A/N: So sorry for the delay, folks. I went through several revisions before settling on this version of the Epilogue.
I know I speak for charahkids and myself when I say, we had a blast with this story. On that note, I wish to thank charahkids for tirelessly reading/editing/suggesting changes to each chapter.
I would also like to thank everyone who read and reviewed each chapter. I hope the story was as fun to read as it was to write.
Chuck kissed Sarah gently on the temple after slipping out of bed. He knew she was tired, and so was he, for that matter. Being parents was hard work, but he wouldn't trade any minute of it.
Sarah stirred in her sleep, and a broad smile formed across her lips. After all these years, Chuck was still an early riser.
Mumbling, Sarah addressed her husband, who paused when Sarah woke up. "Don't even think about walking away, mister. Not until you make love to me."
Sarah reached to the night stand, and grabbed a mint, popping the candy in her mouth to combat morning breath. She knew Chuck learned a long time ago, you'd better brush before waking Sarah.
Chuck smiled when Sarah shifted her body, and pulled him back into bed on top of her. His eyes widened in surprise when Sarah rolled him to his back, and pinned him to the mattress, her smile devilish.
Gulping audibly, Chuck addressed his wife in a soft tone, running his hands gently through her hair. "Sarah…you are so beautiful."
Blushing furiously, Sarah smiled, and gently attached her lips to Chuck's. The kiss quickly turned steamy, and Sarah moaned when flesh met flesh. Chuck scooted himself to a sitting position, and Sarah rested her feet against the headboard, her breath growing rapid.
Sarah moaned audibly as Chuck slowed the pace agonizingly slow, relishing in the pleasure coursing through her entire body. This was her favorite position. It allowed for maximum closeness, and intimacy.
Sarah whimpered when she felt the heat course through her lower torso, and cried out in ecstasy when she felt the intense wave of passion envelop her body. Chuck slowed to a stop, allowing Sarah to recover. She gently ran her hands along her husband's face, fascinated at the way his love for her radiated from his brown eyes.
"I love you, Chuck." Sarah said sweetly, kissing her husband softly on the lips, before taking charge.
Gyrating softly on her husband, Sarah quickened her pace when Chuck grunted, and stared in amazement in his eyes as his own throw of passion enveloped him. Slowing to a stop, Sarah kissed her husband softly, and smiled when Chuck ran his hands gently through her hair.
"I love you so much, Sarah." Chuck panted, eliciting a smile from his wife's lips.
"Just hold me, Chuck. I love being this close to you." Sarah whispered, and sighed in content when Chuck pulled her close to him, gently caressing her hair, and back.
Sarah closed her eyes, and bathed in the warmth from her husband. Every touch, and every look, reaffirming his unconditional love for her.
Chuck paused, and turned his head to the door. "Hmm…I'm surprised the kids aren't awake yet."
Sarah chuckled softly. "Sweetheart, I let them finish the movie last night so they would sleep in a little longer. I had selfish intentions, you know. I wanted us to have some time together."
"Good call." Chuck said, smiling from ear to ear. "Too bad we don't have time to shower together."
"Chuuucckkk…please don't tease me." Sarah whined. "You know what you do to me."
Chuck smiled. "Honey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tease you."
Sarah gave an adorable pout. "It's been a long time since we showered together. Now, we have to take turns watching the kids."
A commotion down the hallway prompted a sigh from Sarah. She lifted herself off of her husband, and quickly put on her shorts. Leaning down to kiss her husband, Sarah rested her hands on his shoulders. "Why don't you shower first? I'll start breakfast."
Chuck kissed his wife, and gently got out of bed, lifted her slightly by the waist. Sarah smiled, and snaked her arms around Chuck's neck. "You go ahead. I'll get those two fed."
Sarah smiled, while continuing to kiss her husband on the lips. She broke the kiss, and gave her husband an adoring smile. "Always the gentleman."
Chuck stole a quick kiss as Sarah proceeded to a nearby dresser, and retrieved clothing. Chuck proceeded to the hallway, and found his son standing outside the doorway. On the opposite side of the hallway, his daughter exited her bedroom, with a fluffy rabbit tucked under her arm. Both children rubbed their eyes, still sleepy.
Chuck knelt in between his son and daughter, and pulled the children to him. "Hey, guys. How did you sleep?"
Faye, Chuck's daughter, had recently graduated from a crib to a toddler bed. She attached her body to her father, and rested her head on his shoulder. Landon, the oldest, was four. He took his father by the hand, as Chuck led the children to the stairs.
"Daddy? Can we have pancakes?" Landon inquired, through a deep yawn.
Faye lifted her face, her blonde hair bouncing across her brow, her piercing blue eyes meeting her father's. "I want pancake, Daddy. Pancake yummy."
Chuck kissed his daughter on the tip of her nose, and gave his son a warm smile. "Pancakes it is. Do you want strawberries, or blueberries?"
"Bwuebewwies." Faye declared.
"Strawberries." Landon protested.
"Okay…blueberries for my princess, and strawberries for my prince." Chuck said, nodding in content when both children agreed to his skillful arbitration of breakfast.
Chuck placed Faye in her booster seat, and Landon climbed into his seat. Chuck quickly removed two bowls of fresh fruit, prepared the night before by Sarah, and placed the bowls in front of the children. The kids began placing the morsels in their little mouths, smiling in delight.
Chuck grabbed the batter, and fruit, quickly preparing two small batches. Once the skillets were heated, he poured the batter into the skillet, and turned to face his children.
"Alright, guys…place your bets. Watch the Amazing Chuck flip pancakes!" Chuck said animatedly, his children giggling.
"Daddy…don't drop it!" Landon laughed.
Faye clapped her hands excitedly. "Fwippy! Fwippy!"
Chuck grinned, and flipped the pancakes in the air, and used the skillets to retrieve both from the air. The children laughed, and clapped happily, as Chuck held both skillets for inspection.
"Ta-da!" Chuck exclaimed.
"Daddy…were you in a cirwcus?" Faye inquired, bouncing happily in her seat.
Chuck turned, and tickled his daughter. "No…but I am a clown." Chuck kissed Faye on the tip of her nose after the statement.
"You're funny, Daddy!" Landon said happily. Chuck lifted the child in the air, over his shoulder, and blew a strawberry against the child's stomach. Landon giggled and squirmed in Chuck's arms.
Placing Landon back in his seat, Chuck kissed the top of his son's head. He strolled across the kitchen, and flipped the pancakes in the air, and into a plate. By now, Sarah strolled into the kitchen, drying her hair with a towel. She knelt next to the children, and pointed to Chuck.
"What is Daddy doing? Is he making pancakes?" Sarah said animatedly.
The children turned, and exclaimed happily in unison. "Mommy!"
Sarah took a child in each arm, and kissed them both. "How are my babies this morning?"
Sarah grabbed a jar of sugar free syrup from the table, and lathered the children's pancakes when Chuck placed the dishes in front of the kids. Chuck turned, and placed a bowel of fruit on the table for Sarah, next to a cup of coffee and juice.
Giving Chuck a quick kiss on the lips, Sarah took her place, while Chuck took his, and the family enjoyed breakfast together.
As with each morning, the family continued their routine of breakfast, and dressed for the day after clearing the table.
Today would be different than most days. Sarah had a busy schedule, with a talk show appearance promoting her new work-out video, and to announce the Orange Orange and Sweatz Fitness would be adopting a national children's charity, with Chuck volunteering to head the initiative. The couple's companies also partnered with the Marine Corp's Toys for Tots campaign each Christmas.
After securing her precious cargo in their car seats, Sarah climbed in the driver's seat of her Porsche Cayenne SUV. She traded her Porsche 911 long ago. It was no longer practical.
Donning her aviator sunglasses, Sarah smiled when Chuck opened the garage door with his cell phone.
"Chuck…we could just use the FOB key." Sarah said amused.
"What? This is more fun!" Chuck exclaimed. "I also have our security system linked to the same app."
Sarah smirked, turning the SUV on the quiet, suburban street. "Boys and their toys."
Chuck turned his head and addressed his children. "Well, guys…Mommy thinks Daddy has too many apps." Chuck tapped his phone, and the TV's in the back seat of the car turned on.
Chuck gave Sarah a goofy look, wiggling his phone in his hand. "Now what do you think of Daddy's apps…Mommy?"
"Is there an app to mute my husband's ego?" Sarah said, raising an amused brow.
Chuck feigned hurt. "Ha. Ha. Ha. You're a real hard-case, Mrs. Bartowski."
Sarah smiled. "Say that again, please."
Chuck leaned across the console, and kissed his wife on the cheek. "Okay. Ha. Ha…" Chuck trailed, grinning when Sarah gave him a warning look.
"Mrs. Bartowski." Chuck said in a solemn tone.
As the car came to a stop at a busy intersection, Sarah turned her face, and captured Chuck's lips for a quick kiss, before turning her eyes back to the road.
Speaking breathless, Sarah ran a gentle hand along Chuck's cheek. "I love you."
"Love ya right back." Chuck said, kissing the tip of Sarah's nose, eliciting a giggle from the blonde.
Chuck put a gentle hand on the back of Sarah's neck. Sarah leaned into the touch, and sighed in content. Chuck gave Sarah a sideways glance, scanning the intersection.
"You look beautiful, by the way."
Sarah gave Chuck a sweet smile, and reached with her right hand to caress her husband's arm. "Charmer."
Minutes later, the family arrived at a studio in Hollywood. Parking the Porsche in a garage, Sarah flipped the sun visor down to reveal a mirror. After spending a moment to check her hair and make-up, she exited the vehicle, and helped Chuck with their two children.
Taking Landon by the hand, Sarah took an extra moment to admire Chuck. He was an excellent husband and father. His family was the center of his universe. It still amazed her how each year of marriage took their relationship to new levels. Their commitment to one another grew stronger, and stronger. While most men would be resentful or jealous of their wives for the level of success Sarah reached, not Chuck. He was supportive of her every step of the way, and was an adequate business partner in his own right.
Sarah didn't know when she married him, she would fall in love with him all over again with each passing day. Sarah attributed her success to the support of her amazing husband.
Lifting Landon in her arms, Sarah leaned into Chuck when he put his arm around her, with Faye nestled protectively in her father's arms, her head resting on his shoulder.
"How's your leg?" Sarah asked.
Chuck nodded. "I'm good."
Sarah stole a glance and noticed only a subtle limp. She smiled inwardly. That was something else the couple worked hard to overcome. Improving Chuck's quality of life.
And it wasn't just the physical scars of combat Chuck overcame. The emotional scars continued to heal with each passing year. Ever the quiet hero, Chuck rarely talked about the war these days. He chose to move on with his life, and be happy with his family. The only exception, Chuck agreed to participate in a documentary on the Medal of Honor. Sarah was asked to participate, giving a spouse's perspective.
More importantly, Chuck never took his happiness for granted, and Sarah knew that. The way he gave his absolute best to her and their children often brought tears to her eyes. There is nothing Chuck wouldn't do for his family. He even devoted himself to Ellie's children, Clara and Connor, affectionately calling them "Little Awesomes." Devon found it hilarious.
The rest of Chuck and Sarah's family and friends also found happiness. Alex Forrest remarried, and moved to the East Coast. Sarah appointed her Regional Manager of all Orange Orange chains on the East Coast.
Morgan and Alex married, and were expecting twins. Casey and Gertrude, unable to have children, agreed to Casey's retirement from the Marine Corps with the rank of Major General. His last command was the First Marine Division. The Marines offered Casey his third star to remain, but he turned it down to spend time with his family.
Ellie and Devon accepted faculty positions at UCLA Medical Center. Ellie was appointed Chief of Neurology, and Devon was appointed Chief of Cardiology.
Emma and Sarah's relationship was now officially reconciled. The birth of Landon brought the mother and daughter even closer. Emma spent the first month with Chuck and Sarah after each of their children were born. Emma now runs her own law firm in Sydney, and visits her daughter and grandchildren at least once a month.
Molly married an officer in the Royal Australian Navy, who serves on patrol boats. Molly became a journalist, and now co-anchors a popular morning show in Sydney. Her husband, Lieutenant Mike Amherst, serves as the Executive Officer of the HMAS Wollongong.
Even Darla and Chloe were doing well. Chuck taught little Chloe how to swim, as promised. The little girl grew to respect the water, and was now an accomplished swimmer. Chloe even aspired to become an Olympic swimmer. Darla remarried, and finished her degree to become an attorney. Darla was Emma's partner in their law firm.
And today, Sarah would be appearing on the Ellen Cochrane Show once again.
Taking the stage, with Chuck and her children sitting back stage, Ellen gushed over Sarah.
"Look at you, girlfriend! For a mom of two, you look hot!"
Sarah chuckled. "Thank you, Ellen."
Ellen leaned forward. "And how is that handsome hubby of yours, and those two adorable kids?"
The camera panned back-stage, and Chuck motioned for Faye and Landon to wave. The audience gushed over the family.
"Well, as you can see, Chuck, Faye, and Landon are doing great." Sarah said happily.
Ellen smirked. "Does Chuck still suffer from stage fright?"
The audience laughed. Sarah giggled. "Yep."
Chuck gave the camera a goofy look, shaking his head. The audience laughed.
Ellen addressed the audience. "Okay, you guys know how much I love dancing. In a little while, Sarah promised I could dance with Faye and Landon. Chuck, I hate to break it to ya…but you're joining us!"
Chuck turned red. Ellen clapped, and laughed heartily.
Ellen reached next to her, and displayed Sarah's work-out video. "Speaking of dancing, Sarah's new work-out video was just released, and I have to say…wow. I needed an oxygen mask after pulling off some of those moves!"
Sarah laughed with the audience. "Come on, Ellen. It wasn't that hard."
"Easy for you to say. I'm very out of shape." Ellen said in a goofy tone.
Ellen also held up another DVD. "I also want to point out, Chuck and Sarah were featured in a documentary on the living Medal of Honor recipients from Iraq and Afghanistan called Conspicuous Gallantry, and Chuck was featured in last month's edition of Time, in a very inspiring article on Veterans recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress. Chuck, if you can hear me back stage, you were great!"
The audience clapped. Ellen smiled.
"So. We know things are going well professionally, how are things at home?"
Sarah smiled. "I couldn't be happier. Every morning we wake up as a family, eat breakfast, and we eat dinner together each evening. Despite our busy schedules, family mealtimes are important to us."
Sarah gave Ellen a coy look. "Chuck is super-dad. He is so good with Faye and Landon while I'm working out of our home office. I often have Faye and Landon in the office with me, so I can interact with them while I work. Chuck is active in our company too, and many days, we both work and take turns with the kids. It's important to me for our children to have both their Mom and Dad. I have nothing against daycares, but I want to raise my own kids."
Ellen nodded, turning serious. "A lot of parents are telecommuting in order to balance home and work life. Do you ever have to visit your corporate headquarters?"
"Once a week, we hold a meeting. Sometimes, Chuck and I load up the kids and visit so we can interact with our employees. Chuck and I consider our employees as family. It's not the company that makes us successful. It's the talented people we have working with us that makes our company successful." Sarah said professionally.
Ellen smiled. "Sarah, thank you so much for checking in with us. When we come back, dance time!"
After tucking their children into bed, and sharing a bedtime story, Chuck and Sarah stopped in the hallway and took a moment to hug. Kissing was one of Sarah's favorite activities, but sometimes, she just needed to be in her husband's arms.
Taking Chuck by the hand, Sarah led him to the bedroom. After sitting him down on the bed, she gently planted herself in his lap, and snaked her arms around his neck.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Sarah said sweetly.
"I was just thinking about how we met." Chuck replied softly.
Sarah smiled, glancing off to the side to ponder the memory of meeting the man of her dreams. "I still count myself fortunate that we met, Chuck. I couldn't imagine my life without you." Sarah ran her finger gently along Chuck's jaw, and stared lovingly in his eyes.
Chuck smiled solemnly, and brushed a stray hair out of Sarah's face. "I'm scared to even think about my life without you in it, Sarah. I thought the happiest day of my life was the day I met you. But it got even better when we became a couple. On our wedding day…I thought that was the happiest day of my life, but then Landon and Faye were born. My point is…every day with you…it's like a dream come true. I'm glad I have you, and our kids."
Sarah smiled, and blinked away a few happy tears. After all this time, Chuck never failed to melt Sarah's heart with his kind, sincere, loving words. Chuck's actions as a husband and father, and his unwavering love and devotion to his family was a testament to the man he was. He lived by example, and lived each day to the fullest.
Resting her hands on Chuck's face, Sarah leaned forward, inches from his lips, stared in his eyes, and spoke barely above a whisper. "I want to have another baby."
Chuck smiled. "You know…I've…sort of…been thinking the same thing. Three's a crowd, you know." Chuck winked after the comment.
The fire inside Sarah was now reaching critical mass. Her eyes turned primal, and on instinct, quickly took charge.
Pausing for a moment, Sarah took Chuck's face in her hands. "Chuck…thank you. Thank you for everything you've given me…and everything we have. I love you so much I can't even put it into words."
Chuck leaned forward, and placed a slow, deep kiss on Sarah's lips. Sarah melted in his arms, and while holding her gently, declared. "I will always cherish you, Sarah. You have given me more than I could have ever hoped for. I will always love you."
Sarah's smiled practically blinded Chuck. He took this moment to simply stare into her eyes.
One thing was clear to Chuck and Sarah. The past no longer mattered. What mattered is their future. Together, in each other's arms.