Devon also caught what Sarah was doing and elbowed Ellie. Ellie gave a little gasp and stared at Chuck and then at Sarah.
Soon all the chatter at the table died down and Chuck cleared his throat. "Two nights ago I asked Sarah to marry me and …she said yes." Ellie gave a gasp and stood up. She bolted around the table to hug Chuck and Sarah. As Ellie hugged Sarah, she whispered in her ear, "You and I still have a lot of repair work to do… But you're perfect for my brother…welcome to the family. And for God's sake keep him safe."
December 15, 2009, 5KM Outside Thornbury, Ontario- On Georgian Bay- 3:30am
Sarah was slowly walking back into the bedroom with a glass of water in her hand. She stood in the doorway and saw her fiancé in a deep, exhausted sleep. She smiled because she had greatly contributed to his exhaustion.
In front of their house lay Georgian Bay. It hadn't frozen over yet. A northwest wind was driving the waves onto their dock. A half-moon was hanging in a star filled sky. Yesterday they had their first decent snowfall; almost a foot of the white stuff.
The moonlight reflected off the blanket of snow and flooded into their bedroom.
Yesterday had been both the worst and best day of their two months of living together. Chuck had come home and told her that he signed both of them up to be volunteers at the local cancer hospital two days a week.
Sarah had exploded and asked him what part of 'staying off the grid did he not understand!'
Chuck had shot back that 'it sure didn't mean holding up in their house like they were Bonnie and Clyde!'
For the next thirty minutes it was like a thunder storm had entered their living room; sound and fury signifying almost nothing. They went to separate rooms to lick their wounds. But after a while Chuck came to her with a cup of hot chocolate. He apologized for not talking with her first about the hospital volunteering.
She didn't like to apologize, but she did, sort of … and it had led to last night, the best night of her life.
Afterwards, she was resting her head on his shoulder. She felt Chuck's body relax as he drifted off to sleep. That's when the tears came to her eyes unbidden. She was glad Chuck was asleep, otherwise she would have to explain to him that she was crying because she was so damn happy.
Sometime this week they needed to get the guest bedroom and study ready for a visit from Ellie, Devon, Casey and Carina who would be staying with them over Christmas. Ellie and Devon ostensibly were attending a medical conference in Toronto. Sarah was hoping to start the repair work with Ellie.
Sarah let her nightgown fall to the floor and slipped under the covers. Chuck had been asleep for almost four hours. A half smile appeared on Sarah's face. She put her lips close to his ear and softly whispered, "..Chuck…Chuck.."
February 2010 – Island of Mallorca
The Mediterranean sun felt warm on Chuck's neck. The sweat had drenched his cycling jersey and his eyes were fixed 300 yards straight ahead of him. He was gulping down huge breaths, his heart was hammering in his chest. His legs and arms were burning. He was at the end of the three monastery cycle route. It was a 70 mile trip with three killer mountain roads to climb. He was just about unable to continue. At the top, San Salvador monastery awaited.
He didn't have the energy to look to his right but he knew she was there, beside him. Matching his progress as they clawed their way to the top together. Sarah never quit, she never surrendered to the pain.
Sarah was at her breaking point. They only had 100 yards to go now but her legs were starting to cramp. Chuck was a beast on a bike. It was like he didn't feel the pain. No surprise since he had cycled thousands of miles last year. But she wouldn't fall behind him, she would never leave his side.
Later on top of San Salvador
Sarah and Chuck were sitting at the restaurant table, taking in the breathtaking views from the top. They were slowly recovering from their ride. Mr. Charles Campbell and Mrs. Sarah Campbell were booked to stay two nights at the hotel. This trip had been Sarah's idea. She could see that Chuck needed a break from the winter and the latest polar vortex.
Chuck raised his glass of beer to Sarah and touched her wine glass. "I can't believe you made that climb without stopping. You are amazing, simply amazing." Sarah gave him a dazzling smile in return for his heartfelt compliment.
Chuck looked over at his fiancé. "Sarah, in two more months we will be able to finally contact my dad. See if he has figured out how to get the Intersect out of my head. If he can't I'm not sure what we should do? How do we deal with Beckman? What about your job with the CIA?"
Sarah moved her chair closer to him and reached for his hand. "Chuck, let tomorrow take care of tomorrow. Soon enough life will start pushing us around again, like corks in the ocean. But, I have everything I want." Sarah didn't often say the three words Chuck dearly loved to hear. In a funny sense that was okay with him because it made those occasions when she did say them particularly special.
A/N – Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me along the way with PMs and reviews. Much appreciated.