I'm back! Hello, how are you? Welcome to Chuck vs The Reprisal. Or more accurately, the prologue of what will be a very different type of Chuck story. This story is set in the same universe as that of my previous fic, Losing Your Memory, however it is not necessary to have read that one before jumping into this one. I will say, however, that occasional references to that story will be included and the villain of this fic has a strong connection to the one in LYM. Once again, it should all be explained as the story progresses, but having previous knowledge of the original story will certainly be helpful! What can be explained now is that the villain in this story has a personal connection with the villain that Chuck and Sarah dealt with in Losing Your Memory. Boom! All caught up.
Let me also say this before we begin. This is not so much a Chuck and Sarah story as it is a Chuck story, that is, one set in the Chuck universe, focused mostly on the spy aspect and adventure of the show. Not only that, but this story will include a significant time skip and will focus on a cast of original characters. This is not to say that the original characters will not play a large role, as they certainly will, but this story is not really about them. This is for all intents and purposes, a story about the next generation. I understand that may not be the most appealing type of story but it's one I've wanted to tell for a long time so I'm taking the risk! I hope you give it a chance. Thanks to michaelfmx for beta-ing this for me.
August 17, 2013, Westside Medical Center, Burbank, CA: 2200 Hours
Up until this moment, Chuck felt like he'd been a part of a dream. A very stressful, very tiresome and physically damaging, eleven-hour dream. When they'd first arrived at the hospital, Chuck had been convinced that things were going to go smoothly. A nurse had administered Sarah an epidural and then left the two of them to get comfy while things progressed. Sarah had complained that she didn't feel it at first, then a moment later she was staring at him with slightly unfocused eyes.
"You…feeling okay?" Chuck asked a little nervously. He was entirely out of his element. "Do you want me to grab the nurse?"
Sarah's eyes wandered away from his face and down the red collared shirt he wore. "You look really sexy in red…Have I ever told you that?"
Chuck's cheeks began to burn and he was incredibly grateful that they were currently alone in the room. "Er…Yes. You may have on….a few occasions."
Sarah smirked, seemingly pleased with herself. Her speech was slurred when she spoke again. "Good, 'cuz you do." She reached out for him with one hand and he took a few steps closer, until he was pressed up against the side of the bed. Sarah ran one hand down the front of his shirt and smiled at him again, this time with a coy flutter of her eyelashes.
"Honey, I'm so flattered by the attention right now, I really am," he said, gently moving her hand away from where it was straying. "But can we focus on having the baby before we think about the…. making the baby part again?"
Sarah pursed her lips in a pout, but eventually relented. Not a moment too soon, either, because the nurse returned to make sure she was comfortable. Chuck relaxed, thinking he was safe from her drug-induced seduction, until he felt a pinch on his rear when the nurse was busy checking some nearby monitors. He stifled a yelp and whirled around to silently admonish Sarah, who met his offended expression with a drowsy grin.
Unfortunately, the relaxed atmosphere didn't last long. The doctor came into the room and examined Sarah again, determining that the time had come to remove the epidural, since Sarah would need to be able to feel the muscles in her lower body for the delivery. As soon as the nurses took Sarah off of her epidural, things began to spiral into chaos. At least on Chuck's end. He offered to hold her hand as the contractions intensified, regretting it the moment the first really intense one hit her. Sarah squeezed his hand so hard that Chuck was sure she'd broken his fingers.
When it passed, Sarah glanced worriedly at the nurse, Chuck's hand still trapped in her own. "They get worse?" she asked, and the nurse gave her a slightly amused, but mostly sympathetic smile.
"Unfortunately. But you're close," she replied. "You won't have to deal with them for much longer. Just remember to breath, keep calm, and squeeze the hell out of his hand whenever you need to." She laughed and smiled knowingly at Chuck, who could only grimace in response. The contractions continued to come at a steady pace and each time Chuck felt his stomach drop with dread, knowing his fingers were coming closer and closer to being snapped off his hand.
"Chuck! How am I supposed to….?" Sarah paused, trying to ride out the pain and picking up her sentence as soon as it had passed. "I've been through torture that was worse than this!"
Chuck glanced at the nurse, who was giving Sarah a confused look. He chuckled nervously and stroked her arm, muttering loud enough for the nurse to hear, "Um…You meant figurative torture, right honey?"
"Shut up," Sarah growled. And Chuck did. He didn't like to fight with Sarah, even on a good day. Mostly because he usually lost…. badly. But on a bad one? He might actually lose a limb…. Or worse. As if she could read his thoughts, Sarah narrowed her eyes at him when another contraction came and ground out through her teeth, "I swear to god, if you ever come near me after this is over... I'll…..," Chuck didn't want to hear the rest of the threat but it came anyway, "I will personally make sure you can never have any more children."
The nurse's eyebrows bounced upwards and her mouth twisted when she tried to stifle a chuckle. Chuck swallowed and shot the nurse an affronted glance. She cleared her throat and busied herself with checking Sarah's vitals again. Chuck didn't know if Sarah would follow through on that threat. She had to be joking…. Right? But, then again, he had never actually seen this look in her eyes before. He decided he wasn't eager to find out.
"I'm just gonna grab a cool towel for you, honey," he said, trying to pry his hand from her death grip. The towel gave him an excuse for a brief respite and besides that, Sarah looked like she needed it. Her forehead was beaded with sweat, strands of her hair falling out of the bun they'd tied her hair back with. He was surprised when Sarah yanked him back into place beside the bed.
"You don't leave my side, got it?" Her voice was dangerously low, but Chuck saw a genuine flash of fear in her eyes. Releasing that his wife's anxiety was coming out as anger, he calmed and nodded resolutely.
"I'm not going anywhere." One of the other nurses was kind enough to bring Chuck a towel so that he didn't have to move, and he gently began wiping away the sweat from Sarah's brow. He saw the tremble in her lips and the tears glistening in her eyes and decided to sooth her by talking. He was good at talking. Rambling, actually. And for once, the dozens of mindless words he could spout at once were coming in handy, as they seemed to calm Sarah and ease her through her contractions that were coming more frequently now. He talked about the days before they'd gotten together. He told her stories of his bachelor days with Morgan and his nerdy ones at Stanford. He talked until the doctor arrived and told them it was time.
"Ok, Sarah, are you ready to push?" the doctor asked. Immediately, the calm that had come over Sarah vanished, and she stared up at him with a look of helplessness that Chuck had never seen before. Chuck knew she needed him to be strong and calm, now more than ever before, so he tried to meet her eyes as he stroked back her hair. But Sarah's gaze began flicking around the room in a panic, almost like she was looking for a way out, which struck Chuck as a little amusing, given the situation, but he held in his chuckle.
"Baby, look at me," Chuck said soothingly, drawing his fingers along her jaw. Sarah looked back up at him and he lowered his head so his mouth was right next to her ear. "I'm so proud of you," he whispered. "And you're ready for this. We're ready for this. Just remember your breathing and listen to the doctor. You're the toughest woman I've ever met. You've got this."
He pulled back and smiled at her, nodding encouragingly. Sarah stared at him for a moment longer, absorbing his words and then she returned his nod. Once Sarah calmed, she re-focused on the doctor, who gave Chuck a wink, a smile and a thumbs up.
What happened next was almost a blur, Chuck was too focused on the pain in his constricted hand to pay attention to much of what the nurses and doctor were saying. He heard the repeated command of 'push', and the pain in his hand made him wonder if he was going to pass out. Deciding that losing consciousness in front of his wife and room full of hospital staff in the middle of the birth of his first child wasn't something he was eager to do, he steeled himself and put his energy into comforting Sarah the best he knew how. He held her hand tightly, squeezed her shoulder with his other hand, and echoed the final 'push' with the doctor and nurse, and then it was over.
The moment he heard his baby cry for the first time, reality hit him like a sledgehammer, and he began to shake. The baby's cries were so sharp, so loud. Was he alright? Was he in pain? Chuck realized, as he had these thoughts, that he wasn't actually sure of the baby's gender. He and Sarah had opted to be surprised when the time came. Well, the time had finally come and he was still defaulting to 'he'.
Managing to find his voice, Chuck squeaked, "Is he alright?"
"She," the nurse corrected, taking the small, squirming baby into her arms and towards the care station where she would be cleaned off. "Is just fine." Chuck felt the tension drain from his shoulders, although the baby's cries still sent shivers down his spine. He turned his attention back to Sarah, who was practically glowing, looking more beautiful to Chuck than she ever had before. She looked up at him, smiling weakly and trying to catch her breath. He knew if he told her how beautiful she looked that she'd only deny it. But she was, and she looked far better than any woman who had been in labor for over eleven hours had the right to. He leaned down and pressed his lips into her hair, his hand still clasped tightly in her own. He'd lost all feeling in it a long time ago, but the loss of his hand was a small price to pay for the successful birth of their first child.
"You were amazing," he said softly, nuzzling her damp cheek gently and earning a beaming, exhausted, smile.
"It's a girl?" she asked, although Chuck wasn't sure if her question was directed towards him or the nurses. He answered anyway.
"Yeah, it's a girl." Tears sprung to Sarah's eyes, and although Chuck had been told that rampant emotions were to be expected after the birth, he couldn't blame her. They'd had the discussion regarding names for their baby not too long ago and when the possibility of a little girl came up, Sarah had revealed something to Chuck that he never would have guessed had weighed so heavily on her conscience.
3 Months Ago, Bartowski Residence, CA, 2100 Hours:
They were sitting in their bedroom, Chuck at the computer desk scrolling through the document of names they'd collected, and Sarah lying on the bed.
"What do you think of Logan? Have I already asked you that…I really like that one," Chuck said, peering at the boy list.
Sarah scrunched up her nose and shook her head. "I don't like the fact that his name could be shortened to 'Log'."
"I…. hmm," Chuck hadn't thought about that, but suddenly he couldn't get the image of his poor son being bullied at school with the nickname 'Log'. He'd experienced his own fair share of nicknames when he was younger. 'Up-Chuck' was one that came to mind. "Okay, so nix Logan…."
"We haven't really talked about girl names." Sarah was right, both of them had been leaning towards the idea that it might be a boy. Not that a girl would be unwelcome by any means.
"Good point!" Chuck switched to the girl list. "Let's look at what we have…. Isabella, Abigail, Ashley, Chloe…." As Chuck scrolled through the names, he was becoming more and more puzzled as to why they had picked them. They all had such a generic ring to them and nothing screamed Bartowski to him. "I guess we spent a little too much time on the boy list," he said with a smile that faded when he saw Sarah's grimace.
"…Yeah?" He minimized the document and swiveled in his chair to give her his full attention, something in her voice told him this was going to be important.
"I have an idea for a name…But I'm not sure how you'll feel about it."
Rising from his chair, Chuck joined her on the bed, propping himself up on a mound of pillows and rolling onto his side to face her, placing his hand gently on her swollen belly and rubbing circles on her skin. "Go ahead. I'm ready."
Sarah sighed. "Do you remember the day you saw me tell Shaw my real name?"
"Yeah, I do…" Chuck knew now that Sarah revealing her birth name to Shaw had been nothing more than a cry for recognition. She'd been in pain and she'd wanted someone to know the real her. They'd talked in depth about how much Sarah regretted letting Shaw be the first one to hear it, but she'd made a mistake and had admitted it. They had moved on and since then, Chuck had learned so much more about who she was, and who she'd become with him.
"You know that my real name lost its meaning for me a long time ago," she continued. "From the moment I started going on con jobs with my father, I wasn't Sam. But…Well, when I saved Molly from Ryker and saw the life she had with my mom…. I realized how much I'd missed during my own childhood."
Chuck remained silent. It wasn't often Sarah talked about her feelings regarding her past, even now that they were married.
"I wanted my mom to give Molly everything I missed. Everything I didn't realize I wanted for myself. And now…I think I want to be able to give our baby the same thing. A normal life."
Chuck reached out for her hand and brought it to his chest, stroking his thumb over her knuckles gently. He already knew what she was going to say, but he wanted to hear the words.
"If our baby is a girl. I would love for her to have the name Sam. She deserves the life she never got…." Sarah finally looked at him, her brows were furrowed low over her eyes. With a slight quaver in her voice, she asked, "Does that sound crazy?"
"No, no!" Chuck pushed himself up on the pillows and pulled her against his chest. "No, it doesn't sound crazy at all…I get it, Sarah. I do." He paused to kiss the top of her head. "I can't think of a better name for our daughter."
"Samantha Bartowski has a nice ring to it too, don't you think?"
Chuck grinned. "Definitely."
"Would you like to hold her?"
Chuck was pulled out of his thoughts when the nurse walked towards him and held out a small pink bundle. He almost said no, afraid he might hurt her. But the nurse was already helping Chuck cradle the little girl in his arms, and then she stepped away. Chuck felt as if he and the baby were the only two people in the world. He gazed down into her soft round face, studying her little nose and pink lips. She had a mop of fuzzy brown hair on top of her head already, courtesy of Chuck's own curly haired genetics. With one hand, he reached up and stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. She was so soft he could hardly feel her. At his touch, she opened her tiny blue eyes and blinked at him, before scrunching her face up again and grunting softly.
"Oh my god," Chuck murmured to himself. "She's perfect."
Moving back to the side of the bed, Chuck sat on the edge and carefully handed the baby to Sarah. He watched her cautiously, knowing that this moment might hit her harder than it did him. Chuck had always seen himself with a family one day. He'd imagined it with Jill before she'd broken his heart, and he'd seen it with Sarah, even when he thought they'd never really be together. But for Sarah, who had admitted that she never imagined she'd fall in love, let alone get married and want to start a family; holding her child for the first time would be absolutely monumental. She didn't say anything, her eyes simply flickered over the baby's face, welling with tears that eventually dripped onto the pink blanket that swaddled her. Chuck felt her shaking and he wrapped an arm tightly around her shoulders, kissing her temple again and whispering words of comfort.
Finally, she was able to draw her eyes away from the baby and look up at him. "I love you." He'd heard the words so many times since they'd become a couple, but in this moment they suddenly felt different. As if they carried the weight of every hardship they'd gone through to get to this moment. Chuck could only hope that his response conveyed his emotions with just as much clarity.
"I love you too. So much."
"We can take her to the nursery now," said the head nurse, stepping forward to take the baby from Sarah's arms. "We'll bring her back in an hour or so, after you've gotten some rest in recovery. Sound good?"
Sarah's expression tightened and she held the baby closer, as if trying to hide her from the nurse's view. "Can't she stay with us? Why do you need to take her? Is something wrong?" Sarah's voice rose with each passing question. Then, suddenly, her mood shifted to anger. "Did the doctor do something to my baby? If he did, I'll find him and I'll…." She suddenly stopped when Chuck gently put his hand over hers and gave her a warning look.
The nurse smiled understandingly. "I'll bring her back for a visit very soon. She can even spend the night in your recovery room if you want. But we need to take her to run a few tests and give immunizations…. Don't worry, she'll be safe with us." Sarah still looked hesitant, so Chuck squeezed her shoulder reassuringly.
"They'll bring her back soon."
After another moment of hesitation, Sarah relented and handed the baby off. The nurse turned to Chuck after she had the baby safely in her arms and asked, "Do you have a name? Or would you like us to refer to her as Baby Bartowski for now?"
"Baby Bartowski, that's cute," Chuck smiled. "We can't stick with that name permanently can we?" He chuckled when Sarah gave him a disapproving look. "No, we have a name."
He glanced back at Sarah and she nodded her approval, the tears in her eyes spilling down her cheeks again. "Her name is Sam."
The nurse nodded and smiled, and Sarah watched the two of them leave the room, wiping the tears away from her eyes and craning her neck to keep them in view until they disappeared behind the door. Then she turned her attention to Chuck and he quickly remembered how angry she'd been with him during labor. Her expression was dark now. She appraised him silently for a moment before gesturing for him to take a step closer. Chuck didn't move.
"Come here," she ordered, waving him closer with her hand.
He inched forward, only a little closer to the bed, but stopped just short of Sarah's reach. Then he saw Sarah's dangerous expression falter and her lips twitched into the beginnings of a smile.
"Chuck, come here," she whispered affectionately.
Deciding the worst thing she could do to him in her current state was bruise him, he got close to her bedside and stood tensely, waiting for a verbal or physical beating. He was surprised when he felt her hand on his arm, stroking it softly. When he looked down at her, her dark expression had been replaced with one of love.
"Thank you," she said quietly, pulling him forward into a hug. The embrace was a little bit awkward, considering how low the bed was, but they managed and Chuck sighed happily as he held his Sarah close, nuzzling his nose in her hair and smiling. He wasn't sure what she was thanking him for, maybe for being there during the birth, or for helping create their baby in the first place, or maybe for simply loving her. It could have been any reason at all and Chuck wouldn't have cared. The point was they were happy and they had a baby of their very own, and she was healthy and everything had gone smoothly.
Another nurse came into the room then, interrupting their embrace. She offered to take Chuck and Sarah to the recovery room where she would help Sarah take a shower. They went and Chuck paced around the small room while he waited. He was eager to see his baby again. But he knew that she needed just as much rest as Sarah did at the moment, so he would have to be patient.
The nurse brought Sarah in and helped her settle in the recovery bed while Chuck stood by, overseeing everything. It became apparent to him how exhausted she was. Her eyelids drooped as soon as she lay down but she reached out for him anyway, her hand draped lazily over the side of the bed frame. Chuck pulled his chair close and laced his fingers with hers, although they were still rather sore he didn't care anymore. Raising the other hand, he stroked her hair back and kissed her forehead gently, continuing to caress her as she fell asleep. Right before she lost consciousness he heard her voice.
"Yeah? What is it, baby?"
"We did it," she mumbled, a sleepy smile on her lips. "We're parents…."
"Yeah," he chuckled, kissing her again. "Yeah we are. I love you."
The nurse returned about an hour later with Sam in a little rolling crib. Sarah had only just woken up, an hour not nearly enough rest for her after the eleven she'd gone through to give birth to Sam. Chuck assumed it was the lack of sleep that fueled Sarah's dull response when the nurse asked if she was ready to try feeding the baby. For a moment, Sarah just looked confused, but then her expression cleared and turned into something more akin to panic.
"Now?" she asked, her voice quavering.
"If you're ready," the nurse replied easily. "We can wait a little longer if you need more time. The baby will be just fine."
"Um, no, no. I'm…. I think I'm ready, I can try." Chuck watched from his seat near the bed as the nurse helped Sarah position Sam. There was a beat of silence and then Sarah frowned.
"I don't think it's working."
"Give her a minute," the nurse said patiently. "Most babies take a while to learn how to latch on. She'll get it."
"Are you sure?" Sarah was sounding more and more concerned, and Chuck was struggling to hold back his amusement.
Another few minutes passed and Sam seemed perfectly content to sleep instead of eat. The nurse suggested they take Sam back to the nursery for a bit, but Sarah was adamant she stay.
"I don't understand," she said, sounding distraught. "What am I doing wrong? What if Sam's really hungry and I can't feed her? Chuck, what if I can't do it!" Sarah's voice was getting more frantic with each passing question.
"Baby, it's okay," Chuck interrupted, pulling his chair closer to the bed. He instantly regretted the move when Sarah turned her angry gaze on him. "She'll get it," he continued soothingly. "She might not even be hungry right now. Let's give her a little break. You could probably use one too."
Sarah's expression darkened even further and Chuck visibly gulped. The nurse chuckled to herself and took Sam from Sarah's arms, setting her in the little basinet and telling them she'd be back to check on them in another hour. Sarah stared at Sam's still form, pursing her lips.
"Do you think I'm doing something wrong?"
"No, not at all," Chuck assured her, reaching for her hand. It remained limp in his grip. "Honey, it's not going to happen instantly. She's gotta learn just like you do. Just be patient."
Sarah frowned and took her hand away. Chuck sighed and sat back in his chair. He should have known Sarah would be upset if she didn't get immediate results, but there was nothing he could do for her. It wasn't as if he could feed Sam, no matter how much he wanted to help carry the burden. Another hour of tense silence passed between the two of them before the nurse returned. She examined Sam and then turned her attention to Chuck.
"Are you ready to try a diaper change?"
Chuck blinked, wondering for a second if she was actually talking to him. "Me? Y-yeah! Sure." He'd practiced. He'd diapered Molly's toys for the better part of 9-months. Molly found it amusing and often diapered her things with him. Chuck had the technique down. But it suddenly felt different, with a real and very delicate baby at her fingertips. Sarah was watching him, a smug smile playing on her lips when she saw him hesitate.
"Doing okay over there?" she asked.
"Oh, just fine," he replied, throwing her a smirk over his shoulder. "I've got this mastered. Level 100 in diapering skills."
Carefully, he undid the Velcro straps of the old diaper and lifted Sam gently off the table, she grunted and cried out and Chuck froze, terrified that he'd hurt her. She went silent again and the nurse urged him to continue.
"You're doing just fine, keep going."
Chuck swallowed, unfolding the new diaper and lifting Sam's legs again. She was silent this time, and as he taped down the Velcro straps of the new diaper he shot Sarah an arrogant look over his shoulder.
"What'd I tell ya?" he boasted, holding Sam up high for Sarah to see. "Already a master."
Sarah frowned and narrowed her eyes dangerously. Chuck gave her a weak smile and chuckled nervously. As he lowered Sam back into his arms, she snuffled and then began to cry, loudly. Chuck panicked, frantically checking the diaper to make sure he hadn't strapped it too tightly.
"Oh…Did I hurt her? Did I do something wrong? I didn't mean to, I just-"
"It's alright," the nurse interrupted. "Don't panic. She just needs to feel you hold her."
Chuck nodded, cradling his daughter with unsure arms. He rocked her back and forth slowly, uttering soft words of comfort, but she didn't seem eager to stop shrieking anytime soon.
"Ssshh, shh, it's okay, Sam. It's okay." He looked at the nurse helplessly, who just nodded and gestured for him to continue. "I..uh…It's okay, please don't cry."
Sam continued to do so in spite of Chuck's pleas.
"She could be hungry," the nurse suggested. "Why don't we try feeding her again."
Chuck nodded and took the squealing baby over to Sarah, who suddenly looked as nervous as he did. Once again, the nurse helped Sarah position Sam and the three waited with baited breath as she continued to cry. Chuck turned away from the scene, walking back over to his chair and collapsing into it when suddenly Sam's cries ceased.
He whirled around at the elation in Sarah's voice and a warm smile spread across his face when he saw that Sam seemed to have finally figured out the 'intricacies' of breast feeding.
"She did it," Sarah whispered, watching the baby with a rapt expression. "…She did it."
"Wonderful job," said the nurse. "I knew the two of you would get it."
After a moment, Sarah looked up at Chuck, her lips quirking into a triumphant smile. "What was that you said about being a 'master'?"
"Alright, alright, point succeeded to you," Chuck relented, holding up his hands. Competition aside, he was just glad to see Sarah smile again. "I'll one up you next time. I can't exactly compete in this department now can I?"
Sarah just rolled her eyes. Chuck pulled his chair closer, its legs scraping along the tile floor. He sat close by, running a hand over Sam's little head and kissing Sarah on the cheek. She looked up at him and grinned. He wondered briefly if she was as exhausted as he was after attempting to take care of Sam for only a few hours, but then he realized that was a dumb question. Of course she was. And a bud of anxiety bloomed in his gut. If taking care of Sam was this difficult with a team of capable hospital staff on their side, how were they going to cope on their own? Deciding it was best not to worry about it too much while they were still at the hospital, Chuck pushed the thought aside and focused on his ecstatic wife and perfect baby. Whatever the future held for them, they would face it together.
Sarah was unnervingly quiet for most of the car ride home. She kept glancing back over her shoulder at Sam, who was resting in her baby carrier in the back. When she wasn't watching Sam, she was tapping her knee anxiously, her gaze trained out the passenger side window. Something was very obviously bothering her, but Chuck didn't want to push her, especially not after everything she'd been through in the past three days. If she wanted to tell him, she would.
They arrived in Echo Park and Chuck grabbed their overnight bags while Sarah took Sam, in her baby carrier, out of the car and headed towards their apartment. Chuck caught up, opening the front door and tossing their bags on the couch. When he turned around he saw Sarah standing in the threshold, her eyes wide and her lips spread in a thin line. She looked pale.
"You okay?" He asked quickly, coming to her side and placing a steadying hand on her back.
"Can you take her?" Without waiting for his response, Sarah pushed Sam's carrier into Chuck's arms and leaned back against the door frame, taking a deep breath and hiding her face in her hands. Chuck's heart skipped a beat, or five, as he watched Sarah deteriorate right in front of him. Had something gone wrong during the birth that the doctor missed? Was he going to lose her right here on the doorstep?
"Hey, what's wrong? Are you alright? Sarah?" He shifted the baby carrier onto the crook of his left arm, freeing his right hand so he could grab Sarah's arm, trying to steady her. She looked up at him and he saw that her eyes were filled with tears, a panicked expression tightening her features.
"I can't do this."
"What are you talking about?" Chuck asked, confused.
"This." She gestured at Sam and then at their apartment and herself. "I can't do this, Chuck. What am I supposed to do now? What if I do something wrong? What if I lose her? What am I supposed to do for her?"
"Hey, hey, hey," Chuck interrupted Sarah's panicked rambling and pulled her away from the doorframe, drawing her against his chest. She hid her face in his shirt, her body shaking beneath his arm. "Sarah, breathe. You've already done the hardest part…the part you had to do on your own. From here on out, we raise her together. We're partners in this. You're not alone."
Sarah took a few moments to calm herself, her arms wrapped loosely around Chuck's waist. When she'd managed to catch her breath, she looked up at him and he wiped her tears away with his thumb. "I don't know how to be a mother, Chuck. Let alone a good one." Sarah looked down at Sam, lying asleep in the carrier on Chuck's arm and sighed heavily. Gently, Chuck put his hand under her chin and lifted her face back to his.
"Sarah, you already are. Look how worried you are for her right now. If you weren't a good mother, you wouldn't be so concerned. This is the easy part. Feed her, keep her clean, make sure she gets enough sleep. And I'm going to learn with you and help you every step of the way. You're not alone in this. You never will be."
Slowly, she nodded, seeming to find comfort in his words and in his embrace. Satisfied that she was calm again, Chuck set down the carrier and carefully lifted Sam out of it, cradling her against his chest with one arm and pulling Sarah against him with the other. Sarah angled herself towards Sam, keeping her side pressed against Chuck's chest and lifting her hand to stroke the baby's cheek.
"This is going to be a new adventure for both of us," he continued, watching her brush Sam's wispy hair aside. "And I promise you that you're going to be an amazing mother. I have no doubt."
She looked up and kissed him gently, a smile on her lips. "I'm lucky I have you."
"Funny," he replied softly. "I was gonna say the same thing."
September 20th, 2015, Bartowski Residence, CA: Two Years Later…
Chuck held the fresh diaper out at arms-length as he chased his daughter around the living room, as if he could scoop her up into it the second he caught her. She was surprisingly agile for a toddler, Chuck thought as she scurried past his legs, cackling hysterically, and threw herself against the couch, stubby arms and legs flailing as she scrambled on top of it. Chuck watched her from the kitchen, unable to hold back his smile when she stood on the cushions, stark-naked, and stuck her thumb in her mouth, her expression smug.
"Come on, Sam," he cooed, taking slow steps towards the couch, the diaper still clasped in his hands. "Mommy's going to be home any minute now. Don't you wanna show Aunt Ellie your new pretty pink shorts?"
"No!" Sam squawked taking her thumb out of her mouth long enough to shout the word before sticking it right back in and beaming at him. Chuck heaved a sigh. Morgan had a field day on Sam's second birthday, warning them about the "terrible two's" and regaling them with tales of his own childhood, but Chuck hadn't paid him any mind. Until now. Sam's favorite word had changed quickly from "mommy" to "no" in what felt to Chuck like less than a day.
"I will tickle you into submission if I have to, Sam. Don't make me do it." He took another few steps closer and Sam wiggled excitedly, her short brown curls bouncing against her little shoulders. They both paused, staring at one another, and then Sam shrieked and made to leap off the edge of the couch. A bolt of panic shot through Chuck as he realized that she would inevitably smack some part of herself against the coffee table if she made the jump. He reached out and looped his arms around Sam's body, blowing a raspberry against her stomach when she tried to squirm away from him. She squealed with laughter, flailing wildly and Chuck used the distraction to take her back to her room where her clothes were waiting.
"You are one naughty little girl; you know that?"
"Yeah…." Setting Sam down on the bed, Chuck finally managed to finagle her diaper on past her kicking legs and set about with the shirt and shorts next. It was only a little less exhausting than a wrestling match and Chuck found himself ready to take a nap by the time his daughter was fully dressed. Fortunately, she'd calmed down significantly and was searching the bed, her little brows drawn low over her eyes.
"Where what, honey?" Chuck asked, flopping down onto the bed next to her and watching Sam palm the pillows and sheets.
It took Chuck a second to understand what she'd said and then he realized what she was after. He saw Sir Carmichael's ear sticking out between two of Sam's pillows, and he reached over to grab the battered teddy bear.
"You want Sir Carmichael?"
Sam shouted something that must have been a 'yes' and hugged the bear tightly, squirming her way off the bed and heading towards the door. Chuck stood and followed her out into the living room, taking one step for every five of her tiny ones.
"You wanna wait for Mommy on the couch, Sam?"
Sam only seemed to acknowledge one word out of Chuck's sentence because she began wandering around the living room as if she were looking for something again.
"Mommy?" Sam peeked under the table, frowned and then made a circle around the couch, squeezing Sir Carmichael tighter when she couldn't find Sarah. Chuck couldn't help but laugh as he sat down and watched her continue to wander.
"No, Sammy. Mommy's not home yet. Come and sit with me, we'll wait for her together."
Sam frowned again but relented, crawling up onto the couch and plopping down with a sigh next to Chuck. She toyed with Sir Carmichael's gnawed-on ears and glanced forlornly at the door. Chuck ran his hand through Sam's wild curls, smiling when she leaned back into his touch. Suddenly he heard a car door slam in the courtyard, the sound echoing through the open living room windows. He gasped exaggeratedly for Sam's sake and watched with amusement as she scrambled off the couch once more and waddled towards the door as quickly as her little legs would carry her. Chuck stood just as the door opened and the voices of Sarah and Ellie filled the room. Sarah helped set Ellie's bags by the couch since her sister-in-law's arms were currently occupied by her three-year-old son Stephen.
"Mommy!" Sam squeaked, throwing herself at Sarah's legs and then reaching upwards, her tiny hands opening and closing as she begged to be picked up. Sarah grinned and scooped Sam up into her arms, peppering her cheeks with quick kisses that made Sam giggle.
"Hey, baby," she cooed, brushing Sam's curls out of her face. "Did Daddy take good care of you while I was gone?"
Chuck almost rolled his eyes. Sarah had barely been gone for more than a few hours, but given the way she and Sam were acting it was as if the two hadn't seen each other in years.
"Give me a little credit. I managed to get her dressed on my own!" Chuck said, stepping forward and giving his sister a hug, careful not to crush Stephen between them. "How are you, El?"
Ellie smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm fantastic. It's so good to see you again…. Is that a little gray I see?" She pointed to his temple and Chuck clasped his hands over his ears.
"No! Nope, no way! Not yet."
Ellie laughed and turned her attention to Sam, shifting Stephen against her hip as she did. The little blonde haired boy was staring curiously at his cousin.
"Hey, Sam," Ellie said softly. "Do you remember me?" The last time Ellie and Devon visited, Sam had been little more than a year old and Stephen had been left behind in Chicago with a sitter. Sam appraised Ellie with wide blue eyes and then hid her face against Sarah's shoulder, bunching her shirt in her tiny fist.
"Don't be shy, Sam. Say hi." Sarah bounced Sam against her shoulder and gently pulled her thumb from her mouth. Sam glanced once again at Ellie but said nothing. "Sorry, Ellie. She's usually not this quiet."
"Seriously," Chuck agreed. "She's a whirlwind. This is oddly out of character…It's a little terrifying actually."
Ellie laughed again. "Don't worry, Stephen's the same way. She'll warm up to us at her own pace."
"Where are Awesome and Clara?"
"Outside," Ellie gestured with her chin. "Clara insisted on helping Devon with the bags. She's always helping him around the house too. Daddy's little girl, you know?"
Chuck peered out the window and saw Devon towing a load of luggage through the courtyard, Clara following with her stuffed monkey toy and small rolling backpack.
"I'd better go help him," he chuckled, stepping past Ellie and Sarah.
"Come in and get settled Ellie," Sarah said, gesturing for Ellie to step inside. "I'll help you put your things in the guest room."
Ellie nodded and set Stephen down at her feet. He immediately made a beeline for the toys lying near the coffee table that Chuck had neglected to put away earlier. As soon as Sam saw her toys being moved around by a stranger, she struggled in Sarah's arms, stumbling after Stephen once she'd been put down. Sarah and Ellie watched curiously, and with a touch of concern, as Sam approached Stephen. This was the first time the cousins had really interacted with each other, and both Sarah and Ellie knew how possessive toddlers could be about their territory. Ellie started to move in their direction, ready to intervene if necessary. But Sam just watched him play with her little toy bus for a moment, and then plopped down next to him, grabbing Sir Carmichael and handing him to Stephen. The little boy grinned and placed Sir Carmichael on the bus, driving him around the coffee table while Sam watched.
"Oh my god," Ellie squeaked, watching the proceedings with glassy eyes. "That's adorable."
Sarah nodded and smiled. The door opened again and Chuck returned, Devon and Clara trailing behind him.
"Hey, there's already a party in here," Devon said, taking in the scene before him. "Wanna go play with your brother, Clara?"
Clara looked up at her dad and then at her brother and cousin and shook her head, gesturing to her bag instead. "Daddy, I have to put my stuff away."
"Responsible little four-year-old, isn't she?" Chuck said, grinning at his niece.
"Uncle Chuck, I'm almost five now," Clara informed him with some pride. Chuck could only chuckle and shake his head.
"She's a good girl. Already a go getter," Devon replied.
"No idea where she gets that from," Chuck teased, clapping Devon's shoulder.
Once the Woodcombs had settled in the apartment, the rest of the afternoon passed quickly. After dinner, the family spent time talking and catching up while the kids watched a Disney movie in the pillow fort Devon and Chuck built for them. When bedtime rolled around, the adults decided to call it a night too. Traveling most of the day had taken a lot out of Ellie and Devon, especially with two young kids. Chuck helped Sarah bathe Sam and get her dressed and ready for bed. As soon as she hit the pillow she'd fallen asleep. Clara slept on a blow up bed nearby, Chuck dropped a kiss onto her forehead as they left, leaving the nightlight on for the two girls. When they returned to their own room, Chuck noticed a small smile on Sarah's face as she pulled on her sleepwear.
"I know that look," he said. "What are you thinking about?"
"Stephen and Clara are close, aren't they?" she said, pulling back the covers and slipping underneath them. "It was nice watching them play with each other."
"Yeah, it was," Chuck agreed, his mind going back to his own childhood with Ellie. "Siblings are important. I don't know what I'd have done without Ellie."
Sarah chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, her fingers toyed with the hem of the blanket.
"Seriously, what it is?" Chuck asked, placing his hand on top of hers.
"What do you think about having another baby?"
Chuck had to take a second for his brain to catch up. "Another baby?"
"Yes." Sarah looked at him earnestly, her blue eyes sparkling in the lamplight. Another baby. Chuck sat back against the pillows to think about it. The idea set his heart racing in the best way. Sam was growing up quickly, and the older she got, the more apparent it became that she needed a friend. Someone her own age that she could interact with on a daily basis. Seeing her cousins once every year wasn't going to cut it, and there weren't that many children in the neighborhood as young as she was. Sarah had grown up an only child, but had told him she wished she hadn't. And Chuck couldn't imagine his life without Ellie. Giving Sam a sibling could only be a good thing, and besides that, Chuck loved the idea of another little Bartowski running around the house. Another baby to raise with the woman he loved.
"Yeah," he said finally, turning on his side and smiling at Sarah. "Another baby. I like it. Let's do it."
"Really?" She looked a little surprised by his immediate answer. "Are you sure?"
"What do you mean 'am I sure'? You asked!"
"I know, I know. I just…I want to make sure it's what you really want. You're not just saying it to make me happy?"
"Sarah, nothing would make me happier than having another baby with you." He paused. "You're the one who's going to have to do all the heavy lifting. Although I'm not sure how much more of a beating my fingers can take after the last time. I'm pretty sure you accidentally disfigured my hand."
"Chuck if I wanted to disfigure any part of you it wouldn't be accidental."
Chuck blinked, his mouth falling open. "Is it concerning that I found that threat a little bit…. hot?"
Sarah chuckled and took his hand between hers with exaggerated gentleness. "Can we be serious now?"
"Yes, absolutely. Serious. Another baby. I would love to, Sarah, but I'm the one who should be asking if you're sure."
"I'm sure," she said with a confident smile. He grinned back at her and reached out, looping one arm around her waist and kissing her cheek.
"Then let's do it."
He dropped another kiss onto her bare shoulder, following the line of her collarbone to her neck, smiling against her skin when she shivered slightly.
"Hmmm?" he mumbled, nuzzling the spot below her ear and jaw.
"Not now… You sister and brother-in-law are in the very next room."
"I know. Not now," he agreed, continuing to place soft kisses on her neck. "I'm just practicing."
She giggled, the noise vibrating against his lips, making him grin. "As soon as they leave."
"Yeah…As soon as they leave we try again. As many times as we need to until it happens."
She laughed again and Chuck pulled away from her neck, rolling over to turn off the lamp. He curled around his wife, wrapping his long arms around her waist and sighing in contentment as sleep took them both.
June 22nd, 2016, Bartowski Residence, CA: 9 months later….
"Here they come, Sam!" Emma said excitedly, popping up from the couch and hurrying towards the front door. Sam followed a little more slowly, not nearly as excited as her grandmother or her aunt were to see the newest Bartowski. Molly pulled her by the hand as Sam dragged her feet. The door swung open and Chuck entered, holding a baby carrier in the crook of one arm.
"Welcome home!" Emma said excitedly, peering at the baby carrier. "How did everything go?"
"Everything went fine. Both baby and mother are in perfect health."
Emma pulled Sarah into a crushing hug the second she entered the house. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?"
"I'm fine, mom," Sarah said with a smile, gently extracting herself from her mother's embrace. "Like Chuck said, everything went well."
Emma pulled Sarah back into another hug, this one shorter, and she placed a kiss on her daughter's cheek before she pulled away. She then turned her attention to the baby in the carrier, brushing away the tears in her eyes with the tips of her fingers. "Can we see him?"
"Of course," Chuck said setting the carrier down and carefully pulling his son out of it, holding the baby up for Emma to see. She "ooh'd" and stroked his dark fuzzy hair.
"His name is Landon."
"Landon Bartowski," Emma echoed. "Want to see your nephew Molly?"
Molly nodded and Chuck knelt down so the little girl could see. She reached out tentatively and touched Landon's cheek gently.
"He's kinda red."
Chuck laughed. "Yeah, he kinda is."
Sam stood aside, watching the proceedings warily. She only approached when Sarah gestured for her to come closer. Chuck swiveled on his knee and angled the baby towards Sam.
"What do you think, Sam? This is your little brother."
Sam stared at the small, wrinkly little human and then turned away, walking towards Sarah and hugging her legs. Chuck's lips twisted into a smile and he chuckled.
"Not too fond of him, huh?"
Sarah stroked a hand through Sam's hair. "She'll get used to him."
"She's probably just a little jealous that she has to share your attention now," Emma said.
"Good point," Chuck agreed, placing Landon back in his carrier and heading towards the nursery. "She'll get over that too. I know Ellie was the same way when I was born."
"Let's go play!" Molly said, tugging on Sam's hand when she tried to follow Sarah and Chuck to the nursery.
"That's right," Emma agreed, turning on the television for them as well. "You two entertain yourselves while they get Landon settled. I'll make dinner soon, okay?"
Sam watched forlornly as Emma followed her parents down the hallway and Molly pulled her back into the living room. She wasn't happy about the new baby consuming her parent's attention, but without the words to describe the feelings, there was little she could do but follow Molly.
It was still early, just past dinnertime, when Emma and Molly left, promising to visit again by the weekend. Sarah had gone to bed as soon as Landon was settled and that left Chuck to take care of Sam for the night. He was still exhausted from the hospital, and a huge yawn racked his body as he entered Sam's bedroom. She sat in the middle of the floor, bouncing Sir Carmichael up and down limply. Chuck leaned against the doorframe, smiling when he noticed Sir Carmichael's missing eye. He still remembered the day that Sam had swallowed it. He'd never seen Sarah so panicked. She'd rushed Sam to the hospital, breaking a dozen driving laws in the process, only to find out that Sam was perfectly fine and she'd 'pass' the eye soon enough.
Stepping into the room, Chuck took a seat next to his daughter on the floor, groaning when his knees popped. Sam didn't look up at him, she kept her attention on Sir Carmichael, pushing him against the floor and rubbing his eyeless face against the carpet.
"How you doing, Sammy?" he asked, rubbing her back.
"I don' want Landon," she replied bitterly.
"Aww, don't say that. He's your little brother."
Sam pouted and pushed Sir Carmichael away. Reaching over, Chuck lifted Sam onto his lap. She squirmed only slightly before giving up and sinking into his embrace.
"I don' like it," she mumbled.
Chuck smiled softly and kissed the top of her head. "It'll be okay, Sam. You two are going to get along just fine. And you know Mommy and I love you too."
"Daddy, can you put him back?"
Chuck barely managed to hold back his laughter. Bracing himself against the bed, he lifted himself and Sam off of the floor and headed towards the nursery. He switched on one of the lamps near Landon's crib and adjusted Sam against his shoulder. Taking Sam's hand, he placed it gently on top of Landon's head, and she began to play with his hair on her own.
"There you go, Sam. Be gentle with him."
Sam nodded, patting his cheek before retracting her hand and clutching Chuck's shirt instead.
"Landon's gonna need you to help take care of him. You're gonna have to teach him all the right ways to play with toys and introduce him to Sir Carmichael."
"Probably not tomorrow. But soon," Chuck said, smiling at his daughter as she watched Landon sleep. "I love you, Sam." She looked up and kissed him quickly, muttering a 'love you' that sounded more to Chuck like a 'wuv you'. Chuck knew the adjustment period for Sam would take some time. But it made him so happy to have a daughter and a son, siblings who would take care of and watch over one another in the future. Just like he and Ellie had.
"Come on, Sam," he said finally after they'd watched Landon for a few more minutes. "Let's get to bed. We can see Landon again in the morning."
He took his daughter back to her room and helped change her into her polka dot pajamas. When she was settled, he pulled out her favorite book, stretching out on the bed beside her as he read. "Max, a young and immature boy, dawned a wolf costume and misbehaved to the point where his mother became very irritated…."
She watched him for a while with large blue eyes. Slowly, they began to slip shut and Chuck had hardly gotten past the fifth page when Sam fell fast asleep. Closing the book, Chuck watched his daughter breathe in and out for a few minutes. Rising from the bed, he kissed her forehead and turned off the lamp, leaving the nightlight on instead. He paused by the door and cast one last look over his shoulder.
And there we have the prologue. Reviews and/or critiques are always appreciated. Also, I can't take total credit for Sir Carmichael, as he was originally (probably) used by author Whiskeyflips whose stories I totally recommend reading. I loved the name.
Thank you for reading and I'll see you in the next update.