A/N- Thank you for your reviews and PMs.
Sincere thanks to michaelfmx for the time and effort he puts forward into editing this story.
"I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose!"
― Oscar Wilde
From Chapter 10
December 23, 2010 –Bern ( 3 Weeks since Sarah left on her mission)
It was a very hurried text message from Sarah. Chuck received it at 11pm that night. He continued to stare at it and his heart sank.
'Chuck, must rush, last contact for a while, I have to go dark. Mission at critical stage. I love you.'
It was minus 120C outside. He grabbed his coat, hat and gloves… he needed to get out of his flat. He didn't care how cold it was outside. He needed to clear his head, otherwise the four walls would collapse in on him and crush him.
The cold air almost took his breath away and the frost seeped into the smallest opening. He walked aimlessly for two kilometers and suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.
What the hell was he going to do? If Sarah stayed in the CIA and reported to the Director, then what he was experiencing now would be the new normal for him.
He needed to talk to somebody or he would go crazy.
He pulled out his phone and pressed a number from memory, because he knew this person might be able to help him through his worry and sinking depression. He felt so absolutely helpless and useless. What if Sarah died … would they ever even tell him?"
The phone rang three times and …. "Ja, das ist Emily?"
Chuck looked down at his phone and hesitated. He knew his number was blocked and wouldn't show up. He still had time to hang up. Instead he coughed once to get his voice working.
"Emily it's Chuck .. I know it's late .. but I really need to talk to someone …."
There was a pause on the other end. Chuck was about to apologize for having bothered her and, as civilly as possible, end the call. Before he could apologize for calling, Emily spoke to him.
There was relief in his voice when she responded. Chuck checked to make sure it was really okay. "You're sure it's not too late … okay I'll grab a taxi."
February 25th, 2011 – ( 8 weeks since Sarah went dark,12 weeks since she left Bern)
Sarah walked quickly from the train platform to her meeting at Jack's Brasserie, located just across from the train station. The cold gust of wind cut through her thin ski jacket like a knife.
Jack's Brasserie was a good choice for a meeting, it would allow her to have a confidential conversation.
It'd been two hours since she landed in Zurich and grabbed the first train to Bern. Sarah had wrestled with a dozen different worries since leaving Washington.
The incredible high from another successful mission had dissipated long ago and left her feeling empty. The praise from the Director for a job well done now sounded tinny and hollow in her ears.
She'd finally managed to talk with Chuck yesterday morning and could kick herself because she had already told him a lie. Sarah had told him that she would be arriving tomorrow not today. He was planning to meet her here at the train station in exactly twenty-four hours.
She convinced herself that it was a necessary lie because it would give her time to really check out how Chuck was doing. She needed to know how he was and how he'd survived her absence and suddenly going dark.
The mission that was only supposed to take three weeks had, at the end of the day, taken three months. One hour after she'd accomplished her mission, she was whisked away by an 'exfil' team. They got her out of Albania in record time.
Twelve hours later, and after a four hour nap on the plane, she was being debriefed at Langley.
Immediately after her debriefing, the Director had sealed the mission file. In the future, the file would be eyes only, the Director CIA and POTUS.
Agent Sarah Walker had been the blue-eyed girl before going on this mission … now, after this last mission, the senior bureaucrats probably believed she could walk on water. Her star was in the ascendance.
Yesterday's phone conversation with Chuck had left her with mixed emotions. She couldn't quite put her finger on exactly what was bothering her. On the surface, the phone call went the way she had been hoping.
Chuck was so obviously grateful and relieved to hear her voice that it had filled her with joy.
He kept asking her if she was okay. Each time she'd assured him, "Chuck, I'm fine, it's over. I'm coming home to see you as soon as I can."
His humor even began to surface a little and he asked her if she'd toppled a dictator or two down in South America.
She laughed out loud at his comment. "No, Chuck, no dictators were toppled and stop fishing to get me to tell you about the mission … you know I can't."
She was elated to hear his voice. There was no way Chuck would know that silent tears fell down her cheeks when in a shaky voice he'd shared with her how desperate he'd become when she'd gone dark.
But then, in a much stronger voice, he'd told her that he understood why she'd had to go dark. He told her that her safety was far more important than risking trying to get in touch with him.
Sarah's voice had been tinged with excitement when she told him the Director had approved her request for six weeks of vacation. She shared with him how excited she was to be coming back to him, to his … to their… tiny flat in Bern.
That's when Chuck said something in a skeptical tone. "Well, let's hope that the Director and the country can spare you for that long. I'll be thrilled if he leaves you alone for even two weeks."
After a short uncomfortable pause during which the silence weighed heavily on them both, Chuck said, "Anyways, I'm sure that won't happen, get back here as quick as you can. I've really missed you."
Sarah had so much she wanted to say to him, so much to discuss. The Director had dangled a huge carrot in front of her. She wanted to discuss it with Chuck. But not over the phone, she wanted to see him, hold him and look into his eyes.
She knew that there was a lot that Chuck had left unsaid during their phone call. In fact, she was surprised how he'd ended the call. There had been a tinge of melancholy in his voice.
"It's late here … I'd better head off to bed, ..uhh… we're really busy at Valyrian. Reudi and I are working on a new area for us to expand the business into. I'll be waiting for you on the train platform …. Goodnight Sarah, I'm so glad you're safe … I love you."
Sarah was relieved to get out of the biting wind that was scouring the open Bahnhof Platz. People coming out of the train station were bundled up. As they came through the doors, the cold wind hit them. They lowered their heads and braced themselves as they scurried across the plaza seeking shelter from the wind.
In a far corner of Jack's Emily Summers was sitting alone.
She was dressed in cream colored jeans and what looked like a very warm green lamb's wool turtleneck. Her light auburn hair was pulled back into a swirl at the back of her head.
Emily looked up at Sarah and their eyes met.
Sarah had called Emily on her private cell number yesterday, just after she'd gotten off the phone with Chuck. Only minutes into the conversation, Sarah asked Emily if she'd seen Chuck at all over the last several months. "Yes, Sarah, I'm at Valyrian three or four times a week. I've seen a lot of Charles."
Sarah had then set up this confidential meeting and begged Emily not to tell Chuck they were getting together.
After they'd hugged and kissed each other on both cheeks, Sarah took off her ski jacket and sat down. As the waiter was taking their drink's order, Sarah was able to take a good look at Emily. She was, of course, a beautiful woman, but there was something extra. A glow that seemed to make her green eyes sparkle in the soft lighting.
Emily sipped her glass of Kir. "Welcome back to Bern Sarah, shall we switch to Russian?"
Sarah didn't waste any time on preliminaries. "Emily, how's Chuck? How come you've seen so much of him lately?"
Emily was expecting the question and she mused that Sarah was right to be worried about Charles.
"Two weeks after you left Bern, my boss at FIS agreed that I should continue to work at Valyrian as a cover job. Each week I usually spend about forty percent of my time there."
Sarah was a little surprised that the FIS weren't making better use of Emily's considerable talents as a spy. "I thought after our successful mission with the Russians that the FIS would've given you a much more exciting assignment."
Emily angled her head and looked at Sarah rather intently. "Sarah, I was happy to be assigned there. I also requested a move from being in the field. I put together a proposal for my boss, whereby I would focus on the protection and security of important dignitaries visiting Switzerland."
Sarah was still trying to figure out why Emily would ask for the change. She was younger than Sarah and was obviously brilliant as an operative in the field.
Emily paused. "The other part of my proposal was to have two trainee FIS agents at a time spend three weeks with me at Valyrian. I would complete their training on hand to hand combat skills."
Emily smiled at Sarah. "Valyrian has leased two more floors in the building. They are growing as a company. I now have my own dojo, where I hope you and I will have some fun." Sarah liked the idea of sparring with Emily. They were well matched.
Emily continued. "The FIS has established a contract with Valyrian. Reudi and Charles have been cleared to educate the trainee FIS agents on encryption, hacking, getting around firewalls and defeating building security systems.
"When I'm not at Valyrian I'm usually on close protection details for select diplomats or their families when their visiting Bern."
Emily leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. "Reudi and Charles are highly respected by the FIS and I think MI6. They won't tell me who they met with, but two weeks ago the FIS flew them over to London. It was all hush-hush.
"It's obviously something to do with computers. I've tried everything I can think of to wheedle more information out of the two of them." She grinned at Sarah. "You know how we spies hate secrets."
Emily leaned forward and said, "You know the 'old Sumerian proverb'. "What is said in secret is revealed in the women's quarters. Don't worry, I'll find out who they met up with when they went to London."
Sarah was wondering what had brought about Emily's desire to change the trajectory of her career so suddenly.
Emily's phone beeped and she looked down at the number. When she realized who was calling, a smile formed at the corners of her mouth and her eyes visibly brightened. Sarah also caught the tiny flair of her nostrils.
It was then pretty obvious to Sarah, 'my God, Emily's lover was on the phone'.
Emily excused herself and went to the front of the Brasserie to take the call. She obviously didn't want Sarah to hear who was calling. As Sarah watched, she closely observed Emily's body language. She was pacing back and forth near the entrance to the Brasserie. She touched her hair several times and laughed as she was talking with the person at the other end.
Now it all made sense, Emily Summers was in love, and it looked like she'd fallen very hard. She wondered who the lucky man was.
Unbidden, Sarah felt a growing sense of unease rise up within her. Suddenly all the pieces started to fall into place.
Emily was in love with Chuck. While Sarah had been away, Chuck had reached out and Emily had been waiting for 'Charles' so she could comfort him. Shit!
Emily came back to the table and immediately recognized the sudden change that had taken place within Sarah. Sarah's eyes were narrowed, her jaw was clenched and her posture was rigid.
A frosty air had settled over the table.
Emily knew in that moment exactly what Sarah Walker was thinking, and she wasn't about to put her mind at ease.
The truth was Emily was pissed off with Sarah Walker for leaving Charles in the lurch. The agent part of Emily could forgive Sarah, because that's what happened when you went on a mission. But the 'woman in love' part of her couldn't forgive quite so easily.
Charles had hit rock bottom when he'd come over to her place the early morning of Christmas Eve. They'd talked for three hours and Emily had let him crash on the couch.
In that instant, looking at him asleep on her couch, she made the decision that Charles would spend Christmas with her and her family.
Sarah needed to know exactly what the consequences of her actions were and who she'd hurt.
In an innocent tone Emily asked, "Sarah, is there something wrong? You seem suddenly upset?"
Sarah's temper was rising by the second. She didn't care that she was actually blushing and didn't even try to hide it.
She'd totally misread Emily Summers as a person and a former colleague. Sarah was about to unload on this Swiss 'bitch', when Emily cleared her throat.
"Sarah, that was Reudi on the phone. I'm going over to his place after we're finished. He doesn't know I'm meeting with you, I've kept our meeting secret, as you requested."
Sarah sagged in her seat and the relief that flooded her face made Emily smile. "You thought it was Charles who was calling me, didn't you?"
Sarah blushed again but ignored her jibe and her question. "So Emily, you're in love with Reudi! That's why you've restructured your job to be at Valyrian so much."
Emily laughed. "Yes, I'm in love with Reudi Vischer. God help me!
"I don't understand how I let it happen. He's an acquired taste, but once you've tasted … well." Emily leaned forward to confide some insights about Reudi with Sarah.
"You know, the man drives me crazy. He can be so 'Swiss', you know reserved, formal and proper ... like he's got a lemon shoved up his ass. And he can be such a nerd at times, especially around Chuck." Emily sat back and a smile slowly appeared.
"But most of the time he's warm, loving, insightful, brilliant and the most important thing is … he adores me."
"If I'm away from Reudi for three or four days I grow uncomfortable if we don't facetime or at least text each other. Whoever said 'love is a form of madness' knew the truth of it."
Emily reached for her glass and finished her drink.
After a moment, Sarah asked in a weak voice, "Emily, please, tell me, how's Chuck?"
Emily got the waiter's attention and ordered another Kir. Sarah asked for a single malt. Emily put both hands on top of the table as she collected her thoughts.
"Sarah, when you went dark Chuck was beside himself with anxiety. It was 'the not knowing'- if you were safe or not, that ate away at him. He reached out to me, to Reudi, to Malina, Janek and even Jacob and Anita. We've all spent time with him to keep him on an even keel."
In a whisper, Sarah said, "The mission was only supposed to take three weeks. The Director looked me in the face and told me that."
Emily pursed her lips. "Don't tell me, let me guess, the Director of the CIA lied to you. Come on Sarah, you and I both know they never tell you the full story. They only tell you what you need to know to accomplish the mission. Or even worse, they haven't got a clue themselves, so they send their little canaries into the mine … to see what will happen."
Sarah in a cautious tone asked, "Is Chuck angry at me? I mean, for being away so long?"
Emily shook her head. "Chuck's angry at the CIA. He told me once, when he'd had a little too much to drink, that he detested your former boss, who apparently died in an accident.
"I don't think he believes this new Director is much different than the one who died."
It made some sense to Sarah now why Chuck believed the Director would curtail her vacation.
Sarah took a generous sip of her single malt and felt the warmth spread through her stomach. "Emily, before I left for Bern, the Director sat me down and offered me a new job."
Emily felt sad for Sarah because here was the central dilemma for her and Chuck as a couple. What did Sarah really want to do with her life?
Sarah continued, "I have a week to think about it. I would be assistant station chief in Ankara. I'd have full diplomatic status and I would be training with one of the best case officers in the CIA. Emily, it means they're grooming me to be a station chief."
Emily reached out and touched Sarah's hand. "Sarah, congratulations, I truly mean it, and a tiny part of me is envious about what lies ahead for you."
Sarah was warmed by Emily's sincerity. "The other thing is I can take Chuck with me. The Director will make him an analyst; he'll work at the Embassy, which means there will be fewer secrets between us."
Sarah thought Emily would be excited at that piece of news.
Emily sighed, "Sarah, Chuck loves you and I'm pretty sure he'll be very tempted to follow you to Turkey. But he won't do well being hidden in your shadow. He's not the kind of man who can be Mr. Sarah Walker."
Sarah was stunned by Emily's remark. "Emily, Chuck will be a great analyst. He won't be hidden in my shadow. I think you're wrong. This is our chance to work on being a couple and to be together. It's a win-win. Can't you see that?"
Emily put her hand on the back of her neck and rubbed it. "Sarah, I've learned some things about Charles. He will ultimately survive if you make a clean break with him here and now."
Emily could see the shock register on Sarah's face at the thought of breaking up with Chuck.
Emily had her attention. "You'll have a clean slate, no one to worry about. You can go and build what will be a very successful career in the US intelligence community.
"Your leaving Chuck will cause him great pain, for a while. But all of us here will help him through the loss.
"Sarah, you are the great love of his life, so a part of him will always love you. He's an amazing man and has a huge heart. He'll eventually find someone who can make him happy.
"He'll never forget you, because you will always have a piece of his heart. But he'll move on … as will you."
Sarah felt her eyes start to mist. She wasn't expecting to hear any of this feedback from Emily.
Emily felt sorry for Sarah but needed to say what had been on her mind for weeks now. This could well be her only chance.
"If you and Chuck create your own future here or somewhere else, it will have to be a future where you're not climbing the intelligence career ladder. Then you'll both survive, no, I think you'll thrive as a couple. I envy your future together."
Sarah had crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. She was not happy with what she was hearing coming out of Emily's mouth.
"Sarah, if you try to grasp onto both your intelligence career and to a relationship with Chuck, you'll lose him for sure. It may take several years, but eventually you'll become strangers to each other. The secrets you can't share with him, the demands of job, will push you apart."
Sarah was beyond angry with Emily and her tone was scathing. "Emily, how nice it must be for you to prognosticate on how our life is going to turn out. You don't know Chuck as well as I do. You've known him for what, three, four months at most? I've known him for years."
Despite a sliver of fear at the thought of having to deal with an angry CIA agent, Emily went in for the kill.
Sarah needed to hear the truth. "You were his handler for two years. You've both told me how you hated the asset-handler relationship. That relationship was dysfunctional. It got so bad you left him to be partners with Bruce."
Sarah shot back, "It was Bryce, not Bruce, and I can't believe Chuck told you about him."
Emily's voice was now a little harsh. "You've been his real girlfriend for what, maybe five weeks and then you went away?" Emily now landed the haymaker. "I've been Charles' close friend for three months, Sarah."
Emily's temper was up because Charles was very dear to her and Reudi. "Sarah, Chuck changed when you left him for Bryce. He didn't collapse into a heap like he'd done with Jill."
Sarah couldn't believe that Chuck had shared so much with Emily.
Emily kept on. "He picked up the pieces of his life and was doing pretty well before I, much to my regret, dragged him back into the spy life.
"When you left this last time, he was expecting to see you in three weeks. But the mission always comes first. I know that. He knows that. But guess what, it still devastated him."
Sarah snarled. "That wasn't my fault."
Emily sighed. "Of course it wasn't your fault. Sarah, if you stay in the game, have you given any thought to how Chuck's going to cope every time you go away?
He'll need to create some distance between you and him in order to survive. He'll have to love you less than he does, else he'll start to self medicate his worries or simply have a nervous breakdown."
Sarah shook her head. "You're over dramatizing this. There are lots of relationships in our business that survive."
Emily shot back. "Bullshit! Notice you used the word survive. But you and I both know how high the divorce rate is for field operatives … it's 60%."
A long silence enveloped them. Sarah and Emily were looking at each other intensely. Now both women had their arms crossed.
Emily finally softened her voice. "Sarah, maybe I'm wrong. All I know is that I'm in love with Reudi.
"I know that if the FIS hadn't agreed to my requests and restructured my job, I would've quit. Remember when I told you at the chalet in Arosa about the time I fell in love with my asset? And, how I refused to go with him?
"I told you then … that I guess I didn't love him enough. Well, this time I know what I have to do, I will not lose Reudi because of the FIS."
Sarah uncrossed her arms and let them fall to her sides. She felt fatigue wash over her. Suddenly, the jetlag, the alcohol and the long mission had gotten to her. But this conversation with Emily had drained the last bit of energy she had left.
"Emily, I can tell you this. You'll understand, you've been there and done that. The last eight weeks I almost didn't make it. I was more distracted on this mission then I can ever remember.
"I tried to focus only on the mission and put my thoughts and feelings about Chuck in the back of my mind. You know, compartmentalize your thoughts and bring them out when the mission is finished. That's what they teach us. But every time there was a lull, I could think only of him."
Emily leaned forward. "Sarah, one last piece of advice and then I'll shut up. Don't lie to Chuck. You're here now and his flat is only 15 minutes away. Go to him and start the healing process between the two of you.
"Sarah, he's a much more confident man when you're by his side."
Emily thought for a moment and made a decision on the spot. "Oh, I might as well tell you this, so if Chuck decides to tell you the news … act surprised. Today, Reudi invited Chuck to become a partner in Valyrian. Chuck has two days to make his decision."
They both stood up and Sarah gave Emily a quick hug. "I'm not sure if I'm really angry at you or grateful, say Hi to Reudi for me. He's a lucky man."
Emily walked with Sarah to the door. They bundled up preparing to face the bitter cold. Emily turned towards her, "Sarah, do you want me to drop you off at Chuck's flat or at a hotel?"
Sarah hesitated for all of two heartbeats. "Drop me off at Chuck's flat."
February 25th, 2011- 8:20pm- Chuck's Flat, Lorrainestrasse 6,- Bern
There were exactly 55 steps to climb in order to get to Chuck's flat on the fourth floor.
Sarah counted each one of them, and after each step wanted to turn around. She was exhausted and nervous that Chuck would be different. Maybe he'd be more cautious around her. Maybe Emily was right that Chuck would have to somehow love her less in order for him to survive when she was away on missions.
Her 'flight' response was in high gear.
Emily hadn't pulled any of her punches with Sarah, and they had left their mark.
As she reached the fourth floor, she automatically headed for the wrought iron table in the hallway to get Chuck's spare key. She stopped herself and instead went and stood in front of the door.
She was frozen in place. Twice she had raised her hand to knock but jerked it back each time.
She had no energy to deal with all the thoughts racing around in her head. Sarah took two deep breaths and reminded herself that she had committed to being Chuck's girlfriend for a year, come hell or high water. She knocked twice, loudly.
Chuck was in the middle of cleaning the flat in preparation for Sarah's homecoming tomorrow. He was about to put fresh linens on the bed.
Ever since he'd gotten home from work, he'd scoured and cleaned every inch of his tiny flat.
He wanted everything to be perfect for Sarah. He was grateful she was safe and thrilled she was coming back to him. They had so much to talk about. He had special news to share with her about his work.
The odd thing was that Chuck's flat was already spotless; his latest binge of cleaning and scrubbing was a release for him and also served as a distraction. He'd needed a lot of distractions to get through the last eight weeks. Thank God he had his work and friends.
Chuck had yellow latex gloves on his hands and he was wearing an old T-shirt and tattered jeans. He was holding a wet sponge in his left hand when he opened the door.
Sarah looked at Chuck and burst out laughing. "Chuck, isn't this is a little bit early for spring cleaning, I mean it's freezing out there."
Chuck said only one word. "Sarah!"
He dropped the sponge and lunged at her. He almost crushed her in his bear like hug. Her bag fell from her grasp to the floor with a thud.
Sarah hugged him back with all her strength. As they kissed, Chuck picked her up until her feet were dangling in the air and somehow managed to close the front door all in the same motion.
As they came up for air, Chuck said, "What happened, I thought you were coming home tomorrow?"
Sarah kissed him again long and hard and finally managed to mumble. "Surprise!"
At that moment Sarah wanted him in the bedroom. As she kissed him she slowly maneuvered him into the bedroom and then stopped short in her tracks.
The bed needed to be made up, it had been stripped bare. She looked at Chuck. "Sarah, I was expecting you tomorrow."
Their first act together as a couple, after being apart for three months, was to put fresh linens on the bed and a new cover on the duvet.
Chuck kept smiling at her and she couldn't stop smiling at him as they raced to get the bed made up. The anticipation of being with each other built up quickly and Sarah felt the temperature in the room rise.
She had a tiny revelation. Who would've thought that the mundane act of making up a bed with Chuck could be so damn exciting?
Once they put the duvet on the bed Chuck turned off the lights. They met at the foot of the bed.
Sarah was still asleep when Chuck tried to slip out of bed. He'd moved only a couple of inches when a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Sarah's strength always caught Chuck unawares. He looked down at her and smiled.
"Chuck,... where … where are you going …don't leave me." Sarah was still half asleep but wasn't about to let him slip away from her grasp.
Chuck leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips. "I'll be right back, I need to get our breakfast and some food in the house. You came early, so unless you want to just make love and not eat ...?"
Sarah gave Chuck a sleepy smile and closed her eyes. "Okay, get food, we need food for energy … then ...more love…" Chuck carefully tucked the duvet around her. She gave him one more tired smile and quickly went back to sleep.
She woke up an hour later. This time she was refreshed and grabbed Chuck's housecoat. She went and retrieved her carryon from the hallway and took it over to the closet.
She noticed that Chuck had filled her half of the closet with his things. There was no space in the closet for her stuff. What the hell?
Sarah knew full well that she'd never used the space Chuck had made for her .. but .. still .. for him to take it back? She was surprised how much that upset her. She glanced at the side table on Chuck's side of the bed and was relieved to see the framed picture of them was still there.
Chuck hadn't given up on her.
Sarah went into the kitchen and started looking for the miniature hour glass. She had a lot of things to share with Chuck. As she looked for the hour glass she remembered her insight at the chalet in Arosa.
Chuck was the magical door to another life. So why was she frozen in place at the threshold, part of her looking through the door and longing for what was on the other side.
And why was the other part of her looking back. If she looked back then she saw the familiar. It had its own attractions and they weren't trivial.
Kajetan had been correct 'the great game of espionage' was thrilling. And she was so very good at playing that game. It was at that moment that Emily's words resonated with her and an image emerged in Sarah's mind.
It was an image of her dressed in her black tactical gear. She was ready to head out on another mission. In her left hand she was holding her Smith & Weston down by her side. And she was holding her right hand out to Chuck, who was standing at the entrance.
It was a doorway that led into her world. She was inviting him into her life and beckoning him to cross the threshold. Chuck's brown eyes were hesitant and doubtful.
The image lingered, and deep in her heart she finally realized that there was nothing magical about her life. Emily had been right, Chuck would wither as a person if he spent too much time in Agent Sarah Walker's world.
When Sarah opened her eyes a smile slowly spread across her face until she was beaming. A tiny tumbler in her mind had finally turned and unlocked an insight. That insight linked her mind with her soul.
She now knew what she wanted to do. Where the hell was Chuck! She was now desperate to talk with him, and she was famished.
Chuck came up the four flights of stairs having lugged up the two large bags of groceries and some chocolate croissants for their breakfast. His hands were full, so he bumped his head against the door twice. Seconds later the door flew open.
A beaming sleep tussled blonde Amazon moved in close and put her warm hands around his neck and gave him a very warm and wet kiss.
Chuck literally had his hands full but was able to say, "Hmmph … I could kiss you better if my arms weren't full."
Sarah laughed, patted him on the chest and grabbed one of the bags off him. They walked together into the kitchen arm in arm.
Sarah tugged on Chuck's arm, "Chuck, where the hell did you put that miniature hour glass? I have a lot of important things to share with you."
February 27th, 2011- 8:00am – On the road, North West of Zurich
Sarah had rented a Porsche 911 for the week. At the moment she was happier than she'd ever remember being. She was with the man she loved and she was barreling along an Autobahn with no speed limit, who wouldn't be happy.
She had her right hand resting on Chuck's thigh and was listening to Chuck update her on Ellie, Devon and Morgan. She kept stealing glances at him and smiled to herself at the decisions they'd made yesterday.
Sarah was only half listening to Chuck, while she reflected on the last two days. It had been a momentous forty-eight hours for her, for Chuck, for them.
Chuck had eventually found the miniature hour glass and after breakfast Sarah sat him down and started to share with him. She would do five minutes and and hand the hour glass to him, then Chuck would talk for five minutes.
They shared like this for two hours. As time went on, Chuck became more relaxed and he started to look at her a certain way. Sarah caught his change of mood and she then arched an eyebrow and gently ran her index finger across her bottom lip.
She saw Chuck's pupils widen. With her left hand she reached across the table and touched his hand. And before too long they were back in the bedroom.
Later, over a lamb dinner that Chuck made for their supper, Sarah sheepishly told him that she'd met with Emily before seeing him. He wasn't exactly angry with her, but she could tell the deceit had hurt him.
Sarah had apologized to him for the deceit and vowed to herself, she'd make it up to him a thousand fold.
She couldn't talk about the mission but she did let Chuck know that she was exhausted and had made the decision to get out of the field.
After supper, Sarah shared with Chuck that she was going to put in for a transfer to the DSS, the Diplomatic Security Service, and request to be stationed in Bern, she saw him smile from ear to ear.
Chuck asked her, "How likely is it ...I mean … that you'll get into the DSS and be posted to Bern?"
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. "I'll call in every favor that's owed to me. I'll ask Emily, the FIS and Kajetan to put in a good word for me. At the end of the day, if they say no …well, you'll have to feed me for a while until I figure out what I'm going to do and where I'm going to work."
Sarah zoned back into Chuck talking about Devon. Her mind drifted again and she remembered her exact words to him last night. "We need time for us, we need to make Chuck and Sarah the number one priority."
What pleased Sarah the most was that Chuck had shared with her Reudi's offer for him to become a partner. He was over the moon with excitement.
But there was a fly in the ointment.
To become a full partner in Valyrian Chuck would have to put 'equity' into the business. Sarah asked how much. Chuck mumbled, "Oh, 400,000 Swiss Francs."
Chuck listed it out for her. "Well, with the money that Beckman gave me and what I've been able to save. I've got 100,000 Swiss Francs in the bank. So, I still have to come up with another 300,000. I can't ask Ellie and Devon because they've just bought a new home. I don't think my dad has any free cash. So, I've got to go and talk to a Swiss Banker. I'm not a citizen, so it may be tricky."
Sarah had listened carefully as Chuck talked about this amazing opportunity. In many ways she knew that this had been his dream when he was in Stanford, before Bryce got him kicked out.
That's when Sarah had looked at him and said one word. "Lichtenstein."
Chuck blinked a couple of times. "Sarah, you're not suggesting we set up a con to raise the money … I mean … you're joking .. right?"
Sarah laughed and shook her head. "No, Chuck not 'a' Lichtenstein …I need you to come with me 'to' Lichtenstein. You know the tiny little country between Germany and Switzerland."
February 27th, 2011- 11:30am – Lambda Privatbank, Lichtenstein
The unctuous banker in the grey suit backed out of the door and finally left them alone in a darkly paneled private room. There was no surveillance, but Sarah pulled out a tiny cube and switched it on. Thereby ensuring their privacy.
Chuck was sitting beside Sarah as she touched the safety deposit box in front of them.
"Chuck, during my second year on the job, an older agent, whom I greatly respected, took me aside and explained that any field agent worth their salt had better prepare for the worst case scenario. That scenario is when you as a spy might truly be 'out in the cold'. When that day comes, you'd better have a place to go and money to speed you on your way."
Chuck had been in a bit of a trance since they'd crossed the border into Lichtenstein and then walked into the bank. It felt like he was actually living in a 'Bourne' movie and Sarah Walker was Jason Bourne.
Sarah opened the bank box and emptied the contents onto the table.
He ignored the Beretta and spare magazine that thudded on the table. The thing that caught his eye were two passports with his picture in them and four other passports with Sarah's picture inside.
Sarah smiled. "Chuck, I had these made up for you just after Agent Longshore almost put you in a bunker. I almost lost you then and I swore, in that moment, that I was never going to let them do that to you, ever."
Chuck felt a lump grow in his throat. He loved this incredibly complex but amazing woman so much. He rested his hand on her shoulder and looked down at the passports.
The memory of almost losing Chuck to a bunker lingered and kept her from speaking. She took a minute to compose herself. "Chuck, I've got three different currencies here, but I think it totals to about 325,000 Swiss Francs."
She reached up and caressed his cheek with her hand.
"You don't need to talk to any 'stinking' Swiss Banker."
She smiled at him and her blue eyes were still moist. "I want to give this to you. And by the way, this is all my money. It's legit. I earned it the hard way, eight long years, plus some good investment advice from a Scottish Banker, named Hamish Menzies … well I'll tell you about him … another time. "
Chuck was speechless but was finally able to talk. He shocked Sarah when he said, "Sarah, this is your money, I can't possibly take this from you. I wouldn't feel right taking money from my girlfriend."
Sarah was about to argue with him when he put his hand on top of hers.
Chuck had a twinkle in his eye. "I know this isn't exactly the most romantic place, unless maybe you're an accountant …But what I was going to say … is .. it might be okay if my fiancé was gifting me this money in order to build our future together ….that might be okay."
Sarah cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "Chuck, did you just …. I can't believe it …. did you just propose to me in a dimly lit bank vault buried three stories underground?"
Chuck gave a nervous laugh. "Ahhh, no, of course not …don't be silly … because …. that wouldn't be very romantic. Would it?"
"No, Chuck, it wouldn't be remotely romantic. There isn't a woman on this entire planet who would possibly entertain such a proposal."
A pause ensued and then a smile started to play at the corners of her mouth.
"But there is an intimate little restaurant across the street and a hotel right beside it. You might have better luck over there."
A/N- I was going to end the story here. But michaelfmx thinks there is still work to be done in this story. Always listen to your editor! Based on his sagacious advice, there will be a chapter 12 dealing with Sarah and Ellie and then a small epilogue.