A/N: Here we are folks, the end of all things. Dramatic. I need to thank my beta michaelfmx who has been a constant inspiration throughout this entire thing. Were it not for him, this 11 chapter 130k word story would be a tiny 3-chapter mini fic. Thanks for not letting me follow through with the plan, buddy. I owe you. Thank you also to everyone who favorited, followed, reviewed, PM'd, the support was overwhelming and so inspiring. I seriously can't say thank you enough.
I hope you all enjoy this last chapter, it's been quite the ride. :)
August 24th, 2010, Carmichael Electronics, CA: 1100 Hours:
Sarah peered out at the entrance to the Carmichael Electronics office building from the safety of her car. She was waiting for Morgan to wander through the doors. It was 11 o' clock, time for his lunch break, and he always came outside to eat on the lawn. Anna taught at the local ju-jitsu academy, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she had the day off, meaning she would be joining Morgan for lunch and he would be distracted long enough for Sarah to get into his office and find what she needed before he even finished his daily PB&. She needed to get answers for Chuck's erratic behavior.
He'd been acting jumpy lately. Always hunched over the desk in their room, scrambling for excuses whenever she caught him unexpectedly. He'd sit up straight as a board in the desk chair and smile a little too widely, find some way to excuse himself, and then disappear for hours. Sarah was growing more and more curious as time passed. She wanted Chuck to be able to talk with her about anything, not feel like he had to hide something from her. After all, it hadn't been long since the morning after Valentine's Day when they'd agreed never to keep secrets from one another. It wasn't even the fact that Chuck might be hiding something from her that bothered Sarah. What did bother her was that he felt he needed to. What could be so personal that he felt he couldn't share it with her? They'd been doing so well with their communication so far. Sarah didn't want to lose that now.
A few days ago she'd caught him hunched over the desk, scribbling away at something when she entered. Immediately, he shoved whatever he was writing underneath a pile of Carmichael Electronics papers and turned to face her with a giant grin.
"Hey!" he'd said, his voice quivering just the slightest bit. "I didn't know you were home."
"Yoga got out early," Sarah replied sweetly, crossing the room to peck him on the cheek, her eyes darting to the papers clamped underneath Chuck's palm. "I'm just gonna grab my book and I'll leave you to your paperwork, okay?"
Chuck nodded vigorously, returning his attention to his pile of papers while Sarah made her way to her nightstand. She picked up the book slowly, watching Chuck tap nervously on the papers, jiggling the pencil he'd been scribbling with before she came in. Sarah returned to his side, an idea popping into her head. She knew how to get Chuck to reveal his secret and all it would take was a little teasing. Resting her hands on his shoulders, she slowly began to knead away the tension gathered there.
"You okay? You seem a little tense."
"Yup! I mean no, nope. Not tense. Just fine. Everything's fine." Chuck's voice was strained, his lips thin, eyes wide. He was the opposite of fine and he had an idea of where this was heading.
"Chuck." Sarah lowered her voice and ducked down to place a soft kiss on the back of his neck. "If there's anything bothering you, I don't want you to be afraid to tell me."
A shiver passed through Chuck's body as Sarah kissed him again, her hands sliding down his shoulders to his chest, her mouth now grazing his ear.
"I-Uh..." Sarah lifted her lips to the sensitive spot just beneath his jaw and ear and nipped at his earlobe.
"Are you sure there's nothing wrong, baby?" she said again, her voice hardly above a whisper as her lips ghosted across his neck. Chuck jumped up so suddenly that he nearly knocked Sarah backwards.
"Nope! Nothing's wrong. But I do have a lot of paperwork, so I'd better uh...I should probably...Get to somewhere else...Like the office!" Catching Sarah's slightly wounded expression, he leaned forward and kissed her before gathering up his papers. "Thank you for the...ah..massage. But everything is fine, I promise. Be back later!" Then he was gone. Out the door so fast, he practically left a trail of smoke behind him. Sarah folded her arms over her chest and frowned. If she couldn't get Chuck's secrets out of him through seduction, then there was little else she could think to do.
So Morgan was the next best target. Just then, the small bearded man made his way out the front doors, drawing Sarah from her reverie. He headed towards the lawn and Sarah stepped out of her car, shutting the door quietly to avoid drawing Morgan's attention.
Morgan was looking down at his phone while he walked-probably texting Anna-completely oblivious to Sarah as she breezed by him and stepped through the front doors, heading for his office. Casey glanced up from the magazine he was reading behind the security desk and grunted a 'hello'. Sarah smiled pleasantly and continued down the hall, not stopping until she reached Morgan's unlocked office. She began searching drawers immediately, not sure what she was looking for, but knowing she could find some sort of clue from Chuck's best friend.
As she searched through every drawer, she found nothing but comics, old paperwork, some candy wrappers and a strange collection of…..where those action figures? Frustrated, Sarah paced to the bookcase near the door and began shuffling through the various books and comics there. One of the magazines caught Sarah's attention as it had nothing to do with the rest of Morgan's nerdy collection. It was a wedding ring catalog. Sarah's brow furrowed in confusion as she studied the cover.
Was Morgan planning on proposing to Anna? The two had been together for quite some time, but neither one seemed to be in much of a rush. Sarah opened the catalog and scanned the pages. Finally, she came across a dog-eared page with a sticky note beside one of the rings.
It read: 'Eternity band? Sappy enough? Tell Chuck.'
P.S. Also suggest Green Lantern style matching wedding bands.
"Oh my god..."Sarah whispered, as the pieces fell into place in her head. Chuck's evasiveness, his hours of pouring over documents-or catalogs-that he kept hidden from her. His quiet conversations with Morgan...It all made sense. And she hadn't seen any of it coming. Sarah knew she was a smart person, she'd been a capable agent when it came to gathering intelligence in the field. To miss something like this...something so huge, from the one person she knew and loved more than anyone...A voice coming down the hall snapped her out of her thoughts. It took a moment for Sarah to realize that the voice was Morgan's, and by then it was too late to hide or run. She was going to have to interrogate-or intimidate-her way out of this.
The door opened and Sarah stepped behind it, pressing herself against the bookcase to avoid being seen. Morgan stepped inside and set his empty lunch bag down on his desk. When he turned to close the door, Sarah stood in front of him and slammed it shut, turning the lock before he even had a chance to react.
"Sarah!" Morgan slapped a hand over his chest. "You nearly gave me a heart attack. What are you doing here? Are you looking for Chuck? He told me to tell you that he's-"
"I'm not here for Chuck. I'm here for you," Sarah interrupted, pinning him with an icy glare. She tossed the catalog down on the desk and pointed. "What is this?"
"That?" Morgan's blue eyes went wide. "Well that, that, is a ring catalog. Generally one uses it to...find a ...um...well...to find a wedding ring. Did you find it in here? That's so weird. I don't usually keep anything other than comic books on the shelf. I wonder how that got there..."
Sarah crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes until Moran gulped in fear and adjusted his tie. "Is it hot in here or is it just me?"
"Why do you have a ring catalog, Morgan?"
Morgan bit his lip, so Sarah tried for a different tactic. Lowering her voice, she prowled towards him, taking a step forward every time he took one back until he hit the desk and had nowhere else to go.
"You do remember that I was a spy right, Morgan?" Morgan nodded his head rapidly. "Good. Just because I don't work for the CIA anymore doesn't mean I'm not still a trained interrogator. I suggest that you tell me why you have that catalog before I'm forced to prove that I haven't lost my touch."
Morgan's eyes nearly bulged out of his head. He raised his hands and cringed, shouting, "Okay, okay! It's Chuck's! He wanted help picking out the perfect ring for you, he wants to propose!...Oh...I'm a dead man..." Morgan dropped his face into his hands and slumped back against the desk.
Sarah's knees suddenly felt weak and she had trouble finding her voice. "He wants to propose?"
"Yes...He asked me to keep it a secret but...Look, he doesn't know when or where yet, but he's going to do it. He wanted it to be special and perfect. He knew you'd find out if he planned it at home so he's been coming into the office to work out the details."
Chuck wanted to marry her. He'd been doing his best to keep it a secret, not wanting her spy mode to kick in and find out before he'd planned it. Too late for that. But if Chuck had worked so hard to keep the secret then Sarah could too. She wouldn't let on that she knew. Sarah wasn't sure how she got from Morgan's office to her car, or if she even said anything to him before she left; her body was on autopilot while her mind ran a mile a minute.
She sat in the driver's seat of her car staring at the office building with the key sitting uselessly in the ignition. Chuck wanted to marry her. The words didn't feel real, the catalog she'd found felt like a dream, Morgan's face when he'd told her the truth...Everything suddenly seemed too huge. How was she supposed to handle being someone's wife. And not just anybody's wife, Chuck's wife. Was she ready for that sort of commitment? How different would it be from what they had now?
As she drove home, her thoughts turned from disbelief, to panic, and finally...overwhelming joy. The man she loved wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. With her! And as scary as it seemed a moment ago, now she couldn't stop a smile from lighting up her face. He loved her and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. The Sarah Walker who had met Chuck nearly two years ago would have turned tail and run at the mere mention of marriage. But the Sarah Walker she was now was rapidly warming to the idea of marrying the man who had changed everything for her. It was a huge step, it was daunting, but they'd face it together, just like every other milestone that had come their way so far. By the time Sarah returned to the apartment, she felt like she was floating. Chuck was already inside cooking dinner when she surprised him by throwing her arms around him and squeezing him tightly. Chuck was confused by the sudden, but not unwelcome, embrace and he swiveled in her arms to return the gesture, kissing the crown of her head and asking what he'd done to deserve such a heartfelt 'hello'. Sarah just shook her head and held him tighter. This was the man she was going to marry, who wanted to marry her. The words felt real now and they didn't terrify her in the slightest.
September 1st 2010, Malibu, CA: 1100 Hours
Chuck made it half way to shore before a bump in the waves knocked him off of his board and into the ocean with a splash. He reemerged just in time to see Sarah following him in, much more gracefully than he could ever hope to manage at this point. She leapt off of her board once she was beside him and dove into the waves, popping up close enough to touch her nose to Chuck's.
"You're getting better," she teased, her blue eyes sparkling.
"God, I hope so," Chuck groaned, pushing his wet curls out of his face and slinging one arm over his board. "I've been doing this for months, I feel like I'm not getting anywhere."
"Chuck," Sarah reached out with the hand that wasn't gripping her own surfboard and stroked his cheek. "You're great." He smiled at her and then lifted himself all the way onto the board, beginning to paddle out past the waves again with Sarah at his side.
"Don't you remember the first time you did this?" Sarah asked as they paddled. "You could hardly stand for more than a second."
"Yeah, now I can stand for five."
"I'm joking!" Chuck sent her a lopsided grin to prove his point. He knew he'd improved. He was a decent surfer now, having Sarah as his personal instructor had certainly helped. But it was also hard to look good doing it when she was cutting through the waves like a dolphin. Dolphin Sarah...Chuck shook his head. Weird image.
The sat on their boards, side-by-side, waiting for the next big wave to come and take them in, when Sarah turned to him again and nudged the underside of his board with her foot. "You really do look good out there, you know."
"Oh yeah?" Chuck turned and wiggled his eyebrows at her, flexing his arms so exaggeratedly that she had to laugh. But it was true. Surfing with Sarah almost every other weekend in Malibu kept him pretty fit, and the sun probably did wonders for his complexion. He noticed the way Sarah bit her lip slightly when she nodded at him and he felt his cheeks flush. "I...well...Thank you. You look great out there too...You always do." Chuck vividly remembered the first day he'd ever laid eyes on her cutting across the waves, looking for all the world like she was one with them.
Sarah was leaning towards him, the side of her board dipping beneath the water as she shifted her weight. Chuck met her halfway, his hands coming up to hold her waist as their lips touched. Realizing too late that they probably had a beach full of people watching them, Chuck lifted one hand from her waist to cradle the back of her head instead and drew his tongue gentle across her bottom lip. Sarah gripped the hem of his board shorts and tugged gently, bringing him so close that his board knocked against hers. Suddenly the swell of a passing wave lifted their boards and pulled them apart.
"I think the ocean's telling us to get a room," Chuck grinned.
"Well, unbeknownst to the ocean, we have a room," Sarah replied, a dreamy smile on her face. "One I intend to take full advantage of later." She gave him a wink, hopped onto her board and rode another swell towards the shore, leaving Chuck in the lurch behind her, realizing he'd probably have to wait a for a wave...or two... before he could stand up and ride it in.
About an hour later, Chuck sat on the beach watching Sarah surf across the choppy waves while the sun beat down on his outstretched legs and the wind tousled his curls. She had decided to go back into the ocean for a while longer, leaving Chuck to admire her grace as she surfed and reminiscing about the first time he had seen her, probably from very nearly this same spot. Devon lay nearby, spread-eagled on his own beach towel for 'maximum tanning potential', as he had phrased it. Ellie had gone back to the car to grab Clara's sippy cup, and that left Chuck to watch over the five-month-old while her parents were occupied. Taking care of Clara was easy, or so Chuck had thought. All he had to do was make sure she didn't fall face first into the sand and keep her sunhat on to protect her delicate skin. Unfortunately, Clara seemed determined to tear her hat off every few seconds and continually tossed her toy water rings around on the sand, reaching out with stubby hands to grab them and almost toppling over herself every time.
Chuck kept one hand around Clara's little body to steady her, while keeping his eyes on the waves, or more specifically, on Sarah. The proposal was happening here, on this beach, tonight, and so far everyone had done an excellent job of keeping quiet about it, although Ellie was practically bursting at the seams, tears springing to her eyes every time she saw the two of them together. Surprisingly, Chuck found he wasn't nervous about popping the question. He was confident in how the proposal would play out, and that the meaning associated with the place he'd chosen to do it wouldn't be lost on Sarah. In fact, the longer he watched her tackle the waves, the more he wanted night to fall so that he could get on with the proposal. He was ready to spend the rest of his life with her, and he wanted that next chapter of their lives to start now.
"Look Clara. Look at Aunt Sarah. See? Here she comes." Chuck guided Clara's attention to the ocean, where Sarah was riding a wave in towards the shore. Clara watched Sarah walk up the beach with wide eyes, gurgling happily when she was close enough for Clara to recognize her face.
"Ah!" Clara squawked, stretching her arms out for Sarah, who set her surfboard aside immediately and swung Clara up into her arms.
"She was watching you surf," Chuck said, unable to keep the grin off of his face as he watched Clara snuggle into Sarah's shoulder. "We may have another surfer on our hands one of these days."
Sarah sat down next to Chuck, adjusting Clara in her lap and kissing the baby's head. "Want me to teach you to surf, Clara?"
"Ellie might have a heart attack."
"Well, we'll wait a while...Like until she's one," Sarah teased, sticking her tongue out at Chuck when he laughed. Clara squawked again and reached for Sarah's surfboard, patting it with her little hand and then settling back into Sarah's lap with her thumb in her mouth.
"No, no, Clara," Sarah said softly, drawing Clara's hand out of her mouth and handing her a water ring, that hadn't been tossed into the sand, to chew on instead. "Your mommy's not going to like it if you make a habit out of that."
Chuck smiled as he watched the interaction. His future was sitting right in front of him. Maybe in a few years, Sarah wouldn't be holding Clara, but another baby girl. Curly brown hair instead of wispy blonde, and bright blue eyes just like Sarah's.
"Hm?" Chuck snapped out of his thoughts, realizing that Sarah was looking at him as if she were waiting for an answer to a question he'd missed.
"Everything okay? You're staring."
"Yeah, yup! Sorry. Everything's fine! Just thinking about Clara surfing...I bet she'd be good at it, honestly. I mean look at her dad. Awesome can literally do anything athletic. Clara is just a mini captain Awesome in the making. She's Corporal Awesome."
Sarah narrowed her eyes. She knew Chuck's rambling pattern well enough by now to know he was hiding something, but she didn't pursue the matter. Ellie returned from the car then, sippy cup in hand, and sat down next to Chuck, holding the cup out to Clara.
"Clara, look at you cuddling with Aunt Sarah," Ellie cooed. "Do you want your cup?"
Clara looked at the cup and then stuck her thumb in her mouth again, wiggling in Sarah's lap to make herself more comfortable. Ellie laughed and reached out to take Clara's hand out of her mouth.
"Well, I guess we know who Clara's favorite is," Chuck teased, watching Clara squirm when Ellie took away her thumb. "Sorry, El."
"I'm not her favorite," Sarah scoffed, looking worriedly at Ellie. "Don't joke around like that, Chuck."
"It's alright Sarah," Ellie laughed. "Clara loves you. And it's so nice to see you to like this as opposed to the first time you held her."
"You mean right after she was born, when Sarah held her like a radioactive bomb?" Chuck joked, pulling another laugh from Ellie.
"I didn't want to hurt her." Clara looked up and stuck her thumb in her mouth again, reaching up with the other hand to touch Sarah's ponytail. "See, what did I tell you, Clara?" Sarah teased when the baby had her thumb taken away by Ellie yet again. Clara scowled at her mother and turned her face into Sarah's shoulder, molding herself into the crook of Sarah's arm. Ellie gave Sarah a huge smile full of hidden, and not so hidden meanings, and then handed Sarah a pacifier to give her instead. Once Clara was content with it, she began dozing while the adults talked. But Chuck didn't join Ellie and Sarah's conversation, he kept glancing at Clara, asleep in Sarah's arms, and picturing his own baby there. Reaching into the pocket of his board shorts, Chuck began fiddling with the ring box. The bonfire they had planned would start when the sun set, which meant Chuck had a few hours to refine his proposal speech. As Sarah and Ellie continued to chat, Chuck went over the words in his head again and again. By the time night fell it was going to be perfect.
The sunlight was starting to fade and before the bonfire could get underway, Chuck excused himself, hurrying back to the house to grab a t-shirt from his bag. Inside the house, he found Casey reading a book in the living room. Chuck had been surprised when Casey first decided to join them on their now annual Malibu trip, but the man had kept mostly to himself for the whole trip, staying inside while the others enjoyed the beach, claiming he hated sand whenever anyone asked him to join the fun outside. He looked up from his book when Chuck entered and stood up from the couch.
"Trying to make a break for it, Bartowski? You haven't chickened out have you?" Casey knew about Chuck's proposal plan. In fact, he'd been the one to assure Chuck that a simple proposal was the way to go. But he'd also maintained a slightly aggressive habit of teasing Chuck about it whenever he had the chance. Chuck hoped it was good-natured, intended to push him along and keep him from getting cold feet-but cold feet had never been a worry for Chuck. He wanted to do this more than anything.
"Nope," he responded. "Just grabbing a shirt so I don't freeze out there once the sun goes down. You should really consider joining us for the bonfire, Casey. We have towels...You won't have to sit on the sand."
Casey grunted and shrugged his shoulders.
"Come oooon, Casey."
Cocking a single brow, Casey rolled his eyes and sighed. "Fine. I'll come."
"Great! Meet you down there! I just need to make sure I have everything I need for tonight," Chuck said, dashing down the hallway towards the room he shared with Sarah.
"Chuck," Casey called after him, stopping him in his tracks. "Don't over think it. Remember, all you need is the girl."
Chuck gave the older man a resolute nod and a smile. "I know."
Casey returned the nod, grabbed his book and headed out the back door. Chuck watched him go, his chest filling with warmth as he realized how grateful he was to have a mentor like Casey in his corner. Shaking his head to clear it, Chuck hurried to his room, rummaged through his bag for a t-shirt and light sweatshirt. He switched the ring box from the pocket of his board shorts to the sweatshirt, hoping it would be easier to reach for if his hands started trembling when the big moment came. Once he had everything he needed, Chuck took a moment to study the ring, picturing how it would glint in the moonlight on Sarah's finger. Tucking the box in his pocket, Chuck hurried out of the house and back towards the beach. He was ready.
The bonfire roared and crackled, sending showers of sparks into the night sky while the group of friends sat around it, enjoying one another's company. Morgan and Anna had insisted on roasting marshmallows again, and now Chuck sat close to Sarah, watching as she helped Clara chew on a barely toasted marshmallow. Ellie hadn't been ecstatic about the idea of feeding a ball of sugar to Clara, but once she'd been assured they'd only give her one, she'd conceded. Besides that, Clara wasn't eating it so much as she was gumming on it and then dropping it into her lap over and over again.
Sarah laughed and looked over her shoulder at Chuck when Clara stopped chewing on it completely and let it hang from her lips instead, staring at the fire with wide, curious eyes. Chuck smiled, scooting closer to her on the pink towel they shared and wrapping his arm around her waist. The towel hadn't been lost on Sarah. Her eyes lit up when he'd spread it out next to the fire with a flourish and a grin. She'd quickly understood its significance without him having to explain it.
The beach was shrouded in shadows now, the only light coming from the soft glow of the moon and the roaring bonfire. Chuck's heart began to pick up speed as he realized it was dark enough to recreate the scene he'd been thinking of. Their first kiss on this very beach. Sticking his hand in his jacket pocket, he fiddled nervously with the ring while Sarah handed Clara back to Ellie, the baby's marshmallow now abandoned on the ground. Turning back to Chuck, Sarah gave him a wide smile and leaned forward to kiss his cheek, nuzzling against his side and sighing with contentment.
"Hey," Chuck gently nudged her shoulder. "Walk with me?"
Sarah looked curious and a little startled by the suggestion, but agreed anyway. They stood together and Ellie shot Chuck an expectant glance that he caught from the corner of his eye. He acknowledged her unspoken question with a tiny wink and Ellie nearly squealed in response. Taking Sarah by the hand, Chuck led her away from the bonfire and onto the darkened beach. They walked close to the shoreline, letting the water lap at their bare feet.
Chuck was quiet for awhile, listening to the crash of the waves and reminiscing about the first time he'd walked this stretch of beach with Sarah. Back then he'd thought he was fighting a losing battle to be with her, and it had crushed him when she'd walked away after their kiss. He understood now why she had done what she did, and how conflicted she had been about it, but the memory still stung a little. Shaking the thoughts away, Chuck focused on what he needed to do tonight. No longer would the beach be the home of melancholy memories, soon it would be filled with the ones of the happiest night of his life...One of them anyway, he was sure there would be many more here. Suddenly, he felt Sarah's hand slip into his own, and he was drawn back to the first time they'd walked this beach together at night, hand-in-hand. Back then, she'd quite literally been reaching out to him, and although it had backfired at the time, the gesture felt similar to Chuck now. She was physically drawing him out of his thoughts and back to the present with her.
"Do you remember the first time we came here together?" Chuck asked, his voice hardly carrying over the sound of the waves.
"The first time? Or the second first time?" Sarah teased, easing Chuck's nerves without even realizing it.
He chuckled. "The second first time...Actually..." Now that he thought about it, he already had some very happy memories on this beach with Sarah. The first time they'd met here, when he'd been buried neck deep in the sand, was the catalyst for everything that had happened since. There was no way he'd ever forget that meeting. "The first, first time."
"Yes, of course I remember. Hard to forget meeting a guy buried in the sand by his friends and then being 'left to die'."
"Not my best moment."
"But memorable." Chuck looked down to see Sarah smiling softly at him. She leaned up on her tiptoes and pecked him on the cheek before she continued. "But I think I prefer the second first time we were here together."
"Surfing, frisbee-ing, marshmallowing-"
"Making out," Sarah finished for him, giggling when he gasped in shock. Although their first real kiss was something Chuck would always remember, he didn't see it in quite the same light as Sarah did.
"I wouldn't really consider that kiss making out, you turned me down, remember?" He tried to keep his tone light but Sarah's expression fell anyway.
"Hey," Chuck stopped walking and moved to stand in front of her, holding her shoulders, forcing her to look at him and then running his hands gently down her arms. "Whatever happened between us back then, it's not important. We're here now. It all led to this. Besides, how that particular kiss ended doesn't matter. It's still one I'll never forget. And we've had so many kisses since then. Way better ones if you ask me." Chuck wiggled his eyebrows and gave her his nose-wrinkling grin.
Sarah couldn't help but giggle, and when she did, Chuck resumed walking, taking her hand again and carrying on down the beach. He felt a shiver pass through her body when a gust of wind buffeted them, and he almost gave her his sweatshirt when he suddenly remembered the ring was still stowed in its pocket. So he wrapped his arm around her instead, pulling her into the warmth of his body and slowing his pace to keep the position from making walking together too difficult.
"Besides," he said. "I think this beach is going to hold a lot more good memories for us than bad."
Chuck stopped again and turned Sarah around, wanting to see her face when he did this. She looked at him expectantly, her beautiful blue eyes shining in the moonlight and he suddenly wanted to kiss her, but that had to wait or he'd never be able to finish what he wanted to say.
"Two years ago," Chuck began. "When I first met you here, when you saved me from a possibly deadly sunburn, I had no idea how much you would change my life, Sarah. How could I know? How often do you meet a stranger who comes out of nowhere, turns your whole world upside down and tells you exactly what you need to hear to move you forward in life?" Sarah's eyes searched his face now and he noticed that she seemed to be breathing a little quicker. If she hadn't caught on to what was happening yet, she was about to.
"You changed everything, Sarah. You made me see who I could be and you gave me the drive to become that guy, and all you had to do was smile and tell me I was worth something. I think that's when I knew that you were special. I'd never met anyone like you before and I never will again."
Tears sprung to Sarah's eyes, but she didn't fight them, instead letting them gather and spill down her cheeks as Chuck spoke. She knew what was about to happen, she had since she'd cornered Morgan nearly a month ago. And it had been obvious, once they'd arrived at the beach, that Chuck was planning on proposing in the same place that they'd met. But the magnitude of the moment hadn't hit Sarah until just now. And she couldn't compose herself.
"And even later, when I thought you were with someone else... the luckiest guy in the world who got to spend every day loving you...Even then, you pushed me forward. And I couldn't help but fall in love with you, Sarah. I'm really not sure any man could. But still!" Hearing her small chuckle made his heart bounce in his chest. "We've already been through so much together, this giant roller coaster of emotions, but I think this is only the beginning for us, Sarah. There are so many things I still want to do, and I want you by my side...always. If you'll have me." She was definitely crying now, he could see the tear tracks sparkling in the moonlight. So he lifted a shaking hand and brushed away the tears with his thumb.
She raised her own hand, holding his to her cheek as her heart pounded against her ribcage. His eyes never left hers, not for a moment, and Sarah felt like she could sink into the depths of his brown eyes and never resurface. Part of her still couldn't believe what was about the happen, but the rest of her was aching for Chuck to ask her. To say the words. The words that Sarah Walker had never, until recently, thought she would ever hear. That she would ever be worthy of hearing.
"Sarah," he began, using his other hand to reach into his pocket, he pulled out the ring box and popped it open. Sarah's eyes widened when she saw the ring and then they flickered back to his face as a smile grew on her lips. "Will you marry me?"
She didn't say yes. She didn't say anything. Instead, she launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck and crushing her lips to his. Chuck stumbled backward, nearly dropping the ring box, and wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her body so closely to his he thought she might pass right through him. He could feel the tears on her cheeks wetting his own, so he drew a hand through her hair to soothe her. When she pulled away from him, after what felt like an eternity, she stared up into his eyes, an enormous smile lighting up her entire face.
Chuck's heart hammered against his ribs, and he felt like he could take flight like Superman as he took the ring and slid it onto her finger. Devon had been right, it was perfect. She kissed him again, tackling him into the sand and landing on top of him hard enough for Chuck to grunt. But she didn't apologize and he wouldn't have let her anyway. He cradled her as she kissed him, relishing the feeling of the cool metal of the ring sliding against his cheek. She pulled away suddenly and gazed down at him, the love and adoration she felt for him shining in her eyes.
"I love you."
"That's good, otherwise your reaction might have been a tad too dramatic. I'll give you a B+ for staying in character this long, Agent Walker." Chuck teased, earning a slap on the chest that made him groan. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry. I meant to say I love you too." Sarah pursed her lips, torn between punishing him for his out-of-place joke and giving in to his puppy-dog expression. Eventually, the latter won out and she kissed him again.
Chuck sighed contentedly, letting his eyes slip shut as his hands roamed his fiancé's body. Fiancé. God, it felt so good to say that. It felt good that she'd said yes. It felt good to have her body on top of his, with the soothing sound of the waves in his ears and the cool sand against his back. He was overwhelmed by the realization that this was only the beginning of their life together. Chuck was already on cloud nine, and the night was only going to get better, they still had to tell the others.
Sarah was very aware of the weight of the ring on her finger as they made their way back to the bonfire hand-in-hand. She was still partially convinced that this was all a dream. It seemed too incredible to be true that this man, her Chuck, wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. She'd always known his love for her was unconditional, but the ring and the proposal had solidified it in her mind. Her heart began to race as they approached the others, each one of them watching the couple with expectant expressions. It was only then that Sarah realized that they must have known about the proposal much longer than she had, most of them had probably given Chuck a few ideas here and there. And it certainly explained Morgan's odd behavior when she'd interrogated him about Chuck's intentions. So Morgan had known more than he was letting on, and she had believed him….she would have to settle that with him later.
"You two alright?" Ellie asked slowly, her eyes flickering back and forth between the two of them.
"Amazing," Sarah answered, holding up her hand, the ring sparkling in the light of the fire. The silence that had fallen over the group as they approached shattered in a cacophony of voices as everyone rushed forward, offering congratulations and cheers and pats on the back, handshakes and hugs. Sarah was overwhelmed by the kindness and love of her friends; the intensity of it almost matched her new fiancé's. Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah saw Casey give Chuck a small nod and a smile. It was strange, but also heartening to know that Casey had been the one to support Chuck in taking the next step in his relationship with her. The story of Kathleen sprung to Sarah's mind and she swallowed to fight the lump forming in her throat. Maybe, when the time was right, she would talk to Casey about whether it was time for him to take a leap of faith and reach out to Kathleen. He deserved that much after all he'd done to support Sarah and Chuck's relationship.
Ellie suggested they move the celebration inside as the temperature continued to drop and Clara was getting fussy. Once the group had gathered their things, stamped out the fire and made the treck up to the house, Ellie put Clara down for the night, while Devon revealed the collection of alcohol he'd stashed in the kitchen. The celebration went long into the night, everyone drinking wine and beers and continuing to congratulate Chuck and Sarah about their engagement. Wedding plans were joked about and Morgan and Devon started arguing over who would be best man. Sarah already knew she wanted Ellie to be her maid of honor as she was, for all intents and purposes, already the closest thing to a sister that Sarah would ever have. Deciding that now was a good a time as any to ask her, Sarah pulled Ellie aside while the guys continued to argue.
"God, Sarah. Can I just say how happy I am for you? And for Chuck? For the both of you. After everything you've been through. Who would have thought you'd be getting engaged?" Tears sparkled in Ellie's eyes as she spoke.
"Not me," Sarah said with a sigh. She couldn't have ever imagined the twists and turns her life had taken since Chuck Bartowski came into it. "You know Ellie, I don't think I'd be here without you."
"What do you mean?"
"You were so quick to welcome me into your home. Even that first night, when I was just some stranger your brother brought home. You made me feel like I was part of your family from the very beginning." Ellie's bottom lip trembled and she nodded fiercely, unable to respond with words. "You know I...I never had any siblings growing up. I think it's only fitting that you, my soon to be sister-in-law, are also the closest thing I've ever had to a real sister. With that being said...Ellie, would you be my maid of honor?"
Ellie squealed and sobbed at the same time, throwing her arms around Sarah and hugging her with enough force to crack a rib, but Sarah held her just as tightly. The noise drew the men's attention, who were surprised enough to stop arguing. Chuck watched Sarah and his sister closely, trying to discern what had just happened. He caught on when Ellie pulled away and wiped the joyful tears away from her eyes.
"Sarah, I'd be absolutely honored."
"See, now why can't we decide that easily?" Morgan grumped, turning to glare at Devon, who was laughing uproariously. Chuck just smiled as he watched his sister and Sarah hug again; content that his fiancé had officially made a home with his family.
As the night came to an end, the group dispersed into their separate rooms, still giddy and light from the effects of the alcohol and the news of the engagement. Chuck flopped onto his back once he and Sarah were alone in their room and closed his eyes, taking a moment to think about everything that had happened tonight. He waited for his fiancé to join him, but when she didn't he opened his eyes and saw her standing at the end of the bed smiling at him.
"We're getting married," she said simply.
He chuckled. "God, I sure hope so. Everyone's going to be really disappointed in the morning otherwise."
Sarah dropped to her knees on the edge of the mattress and crawled over him, taking her time, eating him up with her eyes as she went. Chuck swallowed in anticipation.
"We. Are. Getting. Married." She broke up each word by dropping a kiss onto his t-shirt, ending at his neck and nibbling his skin gently. She looked up at him, her blue eyes sparkling in amusement and then she flopped onto her side next to him and giggled. Chuck loved seeing this side of Sarah, the one without inhibitions or worries. The one with a salacious sense of humor and a laugh that sometimes turned into a snort. Rolling onto his side, he slung one arm over her waist and gazed at the ring on her finger.
"We're getting married," he agreed, savoring the way the words felt in his mouth. "You said yes."
"Why would I say anything else?" she asked, reaching up to cup his cheek with one hand. She looked exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time, her skin seeming to glow in the lamplight, but her eyes kept drifting shut even as she gazed lovingly at him. As much as Chuck would like to celebrate their engagement intimately tonight, it could wait. Her comfort came before his and now that they were engaged, they had all the time in the world. So he leaned down and gave her a chaste kiss, reaching for the covers bunched at their feet and pulling them upwards over both of them.
"Get some sleep, baby," he murmured as she curled against him and sighed. He swore he heard her mumble and 'I love you' but when he listened again for it all he heard was her steady breathing.
"I love you too," he said anyway, closing his own eyes and wrapping an arm around Sarah's body to keep her close. He'd never felt happiness like he did now. Overjoyed that the woman he loved had agreed to spend her life with him. After all they'd been through together to get to this moment, Chuck couldn't ask for a better way to begin the rest of their lives.
March 1st, 2012, Echo Park, CA: 1200 hours
Sarah woke from her unexpected nap with a start. Two things were already very wrong with this situation. One: Sarah never took naps. But lately, every time she sat down or found someplace comfortable enough to let her eyes slip shut for a minute, she fell asleep. In fact, she often found herself missing the times Chuck got home from work because she'd be fast asleep and her new husband was too thoughtful to wake her up. Instead, he ended up carrying her back to the bedroom from wherever she'd fallen asleep and tucking her in for the night. It was as sweet as it was aggravating. And the fatigue didn't stop at home. Earlier in the week, she'd asked her manager for a few days off from work at the Malibu Surf School. It had become increasingly difficult to focus on work when she was left breathless and tired after only an hour or so in the waves. She wasn't sure why she was losing so much steam so quickly. She hadn't let up on her training routine at all, in fact if anything, she pushed herself harder now that she was so concerned about her failing stamina.
Second: she was feeling sick again. Maybe it was the flu or some other stomach bug that was making her so tired and ill all the time. But the fact that her symptoms had only increased over the last three weeks was what concerned her. Figuring it was about time she called someone who might know what she was going through, Sarah pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Ellie's number.
"Hey, Ellie, is this a bad time?" Sarah asked, surprised by the exhaustion apparent in her own voice.
"Not at all, I'm at home with Clara today. What's up?"
"I just-"Sarah trailed off, suddenly feeling foolish. It was probably just a little bug, maybe allergies (although she'd never had allergies, even as a child), it was stupid to call Ellie over what was probably nothing. "I've felt a little under the weather lately...I guess I wanted a professional opinion."
"You're making me work? On my day off, really Sarah?" Ellie teased and Sarah couldn't help but smile.
"Sorry. I just need some quick advice."
"Alright, let's hear it." Sarah went through her symptoms quickly and Ellie listened in silence, popping in occasionally with a short question.
"Aches or pains?"
"Well...my back, yesterday."
"Uh huh..." Ellie's voice lilted upward as if she'd had an epiphany. "And you're tired most of the time, you said. Breathless? Feeling nauseous?"
"All of the above, doc," Sarah teased.
"I think I have something that might help you," Ellie said. "Why don't you come over and I'll help you take it."
The way Ellie phrased the offer sounded odd to Sarah, but she agreed, lifting her sore body off the couch and making her way across the courtyard to Ellie's. She was greeted with a rambunctious 2-year-old Clara, who burst through the door when Ellie opened it and hugged Sarah's legs.
"Sawah!" she shouted, nuzzling her cheeks against Sarah's jeans.
"Hey Clara," Sarah cooed, lifting the child into her arms and following Ellie into the apartment. Clara wiggled out of Sarah's arms once they reached the living room, opting to play with her toys instead.
"So what's your diagnosis?" Sarah asked, as Ellie led her to the kitchen and began shuffling through one of the drawers.
"Well, if my theory is correct," Ellie said, handing her a small box. "You'll need to take this."
Sarah read the text on the box and almost dropped it in shock. "A pregnancy test? You're joking!"
Ellie shook her head and pursed her lips to hide her smile. "No, I wouldn't joke about this, Sarah. But all of your symptoms point to it."
"You...That can't. Ellie, come on. It's probably just a cold or...something. I can't be pregnant."
Ellie's eyebrows rose and she pursed her lips. "Well, sure, some of your symptoms could point to a common cold, but there's one thing that doesn't. How's your sex life been recently?"
Heat flared in Sarah's cheeks and she nearly choked on her response, "I'm sorry...What?"
"Most pregnant women get notoriously hormonal, especially in the beginning of the pregnancy. Those hormones manifest themselves in a vastly increased sex drive. A cold won't do that for you. So," Ellie crossed her arms over her chest and pinned Sarah with a questioning stare. "How often are you and Chuck having sex?"
"Ellie!" Sarah's ears were beginning to burn now. Ellie was her best friend, but she was also Chuck's sister and discussing how often they were intimate wasn't something Sarah was eager to do.
"I'm being clinical here, Sarah. Doctor, remember?" Sarah could tell Ellie was getting a sort of perverse pleasure out of making her uncomfortable, but her question was valid. Her mind started to whirl, trying to figure out how and when it could have happened. She and Chuck had a discussion about starting a family not too long ago, but they'd both agreed to consider it more seriously in the future. At this point, they'd only been married for a little over a year. To start a family so soon was ...it was too fast, wasn't it? She'd been careful too. Or she thought she had. Switching from her IUD to birth control pills-just in case-had been a bit of a transition, but she hadn't missed a day. Or she thought she hadn't anyway. But it was possible. And as cliché as it sounded, their most recent Valentine's Day had been so passionate. If it hadn't happened the first time then maybe...one of the two times after that? These past few weeks it seemed that Sarah couldn't keep her hands off of her husband. Maybe Ellie was right...
Ellie touched Sarah's arm to regain her attention. "You okay?"
"Yes... No. I don't know."
"Sarah, breathe. Go ahead and use our bathroom, I'll come in and help you once you're done, okay?"
Sarah nodded wordlessly and headed to the bathroom, her feet on autopilot, her mind still spinning for an explanation. What if it was positive? What would she do? She couldn't be somebody's mother. She wasn't the type of person meant for parenthood. Not yet, anyway. She wasn't ready…..was she? And what would Chuck think? He'd seemed so adamant about saving the idea of a family for much later. With the growth of Carmichael Electronics and Sarah's focus being directed towards her new life and new job, there didn't seem to be enough time for another person in their lives. And she didn't want Chuck to be distracted, not when his company was officially leaving the independent market and entering the professional gaming industry. Would he be angry that they hadn't been careful enough? Nervous? Chuck would never tell her if he wasn't prepared for this baby, he'd be too concerned for her well being. But she wanted him to be happy about this. If she could just see his smile...she wouldn't be so afraid. There was nothing she could do about it now but find out if she really was pregnant.
Sarah sat on the edge of the bathtub, waiting for the test results, her arms crossed over her stomach as she rocked slightly back and forth. There was a soft knock and Ellie came in, worry darkening her usually bright features. She sat next to Sarah on the rim of the tub and stroke her arm comfortingly.
Sarah took a deep breath, trying to lessen the shaking in her limbs before she spoke. "What do I do if it's positive Ellie?"
"Well...Celebrate?" Ellie tried for a smile that Sarah couldn't quite return. "Sarah, it's going to be okay."
"I'm not like you, Ellie. I'm not a parent. I'm not that kind of person."
"Sarah!" Ellie sounded shocked. "Are you kidding? I've seen you with Clara, you're a natural with her. And she's not even your daughter. You are an incredibly capable woman, Sarah. You're fiercely protective of the people you love, you're smart, and you're thoughtful. I have absolutely no doubt that you are going to be an amazing mother."
Sarah smiled and leaned her head on her sister-in-law's shoulder. Ellie's words were incredibly comforting, but still, she was afraid, especially for her husband.
"I know you're nervous, Sarah. But that's natural. Every woman is scared at the beginning, even if she's been trying for a baby. I was scared when Devon and I first found out about Clara."
"You were?" It shocked Sarah to know that a natural mother like Ellie could have been as terrified as she was right now.
"Of course, it's a big deal. But having Clara in my life now...I wouldn't change it for anything. You know, it's funny. I always told Devon I'd never love anyone more than I loved him. But when Clara was born and I held her in my arms for the first time...Well, I was wrong about that promise I made. She had my whole heart." Ellie smiled at Sarah when she lifted her head from her friend's shoulder. "You can't even imagine that kind of unconditional love, Sarah. But I promise you that you'll feel it too."
"What about Chuck? What will he think?"
"My brother?" Ellie laughed, her hazel eyes sparkling. "I'd be surprised if he doesn't pick you up and parade you around town when he finds out." Sarah had to laugh at that too. She sobered quickly when her watch suddenly beeped, signaling the test was ready. Closing her eyes and taking a steadying breath, Sarah rose and headed for the sink where the test lay.
"What's it say?" Ellie asked.
Sarah clutched the test in one hand and turned around to face her friend, a soft and unexpected smile on her face. "It says that ...I'm pregnant."
"Oh my god, Sarah!" Ellie squealed, rising from the tub and pulling her into a crushing hug. "I'm so happy for you! And I know you're scared but this is so incredible. You're going to be okay, I promise."
She pulled away and held Sarah at arm's length. "Just remember this, you're not alone. I can help you with any pregnancy questions you have and my brother is going to be the most doting husband on the planet. In fact, he'll probably get on your nerves after a while!" Ellie paused, gauging Sarah's expression. "How do you feel?"
She felt a lot of things. Fear, nervousness, anxiety but also...joy, excitement, awe. It was strange to imagine that she held a piece of both her and Chuck inside her now, a symbol of their love and commitment for one another. To simplify her feelings for Ellie's sake, she smiled and said, "I feel amazing."
All that was left now was to tell Chuck.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty!" Chuck teased, as he returned from work that evening to see Sarah sitting at the dining table, chewing on her fingernails. He crossed the room, dropping his bag on the couch and kissing Sarah's cheek. "Good to see you're awake." His fingers trailed up and down her arms, leaving goose bumps in their wake and Sarah leaned back into his touch with a sigh.
"Sit down," she said, tugging on his sleeve. "I have something to tell you."
"Sounds serious," Chuck replied with a mirthful smile. He took a seat across from Sarah, lacing his fingers on top of the dining table and gazing at her expectantly. "What's up?"
Sarah felt herself beginning to shake again. She'd spent all afternoon rehearsing what she was going to say, but actually voicing the words suddenly seemed impossible. "Do you remember that conversation we had not too long ago...About...um...about possibly starting a family?"
"Yes." Sarah studied Chuck's face, trying to gauge his expression but it remained relatively neutral, a slight bounce of his eyebrows the only sign that he hadn't expected this to be the topic of conversation.
"Well, I went over to Ellie's today to ask her for advice about my...sleeping issue."
"And?" Sarah blinked. She'd expected her husband to connect the dots a little quicker. Or maybe he had and he was waiting for her to say it out loud.
"And... I ended up taking this." Reaching into her pocket, Sarah pulled out the pregnancy test that she'd wrapped in a tissue before leaving Ellie's. She set it on the table in front of Chuck, watching his eyes slide away from her face down towards the test. He stared at it for a few moments, and then suddenly his mouth opened in a small 'oh' and his eyebrows rose so high that they almost disappeared into his hairline.
"Sarah." He choked on whatever words he was going to say next and picked up the test. Sarah couldn't see his face, but his shoulders tensed and began to shake. Then he set the test down and covered his face with his hands. For a moment Sarah thought for sure that her mild-mannered husband was about to burst with anger. But he surprised her, looking up and peeking at her between his fingers with glassy eyes.
"You're pregnant?" he asked, sliding his hands down his cheeks until they were resting on the table in front of hers.
"Oh my god," his voice trembled, and then he let out a watery chuckle and grabbed Sarah's hands. "Oh my god! Sarah, you're pregnant!"
"You're not mad?" she asked as he rose from his chair so quickly that it squeaked on the wooden floor and moved around the table, pulling her to her feet.
"Mad? Why would I be mad? What are you talking about?"
"Well, we didn't plan for it. I thought maybe you would be upset that it was a surprise."
Chuck frowned. "Did I ever make you feel that way? That I would be upset with you if a baby came a surprise."
"Well, no," Sarah began, realizing how foolish her fear had been. "It's just...With the company growing and everything...I thought maybe, you would be a little..."
"Upset? Sarah, no. You're pregnant. We're going to have a baby. That's amazing! I couldn't be happier. The company comes second to you, to my family, always." He pulled her into a tight embrace, one arm wrapped around her waist and the other around her shoulders. Sarah felt his lips in her hair and the steady thump of his heart against her own chest. She wrapped her own arms around him, so grateful that the surprise had moved him to tears of joy and not anger. Suddenly, he pulled away and held her at arm's length.
"What about you? How do you feel? Are you okay?" Chuck asked, concern etched onto his features. Sarah's heart melted for her husband, how could she have been afraid when she had Chuck at her side?
"I'm...I was scared at first. I'm not sure I know how to be someone's parent."
"I don't either," Chuck laughed. "We'll figure it out together and we'll make mistakes together. Nobody knows what they're doing when they first have a child. Ask Ellie, mother-of-the-year. Even she's made mistakes with Clara." Sarah smiled, feeling like a weight had just lifted from her shoulders. "Wait a minute, who knows? Just Ellie?"
"Just Ellie," Sarah assured him.
"Good." A beaming grin lit up her husband's face. "I want to be there with you when you tell everyone else." Sarah smiled back, glad to have Chuck's support and excitement. In this moment, she wasn't sure why she'd expected anything different.
"I can't believe this..." he whispered, pulling her against him again. "I love you."
"I love you too," she murmured against his shoulder. As he held her, the anxiety and apprehension she'd felt when first reading the results of the test began to slip away, leaving only the joy and excitement. She was going to have a baby with the man she loved more than anything in the world, there was no reason to be afraid. Not when Chuck would be with her every step of the way.
"Boy or girl, do you think?" Chuck asked quietly from where he lay spooned behind Sarah, his large hands rubbing slow circles on her belly. Sarah paused to think about her answer, staring into the darkness of their bedroom and pursing her lips.
"I don't know. But I think I want a boy, with your curls."
"Oh?" Chuck shifted behind her. "Funny. I want a girl with your eyes."
"Mmmm," Sarah hummed. "Unfortunately, it's not up to you."
"Is it up to you?" Chuck's voice sounded dubious, so Sarah decided to push him just a little farther.
"Sure, Ellie was telling me different things you can do to influence the gender. For example, women who eat foods with high levels of potassium usually end up having boys."
"What? Are you...Is that really?...I'm hiding all of the bananas then."
"Chuck, I'm joking," Sarah laughed. "You know there's no scientific truth to any that."
"Oh," Chuck sounded sheepish. "Right, yes, I knew that. It's just the way you said it kind of made me hope that all of my high school biology classes had lied to me."
"And even if there was, I'm not going to 'try' for a certain gender," she said, stroking his arms that were still wrapped around her waist.
"No matter how much you want a 'boy with my curls'," he teased, nuzzling the spot beneath her ear and jaw.
"If I don't get him this time, we'll just try again."
Chuck gasped softly against her neck, sending shivers down her spine. "Another one? What happened to the Sarah Bartowski that I know?"
"You happened to me," Sarah said, her voice softening enough for Chuck to catch the sentiment. He slid his arms around her waist and pulled her against his chest, dropping a soft kiss on the dip of her neck and shoulder.
As Chuck murmured how much he loved her over and over again, Sarah thought back to how true that statement was. Back to the first day they'd met on the beach. How different would her life have been if she hadn't found him that day? Or if he hadn't gone to work for Roark? Would they have crossed paths again? Would they have fallen in love? What if she hadn't gone back to New York? What if Hannah hadn't left for Paris and stayed with Chuck instead? What if Sarah had died that day she was shot in Moscow? There were so many small moments that had led to this one, and if any of them had been slightly different, she might not be here, cocooned in her husband's warmth and love, their baby growing inside of her. Sarah smiled as she reminisced about all the choices she'd made to get to this moment. As difficult as some of them had been, and as much heartache as she'd had to go through, she wouldn't change a single one. Not for anything.
There we have it. An end to The Butterfly Effect. It's been a big journey getting through this story both personally and ...professionally? Well, as an author anyway, I feel like I've learned so much and grown.
That being said, it's time for me to take a break. I won't be posting another story for a good few months, gotta take a step back and regroup, but I'll be back soon enough with a bunch of new stories in store for you all.
Once again, thank you to everyone, I appreciate your support so, so much. And I hope to see you all in the next story. Thank you!