A/N: I wrote this a while back but never got around to posting it. In between reading law cases (some of which were rather salacious :p) and other life events, I didn't have much time to write. Thanks to charahkids for looking this over for me. I made some edits after he sent me his corrections, so that being said, any errors found are mine.
I don't own Chuck.
Hope you all enjoy.
June 2nd 2015
Jack made his way quietly down the hallway, checking the numbers on the doors as he did. Coming to his intended destination, Room 409, he paused and pulled at the collar of his shirt nervously. As he stood at the door, he could hear someone singing. He didn't want to intrude but with the way his nerves were wracking him even after he'd spoken to himself about this, he figured he might as well do what he came here intending to do. Jack smiled for a moment and took some deep breaths, mentally preparing himself to enter. With a vase of gardenias in one hand and, a stuffed dog tucked under one arm, he knocked twice on the door. A feminine voice bid him to enter. He did, and closed the door shut behind him softly, before leaning against was laying back against the pillows, gently cupping the baby's head in one hand and supporting the body with her other and had resumed her singing to the baby in her arms. The scene made him smile brightly and upon listening closer, he realized she was singing the same song that Emma had sung to her when she was a baby.
Sarah, having expected the person to be a family member or one of the nurses who checked on her intermittently was surprised when the person who had entered the room didn't speak. Her senses went on higher alert, and, clutching the baby closer to her chest, she looked up to see who it was in the room with her. Meanwhile, with her free hand, she reached for the panic button which would alert Chuck and Casey that they had a problem.
"Dad?" She choked out, surprised to see him standing there. Sarah's fingers retreated from the panic button and she busied her hands by pulling down the hat over the baby's blonde wisps of curls.
Jack didn't know that the baby was going to be in the room with her and while it was a pleasant surprise, he had to admit that it made him a bit more nervous. "Hey darling," he greeted and smiled at her.
"What are you doing here?" Sarah asked, her tone coming off harsher than she had expected. The last time her father had visited Burbank had been eight months ago, and she hadn't known about the pregnancy then.
October 22nd 2014
"It's what he does, he leaves."
The words rang in her ears. She knew that this was what her father does best. He leaves. So why does it still pain her when she sees him walk away from her? She watched the door swing closed behind him as he exited the restaurant and Sarah willed herself not to follow his form to the car. She won't watch him drive away. Sometimes she isn't sure why she allows him to walk in and out of her life. But then she remembers. He's her father and she loves him she knows that he loves her too, even if his actions don't always seem to convey such. He already cleared the bill and left a generous tip for the waiter, so she took a few more minutes to compose herself before exiting the restaurant. When she got in her car, the war in her head was renewed. One side of her mind told to hell with Jack, how dare he keep doing this to her. She wants to yell at him and ask him when or rather if he will ever stop with the cons. She wants to ask why she and her mother were never good enough. Why he couldn't stop for them and keep their family together. Why didn't he try harder? For them. For her.
Her mother doesn't even know about him being around. And Sarah wasn't too sure she wanted to inform her mother of such, at least not yet. She'd seen how Woody and Honey were with Clara. How loving they are and how much her niece adores her grandparents. Sarah wondered if her children could ever have that with Jack. Of course that means he'd have to clean up his act. It wasn't exactly feasible to take your grandchild to the beach while having the fear of someone hunting you down because a condominium you promised them hasn't materialized. She sighed, and the other voice in her head told her that maybe, just maybe Jack will clean up his act. He's a good con man, and he'll know to get out before he's caught. That's what she hoped.
Wiping the moisture from her eyes which formed during her internal monologue, Sarah started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot.
The song 'Daddy's Gone' by Glasvegas was playing on the radio when Chuck called her and she laughed bitterly at the situational irony.
"Hi Chuck," She answered the phone on the second ring after she pulled over.
"Hey baby," he greeted "I just wrapped up the meeting with the Inotech Corporation and I passed by your office but Carla said you stepped out."
Sarah sighed. "Um yeah, something unexpectedly came up." She said, not really wanting to go any further than that. She'd tell him eventually, just not right now.
"Sarah, sweetie, is everything okay? Are you okay?" Chuck asked, having sensed the emotional undercurrent in her voice.
She wanted so badly to be able to say yes to that question - to say that her father popping in and out of her life, his constant leaving that nothing about the situation bothered or saddened her. But that would have been a lie. And Chuck would see through that lie. "I'm not actually..." She breathed out, "but I will be." She knew her father's pattern, but that didn't make the pain of him leaving all the time any lighter. But she had learned to deal with it. This time it's no different. She would deal with it.
"Sarah-" Chuck pressed, but Sarah cut him off.
"Chuck, don't worry. I said I'll be fine." She could hear him sigh over the line and she knew he was just trying to help.
"Okay. I won't push." Chuck relented, knowing when it was best to give her space. He knew that she'd confide in him eventually.
"I think I'm going to head home." Sarah told him.
"Okay," Chuck approved. They have a board meeting in an hour, but he figured that whatever was wrong with his wife had her more preoccupied. They'd worked on their reports together, so he can gladly cover for her. "I'll see you later. I love you."
"I love you too Chuck," she smiled, "bye."
When she ended the call, a smile formed on Sarah's face as she thought about her husband. She was thankful to have him.
When Chuck got home, it was after six. The house was in complete darkness and he frowned at that. Opening the red front door, he called out for Sarah. When he got no response downstairs, he moved to the second floor. He found her in their bedroom asleep, the covers wrapped snugly around her form. He stood in the doorway, watching her as she was such an amazing woman. With some grace and stealth that he had picked up from Sarah and Casey, Chuck moved around the room and changed out of his working clothes and into home wear. He moved over to Sarah's side of the bed and noticed a dampness in her pillow. It was becoming more common for her to take naps during the day.
He sat down next to her and gazed upon her for a moment, he then gently rested his palm on her cheek. Sarah stirred beneath his touch.
"Chuck?" She mumbled softly, her eyes squinting open.
"Hey. Sorry I didn't mean to wake you. Go back to sleep."
Sarah shook her head and looked at the bedside clock. Yawning, she repositioned herself so that she was resting against the headboard. "I think I've slept long enough." She then tugged Chuck closer to her and pressed her lips against his as a proper greeting,
"You must have been really tired. I think maybe you should go see your doctor. " Chuck advised. Sarah had been feeling more tired during the past two weeks and she had also had some vomiting last week but that had passed. "Are you feeling sick?"
"I was earlier. I'll call my doctor and schedule an appointment tomorrow." Sarah said. "Did you just come home?"
"Not too long ago."
"Hmm, later than I would have thought."
"The board meeting lasted a bit longer than I originally expected." Sarah's eyes had completely forgotten about that meeting. Chuck noticed the change in her expression. "Don't worry, I handled it. I realized you sounded upset and I knew you probably wouldn't have been up to any meetings."
"I still feel bad for leaving you to do everything," Sarah pressed.
"Sarah, babe, it's fine. We're a team," he smiled.
Sarah smiled. Yes they were a team. He was always there for her to fall back on. "Thank you Chuck."
He shrugged. "It wasn't that big of a deal. I mean, you did compile a lot of the information."
Sarah shook her head. "No, that's not what I meant. Although, yes I'm thankful for that as well...Thank you for being there for me whenever I need you."
"Forever and always," Chuck said and kissed her temple.
"I saw my father today," Sarah said as she idly pushed the food around her plate.
Chuck cleared his throat. Now he knew why she was so upset. "Oh," he began, not exactly sure of how to proceed with this line of conversation. "I'm assuming he's left already."
Sarah nodded solemnly. "It's what he does." She whispered, more so for her benefit than Chuck's.
"Baby come here," Chuck got up from his seat and offered her his hand to her and led her from the kitchen to the sofa in the living room. He sat down and Sarah curled into his chest. He knew that Sarah was strong, but there were moments when she was vulnerable and he was glad that she loved and trusted him enough to show her vulnerable side. Once safely in her husband's arms, Sarah allowed the few tars to flow as she told Chuck how she felt. Chuck allowed her let it all out, and sat, providing the comfort and listening ear she needed. Eventually, Sarah calmed down enough. She kissed Chuck in the cheek and thanked him for helping to mend her. She knew that when they did have children, he would put them first.
"It's a bit of a surprise, I know. But I think your surprise has out done mine." He motioned to the baby in her arms whose cerulean eyes were dropping as she listened to the sound of the adults' voices. She was wrapped in purple blanket which had elephants dotting the surface and on her head was a plain white hat. Wisps of light blonde hair peeped out from the area just above her ears.
Sarah smiled warmly as she looked down on the one day old baby. But when her eyes met her father's again, he could see the question lingering in her eyes. Jack inched closer and eventually stopped by a small side table, placing the vase down, right next to a bunch of white roses with a card sticking from them which read: 'Congratulations on the little kitten. Expect us in Snoresville soon. Love C&Z.'
Jerking his thumb in the direction of a chair close to her bedside, Jack asked her if she minded if he sat. Sarah shrugged one shoulder at him.
"Dad," Sarah spoke up after Jack said nothing. She wanted to know why he was here. Although it was nice to think that he had somehow found out about the birth of his first grandchild and wanted to be here, she was worried that he was just in town for a couple of days to run another con.
"Um, this is for the baby," Jack began nervously, biting the inside of his jaw. "Going by the blanket, I guess it's a girl." He showed Sarah the stuffed animal and she smiled at it. It was brown and had large brown eyes and droopy ears.
"Thank you, I'm sure she'll love it."
"I hope so..." He chuckled nervously. "It's just like the one you had when you were a little girl. You called him -"
"Bunny. I called him Bunny." She remembered Bunny well. He had been a gift from her maternal grandmother for Christmas. It was the last Christmas gift she had ever gotten from her Grandma Rosie who died in January the following year. As a child, Sarah had been incredibly attached to Bunny and her mother referred to it as her comfort toy. Bunny meant a lot to her. He was her daily companion and he protected her from the monsters under her bed. That's why when in their haste to leave her paternal grandmother's house they had left Bunny on the sofa, she had wailed and begged her father to go back for him, before finally accepting her loss. The two were silent for a moment as they reflected on her childhood. "You didn't answer my question from before." Sarah arched her brow at him.
Jack sighed heavily. "Chuck contacted me." Chuck had called him a few hours after the baby had been born. When Chuck gave him the news that he was a grandfather and suggested that he come see Sarah and his new grandchild, Jack had been hesitant. He knew he had not been the best father he could have been, and in his view, staying away from Sarah as she moved on with her life with a man far better than he was, was the best thing he could do. When he told Chuck this, he argued otherwise but finally relented, telling him that Sarah loved him and he should at least try to have a relationship with her and his grandchild since family was important. When he had asked of the baby's sex, Chuck had told him that he'd have to find that out if he ever came back to Burbank.
"I see," Sarah said.
"I hope you're not mad at him," Jack said sincerely. "I will leave if that's what you want." If he were in Sarah's position, with a father like himself, he probably wouldn't have wanted him there either.
"No, no, it's ok." She smiled softly at her father. "It feels nice to have you here." She understood why Chuck had reached out to him, and while she would have preferred it not to have been done without her knowledge, she was not going to argue with him about it.
"It feels nice to be here," countered Jack. He craned his neck so that he could see the baby's face and it was then that Sarah realized that she hadn't introduced them.
"Dad, this is Serenity Mia Bartowski."
"Serenity," Jack repeated, the name rolling off his tongue. "Wait, the schnook didn't convince you to name her after that old TV show did he?"
Sarah laughed lightly. Although Chuck had been thrilled when she agreed to let the name go onto the short list, she wasn't too sure about the name and in fact had only put it on the short list to pacify him. But following her easy delivery and upon noticing the calm demeanour of the baby, Sarah agreed that Serenity did seem to suit her. "No, she just has a really peaceful personality."
Jack nodded his head proudly before turning his attention back to the baby as she let out a small squeak and sucked in her bottom lip. He hoped the baby's peaceful personality would continue even after they took her home. Serenity opened her eyes again, looking up at them and staring. She seemed completely taken with her mother, turning her eyes to hers every chance she got and every word Sarah spoke had her blinking as if she was trying to pay closer attention. Jack knew that she was far too young to completely understand what was going on around her, or to be able to actively identify everything that she felt, but she knew her mother and loved her, of that he was certain.
"Do you wanna hold her?"
Jack looked at the bundle in her arms hesitantly. It had been years since he had held a baby. But Sarah smiled at him encouragingly so he agreed. Once the baby was safely in his arms, Jack looked down at her, studying her features, it was alarming how much she looked like Sarah when she was a baby. Her cheekbones, nose, hair, and especially her eyes screamed Sarah. It was only her mouth that seemed to have come from Chuck. Serenity stared up at him, her eyes wide and Jack couldn't help but think that she was wondering and measuring him with her eyes. Looking into her striking blue eyes, Jack flashed back to holding Sarah for the first time in the hospital. "Hi little angel, I'm your grandpa."
Sarah looked between him and Serenity, grinning as Jack muttered something to the baby about having an iron like grip. After a few minutes more of interacting with the baby, Jack was going to hand her back to Sarah but she motioned to the cot, indicating that he should put her to lie down.
"How are you holding up?" He asked gently, reclaiming the seat beside her bed once he had put the baby down.
"Like I said, I had a pretty smooth and quick delivery. And I feel good, really good actually. I'm thrilled to have her." She laughed lightly, blushing under her father's adoring gaze. "Since they brought her up, I just want to hold her all the time." Sarah smiled sagely as she glanced at a sleepy Serenity.
Jack nodded and squeezed her arm. Maybe it was the softness and warmth of their skin that made babies irresistible to most people. Or maybe it was their powdery scent and innocence. Either way, Jack would admit he was already enthralled by little Serenity Bartowski just like his daughter obviously was. "Where's Chuck?"
The use of Chuck instead of the schnook did not go unnoticed by Sarah. "He went home to shower and change." She smiled, Chuck had spent almost every moment since the baby's birth with her in the hospital. "He's already trying to teach her Klingon," Sarah laughed lightly. "But, he's already so good with her...it's nice."
"I bet he's over the moon." Jack commented and Sarah nodded. "I know my opinion might not carry much weight with you, but for what it's worth, I think you'll both be good parents.
"What about his best friend? Morgan I think..."
Sarah rolled her eyes dramatically. "Oh, Morgan, he's super stoked that we named her Serenity." When they had told Morgan the baby's name, he thought that they were messing with him. It was only when he'd seen the birth certificate that he finally believed it. "I'm sure he's already planning movie marathons for when she's older." She paused for a moment and pursed her lips. "Actually, knowing Morgan, he's probably planning for when we are released."
Jack laughed heartily, and upon remembering that Serenity was on the edge of sleep, apologized. "And Cop Face?"
"Casey's always been a man of few words." When he had visited, he grunted 'Good job Walker, Bartowski.' He'd also commented something about them choosing a proper name and not something like Sasha or Anastasia which had links to commies. "Everyone is really happy to have another baby in the family." Sarah commented, her gaze again going to the cot.
Silence blanketed the room for a moment with Sarah looking over at her baby girl and Jack barely able to tear his eyes away from his. He wasn't the kind of man who would say to anyone he met how much he loved his daughter. But he did love her, so so much. She was his only child, his little girl. She'd deserved far better than him, but she'd made do with what little comforts in life he could offer- if any at all. Time and time again, he had proven his faults outweighed his virtues, but even then, as a little girl, she always thought that he was the best person in the world to have adventures with. He knew he had made mistakes with her, and if he was honest with himself, if he were Sarah, he wouldn't have been as forgiving of himself as she was. She was good, and while he would like to think he had something to do with that, he knew that it was partly due to her mother's and grandmother's influences, because they had instilled some of her core values in her from youth.
The last time he visited Burbank eight months ago, they didn't spend much time together. He had just wrapped up a con in a nearby city and was heading south. He had called her and they had lunch before he took off again. He knew she wouldn't admit it to him, but the moment he said "So you later alligator," she was crushed that he couldn't spend more time with her. And when she replied with her "See you in a while crocodile," her voice was shaky as she struggled to maintain her mask. That's why he didn't expect her to be so nice to him on this visit. But time and time again, she proved that, for some reason, he was worth her effort.
He met Sarah's eyes and realized that while she was smiling, her eyes were drooping. She readjusted the pillows and Jack watched her closely as she curled into the sheets. "I'm just gonna take a little nap," she breathed out, her eyes already drifting closed.
"I'll be here when you wake up," he promised.
Sarah smiled as she drifted off. "Love you..."
That was the last of her muttering that he heard, but he smiled regardless. He didn't know if it was aimed at himself or Serenity, but it didn't matter, because he knew she was at peace. Walking over to the crib, he pulled the blanket closer to the baby's body and smiled down at her small sleeping form. Now, he had the freedom to watch Sarah without scrutiny, without questions. He could watch both of them sleep, like he used to when Sarah was younger and he didn't have to feel like he was intruding on anything at all.
Emma exited the elevator with a bag containing her home cooked meal held safely in her hands. She smiled at the nurses at the nurses' station and made her way down the hall to Sarah's room. She smiled as she thought about her daughter and granddaughter. When Sarah joined the CIA, she had never thought that she would end up here, but it was a very welcome development. She was delighted that they had managed to reconnect and have a stronger relationship and even more so that whenever Sarah needed advice she could reach out to her.
The extended Bartowski family was an added bonus to their reconnection. She had seen several times over the last couple of years how much they treated Sarah like she was family and she had witnessed the love, loyalty and dedication between them and they had equally embraced her and Molly into the fold. She was happy for Sarah that she had managed to find herself at the centre of something so uniquely special, something she and Jack had never been able to give her because of their separation. She and Mary Bartowski had become friends and occasionally had lunch dates or hit the club, an act which Chuck thought they were way too old for. Since Mary was a former agent, Emma knew that there were some things that Mary would be better able to relate to Sarah with than she was. She thought she'd feel some sort of resentment towards that notion, but instead she'd felt an overwhelming gratitude.
Pushing the door open gently, she made her way inside, flinching when she caught the eyes of her ex-husband looking up at her from his seat. Emma stared at him, unsure of what to say. She closed the door behind her and placed her dish on the table. Her gaze then returned to Jack. She had always thought about what she would say to him if she ever saw him again. She had planned to give him the chewing out of his life. She had imagined it so many times, but never had she thought it would be in a situation such as this. Emma then noticed the baby cradled against his chest, gripping his little finger. There were many things she wanted to yell at him, with a number of curse words strewn in, but with the baby in his arms, she held her tongue...for now any way. She raised both eyebrows at him, demanding an answer.
"She's sleeping," Jack finally got over the shock of seeing his ex-wife. He didn't even know that Sarah and Emma kept in contact.
Looking at their daughter who had the blankets pulled up to her chin, Emma smiled briefly, before setting her mouth in a firm line. After a moment's hesitation, she made her way over to Jack. He kept his eyes trained on her, and she could feel it as she grabbed the second chair and pulled it up beside him. Jack's expression exuded trepidation. Emma sat down and kept her gaze fixed on Serenity, gathering her thoughts.
"How's Serenity?" She asked after about five minutes of relative silence in the room which was only interrupted by Sarah's soft snores. She wanted so badly to ask him why he was here, why he had taken Sarah from by her grandmother and thereby broke their arrangement. She wanted to yell at him and shake him until he gave her answers. But she couldn't bring herself to do it with Sarah lying a few feet away. Besides, he was holding their granddaughter. So, she focused on their granddaughter and ignored the fact that they were closer to each other than they had in over twenty years. Jack didn't seem anxious to explain his behaviour or actions of the past either, because he immediately looked down at the baby who seemed to want to do nothing but stare inquisitively at the people around her.
"I think she's good. Sarah said she was born at eight pounds ten ounces."
Emma nodded. She was there in the delivery room, but she didn't see the need to make it more awkward and tell him that. "She's a beautiful baby." Emma smiled down at the precious baby whose nose had crinkled, almost as if she was trying to figure out what was going on between the two adults. "How long has Sarah been asleep?"
"Maybe thirty minutes." Serenity had woken up ten minutes into Sarah's nap. Jack had then picked her up and changed her diaper since it was wet. He knew that you weren't supposed to let babies get too accustomed to being held in your arms, but he figured that she was still so young that it couldn't really hurt. Besides, she was just too cute to put down. So he'd held her from then on up until now.
Emma nodded again and they fell back into silence. Emma twisted the tip of her fingers in the leg of her jeans and Jack shared a silent, yet apparently interesting conversation with Serenity.
"Where's Chuck?" Emma asked suddenly and Jack looked up at her quickly.
Jack smiled. "Sarah said he went home to shower and change."
Emma smiled too. "She probably had to throw him out." Chuck had been so devoted to them already, barely wanting to leave them alone for a single second. Emma was glad that Sarah had found a man as wonderful as Chuck to share her life with and build a family.
"He gives our gender a good name." Jack commented, laughing. Emma found herself unable to keep from smiling, the way she always felt whenever she'd heard his laugh. Because whenever he did, he had a warmth in his grey eyes that made her feel safe, adored and caused a flutter in her stomach. He had that look now, and she had a flashback to the good times they had shared.
Looking into Serenity's blue eyes, she saw Sarah's innocent, five year old face, staring at her through the rails in the stairway banister as her father stormed out of their house after an argument. The arguments had increased in frequency and their tempers flared often. When she had finally had it with Jack and the cons, she was conflicted, wondering how this would affect their daughter. She would have loved to keep their family together. But what would have been the point? Sarah seeing her parents angry at each other and sleeping in separate bedrooms wouldn't have been good for her. And with her job as an air hostess, they decided it was best if Sarah stayed with Jack's mother until she found a job which didn't include constant travel. When she did find that job however, when she went over to Jack's mother's house and found out that he had taken Sarah and skipped town, she was ready to rip his head off and play football with it. The anguish of losing her daughter in such a manner was unbearable. And although working as a teacher allowed her some comfort in that she got to mould children, the pain of not being able to mould her own daughter was always there. Now, here they were, in the same room as their daughter and granddaughter. She felt a torrent of emotions as she remembered their fights and she prayed that this little treasure would never see such things. She had no doubt that Serenity would never see her parents reduced to that of herself and Jack. In her view, Chuck and Sarah's love was intense and one that could overcome any obstacles.
"I haven't conned anyone in almost seven months," Jack suddenly whispered and Emma looked at him, meeting his eyes. He saw her lips part slightly in shock, but his focus was mostly on her blue eyes. He continued to study her, watching her blink and stare into his eyes with curiosity and touches of suspicion. He didn't fault her for her suspicion, because he knew that he'd made that promise to her before, only to disappoint her and show that his promises were faulty. But he'd made a promise to himself after that lunch date with Sarah months ago, and somehow it felt so very different. He'd seen the way her eyes sparkled when she spoke about her niece, and he had then realized that his little girl would probably be starting a family of her own soon. He'd chosen to make changes in his life, for Sarah's sake and that of any future grandchildren. He wanted to be a better father to Sarah, and he knew that that meant he would need to hang up his trade. After all, a good con man must know when to stop. And though he didn't expect it to be so soon, the desire to see through the promise he had made was more intense now.
Looking into Emma's eyes, he could see how much he had lost. "That's good," she finally managed to find her voice again and smiled wanly at Jack. There was so much more she wanted to say. So much more she wanted to ask. Like what he had been up to in those seven months, where he had been living and whether this seven months abstinence from conning wasn't just a stint and he'd fall back into his old ways.
"Yea," Jack agreed, looking back down at Serenity, he thought he saw a tiny smile curving at her lips.
"We have a lot to talk about."
He nodded and shifted Serenity in his arms, the baby's gaze alternating between them with apparent fascination. Emma gently ran her finger along the length of the baby's arm.
"Look, Em-" Jack started to speak again, but noticed that Emma had flinched slightly when he called her by the nickname he had given her when they were dating. He bit his lip and used Serenity's sudden fussing as an excuse to avert her eyes. "I'm sorry," he said after a moment, finally looking back at her.
Emma was about to reply when Serenity wrinkled her nose and started to wail. Both she and Jack jumped when they heard the sheets on the bed rustle and suddenly they saw Sarah wide awake, searching the room for her baby. "Oh my gosh!" she gasped, a hand over her heart when she noticed the baby was in her father's arms. "For a moment I thought I had let her sleep next to me and that she'd fallen off the bed."
Jack chuckled. "I put her in the cot remember?" Sarah nodded and stretched her limbs, smiling at the feeling of the tension leaving her body. "She woke up a short while after you went asleep so I took her up...I hope that's ok." He continued as he stood, passing the fussy baby to Sarah.
Sarah immediately started cooing to Serenity and rocked her from side to side which soothed her a bit. The feeling of being in her mother's arms and seeing her face above her provided much comfort for Serenity and she soon settled down. "Yea that's ok, she is your granddaughter after all," Sarah smiled at her father. "Mom? When did you get here?"
"Maybe ten minutes ago."
Sarah glanced over to her with a curious expression. "Did we interrupt something?" She questioned, meaning her and Serenity. Jack just shrugged his shoulders, resting his hands in his pockets while Emma moved to sit at the foot of the bed and patted her leg. To the best of her knowledge, this was the first time her parents had been in the same room for over twenty years, but their non-verbal responses to her question were enough for her to know not to push it.
"Look, darling, I think I should get going."
Sarah smiled tightly, trying to hide her disappointment. Swallowing the lump in her throat, and trying to ignore the pang of disappointment she felt, Sarah nodded. "See you later alligator." She was thankful her voice didn't betray her by cracking. She chided herself for thinking that her father would stay around a bit longer and that maybe she would come before a con.
Jack walked up to her bed and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead. "Not this time," he whispered to her, "I plan on sticking around for a long time."
His words caused Sarah to beam because for the first time in a long while, her father had made a promise and she believed he would stick to it. Jack kissed her cheek and then did the same to Serenity. "I'll see you later. Oh and Em," he turned back around when he reached the door and Emma looked up at him. He noticed that she didn't flinch this time, but gave him a small smile. "That talk...when you're ready, I'll be here."
Sarah watched her parents closely, noticing how her Dad smiled earnestly at her mother and how her mother's cheeks had reddened the slightest bit. It confirmed her suspicions that something had happened while she was asleep and she had an overwhelming urge to ask her mother about it.
Outside of the room, Jack stood proudly. There was a twinkle in his eye, and like the little girl in the room, he was feeling at peace.
Sarah smiled brightly as she looked around the room, surrounded by her family. Sitting with her legs crossed on the bed, she held Molly's hands as the little girl bounced up and down in front of her. Sarah caught Devon's worried eyes a few times but she assured him with a smile that told him that Molly was doing no harm. She was babbling a list of things her sister had missed out on while she was in the hospital for the last two days- her narration jumping from how their dog had run at the postman to how Uncle Casey was teaching her about all of the presidents. Sarah smiled again at the exuberance of the little girl. From the corner of her eye, she could see that Clara was sitting in a chair next to Chuck, completely enthralled by Serenity. Molly too had been enthralled by her and had spent the better part of ten minutes after their arrival staring at her cousin. Sarah understood how the younger girls felt- it was simply overwhelming and joyous that Serenity was here. As her due date had drawn closer, the whole family had been abuzz about the pending arrival of the newest baby and now that they were here, in the same room with the baby for the first time, she could see why they were excited. Ellie and Devon were almost completely focused on Serenity as well and Chuck was sitting in a chair with the baby in his arms, showing her off like the proud, happy father he was.
With a soft smile, she beckoned Clara to her, holding her hand as the little girl scrambled up onto the bed. "Lieutenant Awesome be careful," Captain Awesome jumped toward her but Sarah smiled and waved her hand dismissively as Clara sat beside her, doing her best to keep still.
"Auntie Sarah?" Clara spoke up, tugging on Sarah's shirt.
"Serenity was in your tummy before, right? Sarah nodded and the little girl cocked her head to the side, pensive. "So why did she come out then?"
Sarah giggled at the serious expression on her face before answering. "Because she wanted to meet all of you."
Clara nodded, taking what her aunt had said into consideration and finding that it made sense. "Uh huh," she agreed, "and it's probably really squished in your tummy. My Mummy said we have orphans in there."
"Organs," Molly corrected.
Clara nodded again, and continued. "Organs, lots and lots of organs are in your tummy. Like a million cajillion. So she didn't have enough room to play. I think that's why she wanted out."
"But she can't play yet, she's too little," Ellie cut in, walking over to the bed and sitting with Serenity in her arms so that both girls could see the baby's face.
Clara pouted at that. But when Molly told her that as soon as she learned how to walk properly the two of them could teach Serenity to play football, she was happy again.
"Will you teach us other games to play with her?"
"Of course," Sarah smiled. "I think she'll be good at games."
"Of course she'll be good at games," Chuck piped up, momentarily pausing his conversation with Devon. "Morgan and I already have a control with her name on it."
Sarah and Ellie rolled their eyes while the girls seemed thrilled by that prospect. They were on a winning streak against Uncle Morgan in Mario Kart and they figured Serenity would be a good addition to their squad.
"Will you teach us bath time games?" Clara prodded.
Sarah blinked and looked up to Ellie and Devon, confused. She wasn't sure what Clara was asking and felt like she had been put on the spot as both girls stared at her expectantly. Her parents looked just as confused as she was and Devon merely shrugged. "What bath time games?"
Clara, being at the age where she felt like an adult's confusion was based purely on their inability to understand her logic, felt like she needed to elaborate. "Mommy and Daddy know all about bath time games," Clara declared loudly, "remember that time when Mimi brought me home early from the park and I had to use the bathroom and I found you two in the shower and it was all foggy?"
Sarah nearly choked on her breath. The other adults were just as stunned as she was. Devon's eyes were as wide as saucers and Ellie was doing her best to shrink away to nothing as she cuddled Serenity to her chest, whispering and cooing to her. Sarah noticed the colour reaching her neck and cheeks, and Chuck's skin also looked a bit flushed.
"But they didn't let me play." Clara continued, looking accusingly at her parents.
"Um, I don't think we can play those games." Sarah said.
"Definitely not," Devon countered.
"But why?" Molly piped up. "You and Uncle Chuck play bath time games too."
The tint on Chuck's cheeks deepened. "Wha-, what?" He barely managed to choke out.
"You know, what I'm talking about," she drawled, squinting her eyes at them, "I figured it all out. That time when me and Mommy stayed over, in the morning when I was going down for breakfast I heard you and Sarah giggling in the bathroom. "
Sarah parted her lips in shock. The memory of the morning Molly remembered hit her hard and she felt her body go flush at the thought of what they'd done in the shower. That was back when she and Chuck had decided to try for a baby and had seized every opportunity for lovemaking.
"Ummm," Chuck stammered, trying to find something to say.
"Those games aren't for children." Ellie cut in.
"Why not Mommy?" Clara pressed.
"Yea, how come only you can play those games?" Molly pouted and folded her arms across her chest.
"Girls, maybe we should leave Auntie Sarah alone for a little while," Chuck suggested.
"No!" They squealed in unison which caused Ellie to glare at them when Serenity fussed in her arms, startled.
"Girls," Ellie said in a stern voice and they both slinked off the bed, moving to hide behind Chuck and Devon.
Noticing their crestfallen faces, Devon said "How about we take a walk to my office, would you like that?"
Both girls nodded. They thought his office was cool because he had a skeleton that they liked to play with and a heart that felt squishy.
"Can we get ice cream too?" Clara asked, her eyes pleading.
"Um, yea, sure."
Ellie glared at him. "Excellent idea honey, give them ice cream before they've had dinner."
Devon shrugged and smiled sheepishly. He'd rather deal with them on a sugar high than answer their questions about bath time games.
"I'm coming with you," Ellie said, passing the baby off to Chuck. "At least that way I can be sure that they don't bribe you into giving them more than one scoop."
With Ellie and Devon left with the girls, Chuck smiled at Sarah. "So, I guess this is an early lesson for us that we'll have to be careful of what we say and do when Serenity is a bit older."
Sarah grinned. "Definitely," she agreed, already imagining saying something that she shouldn't have around Serenity and a month later at one of their family gatherings, when the room is crowded, Serenity would bring it back to haunt them, word for word.
"Imagine if they had said something like that in front of Casey."
Sarah chuckled, "We'd never hear the end of it," she said, knowing how much Casey loved to rib them.
Serenity started to fuss and Chuck gave her to Sarah so she could feed her. Sarah looked down at the baby as she fed her with a pensive look. "Soooooo," she drawled, and Chuck tore his eyes from the baby to look into her eyes, "my father came to see me today."
Chuck swallowed thickly, wondering whether she knew about his involvement in it and whether she was upset. "Oh," he fiddled with a wayward string of cotton from a pillowcase. "And how did it go?"
"It was nice." Sarah smiled and Chuck relaxed and smiled as well. "Thank you for telling him about Serenity."
"I wasn't too sure if he'd actually show up, so that's why I didn't tell you that I was tracking him down."
October 23rd 2014
Jack pulled into the car park of the motel he intended to spend the night in. He'd begin his trip to Atlanta in the morning. His phone rang and he pulled it from his pocket. "Hello."
It took him a moment to register the voice on the other end. "Chuck?"
"Ah, you're able to pick up on my voice so easily. I was kinda expecting a 'who are you and what do you want' response."
"Chuck, what's going on? Why did you track me down? Is something wrong? Is it Sarah?"
"Actually something is wrong. Sarah told me you were in town yesterday."
"Look Chuck, I thought you'd be happy I saw Sarah."
"No Jack. That is a problem and you're going to listen to what I have to say." Chuck said, ire in his voice.
"Sarah's strong. You and I both know that. But she does have a limit. She has a breaking point. And you Jack push her to her limit. You cannot just walk in and out of her life, popping up here and there whenever you see fit." Chuck sighed. "Sarah loves you, and I know you love her too. But I love her more than anything else in the world and I will always put her needs before mine. You see Jack, your visits make her vulnerable. She's sad when you leave and she wonders why she isn't enough for you. I know what it's like not to have your father in your life. Mine is gone. But you, you have the chance to be in Sarah's life, and yet you choose not to be. I really don't think it's fair for you to be doing this to her. She deserves better. So, here's a piece of advice: clean up your act, and I'll see what I can do about your record so that you can be in Sarah's life without constantly looking over your shoulder. You have an amazing daughter and it'd be a shame if you continue to miss out." With that, Chuck hung up.
Jack removed the phone from his ear and stared at it. He was not that surprised that Chuck had been able to track him down. After all, he was brilliant when it came to technology. Chuck's words rang in his years. He had had similar thoughts himself, but most of the time, he came to the conclusion that staying out of Sarah's life as she made her own adventures with a man far better than he was was the best thing he could do for her.
Yesterday - June 1st 2015
Jack Collins as he went by now wiped the sweat from his face with a washcloth. Looking around his workshop, he smiled proudly to himself. It had been years since he'd practised his craft- or rather this craft- and it felt good to be back at it again. Today, he was making a rocking chair for an elderly woman down his street and it was coming along nicely if he did so say so himself. The ringing of his cell phone pulled him out his adoration of the work on the chair he'd done so far. Hello?" Jack spoke into the receiver, dusting some of the saw dust from his apron.
"Jack, I see you took my advice from our last chat." Chuck had been keeping an eye on him and knew that he had cleaned up his act.
"I had come to most of the conclusions you did before our chat." That was true, Jack had chastised himself along the lines that Chuck did. He remembered the call from his son-in-law some months ago... "Anyway, it was enough for me to really try to whip myself into shape."
"That's good to hear. It will take some effort, but j do think that Sarah will embrace you into our family."
"What is the intention of this call though? Is everything good in Burbank or were you just letting me know I'm not a complete idiot."
"Everything on my end is good. Great, fantastic actually. I'm calling to tell you that as of 1:58 this evening, you are officially a grandparent.
"What?" Jack spluttered.
"You're a grandfather now." Chuck repeated, and Jack could practically hear the smile in his voice.
"Oh my. That's great. Congratulations. "
"Is it a boy or a girl? Have you picked out a name yet?" Jack asked, curious. "And what about Sarah? How is she holding up? Did she have a smooth delivery?"
"Sarah and the baby are both doing fine. But if you want to know the sex and name, I think you should come see them for yourself."
Jack bit the inside of his jaw. "Look Chuck, I'm not too sure that's a good idea." He had given up conning for a while now and although he did plan on reconnecting with Sarah, he wasn't sure on when or how he would attempt such.
"Jack, Sarah loves you. And I know it she'll probably have some reservations, but I think it'll be good for you to come. One of the most important things in life is family Jack and you are a part of ours. They'll soon be bringing the baby up for feeding, and I want to be there for that. Hopefully we see you soon."
Sarah smiled fondly at him. She understood his reasoning and found it incredibly sweet. "Thank you Chuck."
Leaning over, Chuck kissed her softly on the lips. Eventually, Serenity had her fill and after she had burped, Sarah laid her on her chest and Chuck climbed into the bed with them. When he placed his arm around her, pulling both her and the baby close, Sarah smiled up at Chuck and he kissed her nose. She had become accustomed to this feeling of contentment and peace. It was even more so now that they had Serenity.
Jack hummed softly to himself as he made his way to Sarah's room. Yesterday had gone well- far better than he had expected. He had been praying for the best but expecting the worst. Thankfully, Sarah had been warm and receptive. He knew with Sarah he still had a way to go, but at least this was a start. The same went for himself and Emma. He wasn't expecting her to fall back into his arms, there had been years of frustration, feelings of betrayal and animosity between them. But he did hope that they could at least be friends with one another. If anything, yesterday had shown that they could at least be civil. He would try for Sarah's sake. And for Serenity. He knocked lightly on the door and entered, but found the room empty. The bed had been made and Jack wondered if he had gone into the wrong room.
Then, he saw Chuck coming out of the adjoining bathroom, a breast pump in hand.
Jack quirked his brow. "I didn't know you were equipped for that," he joked.
Chuck smiled at him. "Jack, it's good to see you."
Jack watched his son-in-law as he moved around the room, gathering Sarah's things and putting them in a small carry-on suitcase.
"Where are Sarah and Serenity?"
"They're being released today. Sarah wanted to stretch her legs for a bit and Serenity is down in the nursery for her last check up before we can sign out."
Jack nodded. "Chuck, I um," he began nervously. He was usually great with words, using his gift of gab to help him pull off cons. Those poor suckers. He inhaled deeply and began again: "I don't think I've ever really thanked you properly..."
"Jack," Chuck cut him off, "if you're referring to our talk months ago about you getting your shit together, then it wasn't a big deal." He'd do anything for Sarah.
Jack grinned, "Well there's that...but I also wanted to thank you for being so good to Sarah." He'd abandoned her. That was true. But, like all fathers, he had wanted his little girl to grow up and be happy, to find someone that was worthy of her love, someone whom she could build a life with. And Chuck had proved to be all of that. Jack knew that Chuck loved his daughter and would do anything to protect her and make her happy. And he honestly was so thankful that Sarah had the life she did. "You two complement each other."
Chuck smiled earnestly, "I'd be a fool to treat her like anything less than the angel she is."
Jack cleared his throat, unaccustomed to delving so much into his emotions. Then he offered to help Chuck pack Sarah's and the baby's things.
"Chuck, Serenity and I are ready to go home!" Sarah announced as she opened the door, the baby securely cradled to her chest.
"Well that's great because we've packed everything," Chuck replied.
Sarah then noticed her father in the room. "Dad, hi!" Jack waved. "Look Serenity, Grandpa came to visit us," she cooed to the baby girl.
"I told you you'd be seeing me more often," said Jack as he made his way over to the two of them. He looked down at his granddaughter and smiled. "My, my, do you look pretty for your first time going home." Serenity was dressed in a lilac onesie with Minnie Mouse on the front and matching mittens. Sarah had put a purple headband around her blonde curls and she was swaddled in a pink blanket to keep her warm.
"I'm sure Ellie will be thrilled that you said that Jack," Chuck piped up. "She saw that outfit the other day and fell in love with it." Personally, he would have been more impressed with a Firefly or Star Wars inspired outfit, but Sarah loved it too, so he wasn't complaining.
"You look great to Sarah," Jack added, not wanting it to seem like he had left her out.
Sarah giggled, "Thank you Dad."
The door opened again and in walked Emma. She greeted everyone with a smile.
"Emma!" Chuck greeted, "you're just in time. I was just about to take some pictures."
Sarah rolled her eyes as Chuck took out his phone. "More pictures Chuck?" She swore that he had been taking pictures forever.
"Come on Sarah, this is the day that we're leaving the hospital and taking our little girl home."
"Fineeee," she relented, "but only a couple."
"A couple hundred," Chuck said under his breath.
They took numerous photos, some with Serenity on the bed by herself, boxed in by the pillows, some with each of them holding her alone and some with Serenity and her parents.
"Oh, Jack and Emma, how about one with you two and Serenity?" suggested Chuck.
Jack fidgeted with his collar and looked at Emma with uncertainty.
Chuck sensed the discomfort between them. "Um, you know what...never mind."
"No!" Emma said quickly, her eyes meeting Jack's, "We should take a couple."
The first shot showed that there was some discomfort between them, but when Sarah told them to relax and focus on Serenity and not the camera, they both were more at ease. Once Chuck's impromptu photo session was over, Chuck went to get the nurse. Before they left the room, the nurse obliged Chuck and took a few photos of them as a group.
As was standard hospital procedure, Sarah had to be escorted to her vehicle via wheelchair. She grumbled at that, but complied. Once they had signed her papers, and said goodbye to the hospital staff who had helped them throughout their stay, an orderly wheeled Sarah to the elevator with Chuck by her side and Jack and Emma following behind, the suitcase being carried by Jack.
Once outside, Chuck jogged to the car park and brought his car closer to the collection area. When he got back, he saw Devon walking up to them.
"Baby Bartowski is all set to go home, that's awesome!" Devon beamed and noticed Jack was with the group. "And Grandpa is here too? That's -"
"Awesome?" Chuck cut him off.
Devon grinned, "I was gonna go with spectacular Chuck." Jack chuckled quietly to himself. He was glad to see that Captain Awesome was as exuberant as he remembered him. "It's good to see you Jack."
"Wait, before you go, mind if I take a selfie?"
"Technically since it's a group of us, it'll be an usie," Chuck pointed out.
Sarah got up out of the wheelchair for the picture and the orderly nearby returned it to its station. Devon pulled his phone from his scrubs and opened the camera app. Extending his left arm to the right angle where there was perfect lighting, he set the timer to five seconds.
"Everybody say cheese," he instructed.
The camera clicked and took five pictures in rapid succession.
Devon looked through them quickly. "Awesome. You guys are quite photogenic," he beamed. "I'll send these to you guys a bit later. Gotta go now, my shift is about to start and I have a double bypass surgery scheduled. "
They bid him goodbye and Devon made his way to the entrance, beaming at everyone he passed.
Before Sarah got in the car, she turned back to her parents. "The rest of the family is coming over a bit later today to spend a bit of time together, do you wanna come Dad?"
"Great, we'll see you there around five or six," smiled Sarah.
"Do you need me to bring anything? My meatloaf is pretty good."
Chuck shook his head, "nah, Ellie is all over it. She's probably at home cooking up a storm as we speak."
"Okay, I'll see you later then," Jack said as Sarah strapped Serenity into the car seat and Chuck put the suitcase in the trunk.
"We're all set. You ready to go babe?" Chuck asked.
"Yup," She was looking forward to spending some time with just Chuck and their baby before the family came over. "See you in a few hours," She waved to her parents.
When the vehicle drove away, Emma turned to Jack, pensive. "How about we have that talk?"
A/N: Feel free to review, even if it's as a guest.
I hope the convos between Chuck and Jack didn't seem out of character.
Until next time,