A/N It's hard to say goodbye. Didn't plan even to start this until next week, then it came to me in a flash.
Don't own Chuck.
Postlude: The Prose of the World
Two Years Later
Given the contorted position of her body, Sarah could see just enough of the window to look at the sky—dark, starry. She had lost track of time—the exhaustion and the pain combined with her emotional upheaval made every moment seem eternal, and every eternity a moment. Time grew and shrank, and grew and shrank. She could not keep it.
There was a clock on the wall, but it was not working. Its battery must have been nearly dead: its red second hand kept trying to tick, but it could not move past the little line that marked three minutes after the hour. It was stuck, fretting uselessly but unmoving—a first-time hurdler terrified before a high hurdle.
It had been 6:03 forever; it had never yet been 6:03.
Chuck was bent over her, his eyes a bustling brown paisley of worry and doubt and excitement. He reached out to brush her sweat-soaked bangs off her forehead. He was searching out her eyes, but he kept checking where her hands were. The red welt and bluing bruise on his cheek told the story of why. She had hit him—hard. She hated that she had done that—but he'd been reciting some nonsense rhyme by Nash he'd read when a boy (to her, Chuck's memory was almost always a blessing—but sometimes not). He'd told her its title was "The Grackle":
The grackle's voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
Sarah had been ok—she'd even laughed a bit as the poem started, but then, a sudden searing pain gripped her, like her abdomen was trying to squeeze her body into two separate parts, and she'd suddenly been so mad at him for doing this to her, that her hand whipped out and knocked him flat right on 'debacle'.
"I'll attack you in the rear!" she'd threatened. "You did this to me!"
Poor Chuck. He'd sat on the floor rubbing his jaw while the doctors and nurses rushed from her to him. But he hadn't been angry, not even embarrassed. He stood up with a little help, weaved a little in place, and then smiled at her.
"You know, every now and then, I forget that you belong to Shakespeare's guard of honor…"
Sarah had been confused—and she had started to get mad again. But Chuck stepped toward her, although staying out of her reach, hands up, a supplicant. He'd offered an explanation: "'They that have the power to hurt but will do none…' It's the opening line of Sonnet 94…But will do none usually, I guess." He'd used his hand to swing his jaw from side to side gingerly.
"Oh, Chuck, I love you, and I am very, very sorry, but no more—who was that, Ogden Nash?—I am trying to have our baby."
Chuck had beamed at her, the punch immediately forgotten. "I know. Sorry. I was just trying to distract you. Wrong tactic, I guess."
"Well, wrong poem, anyway." She had felt embarrassed, contrite. She noticed that the medical staff was glancing at her hands too.
Great, she'd thought, now everyone in the room is afraid of the woman in labor.
Sarah had no idea labor would be so laborious. She'd expected pain. She'd gone through years of training herself to ignore pain, so she hadn't been dreading that part too much. But there was so much pain and it was so different from anything she'd ever faced, so all-consuming. And it was so much work. Her body was doing something possible and impossible all at the same time. She wanted to tell the doctor they weren't contractions, they were damn contradictions.
She'd been in labor over 28 hours. The problem, the doctor told her, was that she was dilating so slowly.
He asked about how she felt—not physically, but emotionally. She told him: "More excited and more terrified, both, than I have ever been in my life." He'd nodded and told her that her emotions had created a physical stasis—her body was trying to have the baby and not to have it too. See, I told you, contradictions. But he'd patted her arm and told her this was not uncommon with first babies. She just needed to get her mind on something else.
That was when Chuck had launched into Nash.
She looked at her husband and felt love for him tsunami over her. She started to cry. She looked up into his eyes and kissed his hand.
"Chuck, sweetheart, I am so sorry. I really love you—all my heart, to the core. We did this to me, to us. I wanted this—I want this so much. The last nine months, this life inside me, this peanut growing and moving, it's been the most amazing thing...
"Thank you for it. Don't hold…the punch against me, please."
Chuck grinned at her and stepped away. He grabbed a chair from against the wall, pulled it toward her—but not too close—and he sat down.
"So, I talked to Mom. She said she will be back in a little while. Today is one of Dad's good days and he won't leave her alone about the baby. He wants to be here. He's like a kid on Christmas, she said."
Sarah felt warmth syrup through her, slowly, head to toe. Grandpa. Grandma.
Chuck looked at his watch. "I expect them in the next little while."
"What about Ellie and Devon?"
Chuck had gone out to get a cup of coffee earlier and had sought out his sister. He found her in her lab. Devon was there too.
Devon had just made a comment about getting Ellie a new lab coat, since the one she was wearing was inadequate to cover her belly.
"You know, Devon, instead of smirking at my belly, you could help me get these reports done so that we can be ready to go and see Sarah and the baby when it arrives. Have you finished rounds?"
Devon grinned. "Done, babe. Nothing on the agenda but you," he reached out to put his hand on her belly, "this little one still traveling, and the one about to arrive." He gave Ellie a kiss, and she drew him closer and deepened it for a moment. When he stepped back he looked pleased and dazed. "Awesome…"
"Ahem! Hey, guys. The doctor told me that he thinks it won't be too long now. Just wanted to give you the heads-up, oh, and grab some coffee." Chuck held up the steaming cup.
"We'll be there, brother-of-mine, don't worry. I haven't been able to concentrate all day. Sarah's ok?"
"She'd getting frustrated—which probably isn't helping. I've been trying to distract her…"
"Chuck…" Ellie began, a warning tone in her voice.
"No, no, sis. I've been careful. No comic book readings-aloud. No playing of Arcade Fire deep cuts. I was thinking maybe I could recite a poem or something…"
"Chuck, I know you forget nothing, and I know you worship that woman, but re-think your strategy. Just be there for her, make sure she knows how excited you are—but don't put any pressure on her. She's put enough on herself. I've never seen anyone who wanted to be a mom so bad who was also so worried about being one."
"She'll be great," Devon boomed, although he did not mean to be talking loudly. He heard his own voice and looked chagrined as he continued, lowering his volume, "I mean she was Teacher of the Year at the Early Education Center. Those kids love her and she loves them. She's patient and kind and clever. She's brimming with love. Why's she worried?"
"She's not. And she is." Chuck said, thinking. "She knows she is different, that she found herself. She's been so happy. We've been so happy. But she knows who she was for a long time…I guess she worries that some night Agent Walker will steal into the house and, clandestinely, replace her, send Sarah away into a dark oblivion, turn me back into an asset…"
Ellie had walked close to Chuck as he said this, and she hugged him. "It's ok, Chuck. You aren't worried about that, are you."
He brightened, shook off the chill that gripped him for a moment. "No, really, I'm not. But I try hard to imagine it from Sarah's perspective, to make sure I understand why she is worried about it, what the worry is. And, anyway, I don't mean she worries about this all the time or anything. No, nothing like that. I guess it's her form of The Dark Night of the Soul. But I do think she's worried more as the due date's gotten nearer."
Ellie nodded. "Well, almost every woman has these moments as things get near," she glanced down at herself, a confession, "it's not surprising that Sarah's would take that form. She is happy, Chuck. A little deliriously so most of the time. It's almost unnerving. Don't worry. Speaking of which, you'd better get back, or she will become unhappy."
Chuck looked at his watch and winced. "Right, right. So, you guys will be there soon?"
"Um, Ellie," Devon started, "are you sure its ok for a pregnant woman to be in the room with a woman giving birth?"
Ellie looked at him—lost.
"I mean couldn't you get that sympathy pregnancy thingy?"
"Devon, aren't you a cardiologist? Men get sympathy pregnancy. I am really pregnant. You were, um, there when it happened, remember?"
Ellie turned from Devon, shaking her head. "Chuck, get going." He started to leave the lab. "Wait, Chuck. No poetry."
"Really, not even a short one, maybe a nonsense poem? Ogden Nash, maybe? I'm just so happy!"
Devon spoke as Ellie drew out Chuck's name. "Dude, that woman'll hit you!"
From his chair, Chuck piped up. "Oh, I called Casey, too. He made me promise to deliver a message verbatim: "'Oorah, Sarah!'"
Sarah started to giggle just as the next contraction arrived. Blinding pain. The doctor told her she had finally dilated enough—things were starting to get serious.
Starting to? Hell.
She looked at Chuck as the contraction ended. "Are he and Ilsa still planning to come to town?" She was trying to keep her mind occupied—her body certainly was.
"Yeah, this weekend. Casey rotates off at the base for a few days, and Ilsa's classes at UCSD are Tuesday, Thursday, so they'll be here sometime Thursday night, looks like."
She was trying to relax, trying to ignore the doctor and the nurse. She closed her eyes.
Casey and Ilsa. Together. The thought made her happy, helped her relax.
Thinking of couples brought Stephen and Frost to her mind, their odd, strobe-light life, with Stephen's good days and bad days. Luckily, the bad days weren't bad—except in a comparative sense.
On the bad days, Stephen just forgot that it wasn't long ago, forgot that son and daughter were now adults. He was normally cheerful on those days, if foggy, although his anxiety about Frost's next mission—he always thought there would be one, because there always had been one for so long—sometimes made him peevish. But that usually passed with a little reassurance from Frost.
The one thing that was common to his good and bad days was his love for his wife and his children. While it was sometimes confused, it never waned. Sarah knew that Chuck had inherited his gift for loving largely from Stephen. But Frost had contributed to it too.
Frost had worked hard, if mostly silently, to repair her relationship with Chuck. She did it as much as anything by spending time with him and with Sarah. Although there were a few times when Sarah was tempted to strangle her (Frost's penchant for somehow always knowing things could be a trial, like when Sarah and Chuck had a disagreement, or when Sarah had first gotten pregnant), for the most part, she found her friendship with her mother-in-law a blessing. And it turned out that what Chuck needed most from his mom what was she was giving him. Time.
Frost was actually the one who brought Sarah to the hospital. They hadn't expected the baby for a few more days. Chuck was splitting time between The Clown School and RI—and he'd been in the lab at RI.
Julie had come to the apartment a few days after Chuck and Sarah got back from their honeymoon. She had kept in touch with them, and had attended the wedding.
Julie had started by facing Sarah. "So, Sarah, if Chuck is interested, and if you are ok with it, I'd like to offer Chuck a job at RI. I would like him to work in Research and Development, but freelance, as it were." She rotated in her chair toward Chuck. "I know how creative you are, Chuck, how gifted. I'll pay you to think and tinker, basically, although anything you create will ultimately be RI's, I will pay you well to do it, and make sure you get both credit for whatever you invent, and a share of any profits it generates. And, keep in mind, you won't be working with me, but for me. We may see each other once in a while, since I will be around, and I hope Sarah won't mind that, but I want you to work for me, Chuck, and I would like us," she looked earnestly at Sarah, "all of us, to be friends."
Chuck had looked at Sarah and she'd taken his hand, squeezed it, and nodded. He grinned at her and then at Julie. "It's a deal."
The arrangement worked out. They had all become friends. Julie often invited them to the fancy RI shindigs, giving Sarah and Chuck a chance to dress up and hobnob with the champagne set. Sarah loved it since she loved Chuck in a tux.
And, it turned out, Chuck and Julie saw each other at work infrequently. Her calendar was normally full to bursting, and Chuck often worked from home, sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil, eraser, graph paper, and muttering to himself.
They'd managed to time Sarah's pregnancy so that her due date was during the summer, when she did not teach. With some help from Beckman, Sarah had truncated the time it took her to get her teaching certificate. Oddly enough, it had been Chris Parks who'd helped get Sarah her position at The Early Education Center.
Sarah had run into Parks on the street in DC. Sarah and Chuck were in town, making sure that their belongings got safely packed and shipped to California. Sarah was running errands and looked up into Chris' face.
Sarah almost hadn't recognized her. The exhaustion and unhappiness that had muted her attractiveness in Romney were wholly gone. She looked good.
"Sarah? Sarah Walker?"
"Yes, it's me. How are you, Chris? You look terrific!"
"Thanks, Sarah. I feel pretty terrific. I'm working as a translator in town. I like the work. Fewer…scopes…if you know what I mean." Sarah gave a quick nod. "I met a man, a diplomat from Australia…It's still new, but it's good, you know?"
"Yes," Sarah offered softly, "I do."
"What about you—and Chuck?"
"We've left the CIA. We're relocating to LA. We're getting married, Chris." Sarah could hear the thrill in her voice as she said it, and hoped Chris wouldn't take it the wrong way.
She didn't. To Sarah's surprise, Chris hugged her, hard. "Good for you, Sarah! And good for Chuck! I have been pulling for you two."
Chris released the hug but stayed close to Sarah. "Too bad and not too bad—what happened to Graham, huh?"
"Yes, I guess. I mean I didn't want him dead, especially not that way, but I can't say I mourned his passing."
"No one did," Chris offered, her voice quiet. "I actually went to the funeral. Other than some politicians there to be seen doing their duty, I was almost half the people present. Fitting, I guess. He sent so many of us to unmarked, unmourned graves…
"Is civilian life agreeing with you, Sarah?" Parks spoke up as she changed topics.
"Yes, it is. I'm thinking about becoming a teacher, maybe a kindergarten teacher."
"Wait. And you are in LA? My uncle, my dad's brother, is the principal at a school there…in Burbank, I think."
"That's where we are!"
"Well, when you are ready to look for work, let me know. I'll call him. He always doted on me. Never had kids of his own. Too busy raising the kids of others, he always said."
"Not a problem. I hope everything works out—for both of us."
While they were in DC, Sarah and Chuck had gone out a couple of times with Carina and Martin. Martin had headed back to DC because of work, and Carina had followed as soon as she could. She'd recovered almost completely from her wounds, although she was still limping. But the therapist told her that was likely to go away as she got stronger.
Carina had admitted before she left that she and Martin were…dating. But that was all she would say. Sarah knew for a fact that soon after Carina had returned to DC, they were dating exclusively, although Carina would never admit to it. But the decisive give-away was her behavior at the club they all went to one night.
Carina normally danced for every man in the house—and then she chose her favorite among the willing sacrifices her dancing created. But on that night, she had danced for Martin, and with him. And she had seemed as much his willing sacrifice as he had seemed hers. Sarah wasn't absolutely sure it would work out—Carina was, after all, mercurial.
But two brushes with death, the last one much more than a brush, really, had changed her. She was no longer as spendthrift with her…affections…or her life. Martin, for his part, was a goner—hook, line, and redhead. He'd follow her to the ends of the earth, if she was going that far. Sarah suspected Carina wasn't. She suspected Carina was interested in sticking closer to…home.
The suspicion proved to be right. Carina was still dating Martin exclusively, but she still would not admit it.
Sarah fell back against the pillows in relieved, utterly happy exhaustion. A girl. Healthy, ten fingers, ten toes, a tuft of dark brown hair and eyes so intensely blue and captivating they seemed electromagnetized. Chuck was over by the baby's bed, holding her. His dad was looking down at her. Frost was standing next to Sarah, smiling, dividing her attention between Dad and Grandad, and Sarah. She was holding Sarah's hand.
Ellie was talking to one of the nurses, making sure everything was done correctly for her niece. Devon just kept muttering "Awesome!" to himself.
Sarah's mom was on Sarah's other side, Molly on her lap, and Emma reached out to touch Sarah's face gently. "I love you, Sarah, and I love that little one. She's so beautiful it makes my chest hurt to look at her."
Sarah smiled, the tears that had been coming and going since the birth coming again. "Thanks, Mom." Sarah grinned at Molly. "Guess who is an Auntie!" Molly grinned back at her, not fully understanding, but responding to the happiness that warmed and filled the room.
Chuck's phone vibrated in his pocket. He carried the little girl to Sarah and handed her over reverently. "Here she is, Mom." His look at Sarah thieved her breath. He stepped away and answered the phone.
Sarah's heart had been full—it was now running over. "C'mere, baby girl."
"So," Frost asked, "what's my granddaughter's name?"
Sarah frowned slightly. She looked at Chuck, talking on the phone. "We still haven't decided."
Chuck stepped toward her, extending the phone. "It's Jan and Liz. Liz is on. She says she has some suggestions for little Carmichael's name…" Chuck's eyes had gotten big. Nearly two years later, and Chuck had still not recovered from Liz and Carina's tag-team toast at the wedding.
As Sarah took the phone, she heard her mom ask Frost, "How did Chuck get that bruise?"
Final A/N Thanks, again, everyone. I have enjoyed writing here, writing for all of you. Parting thought or comment? Drop me a review or PM. See ya 'round!