Title: Keep Me In Your Thoughts (6/6)
Series Title: Five Times Chuck and Sarah share a bed for their cover (and one time they just do)
Pairing/Characters: Chuck/Sarah, minor appearances by Ellie et all
Word Count: 3090
Summary: He imagines her in all sorts of situations in all parts of the world but always falls asleep thinking about how she had looked that last morning, sleep mussed and groggy in his bed
Spoilers/Warnings: up to 1x11: Chuck vs. the Crown Vic
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to NBC.I'm just playing during the writers' strike.
Author's Notes: This is the final chapter of my short story. I'm sorry this is delayed – I had the stomach flu earlier this week and was unable to do anything but lie in my bed. I hope everyone had as much fun reading this as I did writing – as always, thank you for the kind reviews and words everyone has left!!
The first date Chuck goes on after Sarah leaves is with a short, auburn haired doctor that Ellie sets him up with. Lauren is willing to share stories about her life, she has a wildly inappropriate but extremely hilarious sense of humor, and they have similar taste in music. During the course of the date, Lauren does not pull a gun on him, she does not instruct him not to freak out, and she does not use the words cover, Intersect, or government.
Chuck does not call her for a second date.
He tells Ellie it's too soon when she presses. She wonders when it won't be too soon and Chuck shrugs, afraid of the answer.
Chuck spends most of the next year not dating. Instead, he channels all of his bitterness, frustration, and loneliness into writing, coding, and perfecting a new video game. Morgan helps him, a little, but it's mainly Chuck.
His video game has a very familiar premise: an unsuspecting guy becomes a keeper of government secrets and has to help defend the country in various missions. Each level is a different mission, most of them ridiculous and absurd and yes, there are ninjas, and even though it's crude and unfinanced, Chuck knows it's good.
Due to the nature of his video game, it's no surprise that Chuck also spends a significant portion of the year daydreaming about Sarah. He wonders if she's involved in the government coup in South America, if she's cozying up to Spanish ministers, if she ever met up with Bryce again. (Sometimes, he wonders if he ever crosses her mind but that proves to be the most frustrating of all his daydreams so he tries to avoid it if possible.) He imagines her in all sorts of situations in all parts of the world but always falls asleep thinking about how she had looked that last morning, sleep mussed and groggy in his bed.
Chuck isn't sure exactly how it happens – there's a "I know a guy who knows a guy" from a very grateful customer at the Buy More and some of him stressing that the package is very important to the post office woman and lots and lots of obsessing over an answer – but somehow, he receives an invite to pitch his game to a video game conference in Washington DC. Chuck accepts, obviously, very aware that this is not how video games get developed and when he hangs up the phone he has no idea how he went from being the Intersect to a video game developer in the span of a year.
There aren't that many meetings so it's basically a paid three-day vacation for Chuck and Ellie, Awesome, Morgan, and Anna decide to tag along because Ellie's never seen the Atlantic Ocean and Morgan wants to bask in the "sure success" of "their" video game, even though all Morgan ever did was test out the coding and comment about how the blonde agent sort of looked like Sarah.
As is her nature, Ellie spends days researching tourist attractions and planning out their mini-vacation to the minute. "There's a lot to do in the nation's capital," she reminds them sternly when they laugh at the schedule she hands them, "and we don't want to waste unnecessary time."
Chuck has a meeting Saturday morning but he joins the group in the afternoon. They have a light lunch and then head to the Mall, enjoying the warm April sunshine that's really no different from California but it feels different because it's vacation sunshine. Everyone's in jeans and t-shirts and Chuck has a giant map he's wrestling with since Ellie may be the planner of the group but he's the only one who can actually read a map well enough to navigate them.
He's sort of zoned out of the conversation as he tries to figure out how to get from the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian until Ellie turns back to Chuck, a frown on her pretty face. "Chuck, I thought you said – that looks like – it couldn't be, right?"
Chuck looks up from the map. "Uh, what?"
But Ellie's already turned around and jogged away from the group. "Sarah!" she yells and with one simple word, Chuck's whole world shifts. In that moment, everything becomes crystal clear and not clear at all, and even as his head feels light and his lungs tighten and his stomach bottoms out so quickly it's like he's on a roller coaster, even as all of this is happening, he zooms in on the blonde head in the crowd that pauses and tentatively starts to look around. He literally stops breathing when the blonde turns and the light illuminates her face. For one split second, Chuck thinks he might pass out or throw up or, worst of all, cry.
Ellie catches up to her and gives her a big hug. "Sarah, hi!"
Sarah is thrown off guard and dazed as she hugs Ellie back. She's been in the country for all of twenty hours, is enjoying the sunshine and the animosity of DC before she has to go back under, and the last thing she expected was to be hugged by Ellie Bartowski in the middle of the Mall (what the hell is Ellie Bartowski doing here, anyway?) She hopes her smile doesn't look as confused as she feels. "Ellie, hi!"
"Chuck said you wouldn't be in DC this weekend, what a surprise! And, oh, I am so glad your mother is doing better," Ellie beams. She hasn't let go of Sarah's arm, which is good because Sarah's torn between staying and running. In the end, Sarah settles for searching the crowd for Chuck. Chuck has to be here, right? It would be a cruel, cruel world for her to run into Ellie and have Chuck still be 3000 miles away.
When she finds nothing, Sarah forces herself to ignore her disappointment and turn her attention back to Ellie. "Well, that makes two of us that are surprised," she teases, trying to divert the conversation off herself. Sarah realizes that Chuck must be pretending to have kept in contact with her so Ellie wouldn't be suspicious of their break-up. It's just like Chuck, to still be covering for her after all these months. She's not sure if it's pathetic or romantic. She also has no idea what he's told her, what stories he's been relaying. Sarah throws caution to the wind as she places a hand on the small bump on Ellie's midsection and hopes this isn't something Chuck was supposed to relay. "Chuck certainly has not mentioned this."
Ellie beams at her, her happiness radiating outward. "I'm eighteen weeks along. We just started telling people."
Sarah impulsively gives Ellie another hug. "Well, congratulations." When she pulls back, there are familiar faces behind Ellie. Everyone looks the same: Morgan's grinning like a fool, Awesome looks mildly surprised but not unpleasantly so, Anna is wearing far too much eye makeup and holding Morgan's hand tightly, and then there is Chuck. Her breath catches and all she can do is to stare at him. She's conditioned herself to think that she'd never see him again, she can't believe he's right in front of her. Chuck looks just as stunned as she does.
"We're going to the Washington Monument," Ellie tells her as Sarah hugs Awesome and Morgan and even Anna hello. She pauses in front of Chuck and they simply look at each other, the air thick with words they don't know how to say. Sarah realizes after a moment that Ellie is expecting a response.
Chuck answers for her and his voice is so familiar, even after all this time, that Sarah closes her eyes and lets it melt over her. His voice has featured so prominently in so many of her dreams this past year, it's hard to convince herself that this is not one of them. "Do you mind if we sit this one out?"
"Not at all," Ellie says and even her voice is almost bubbling over with excitement at their reunion. Sarah keeps her eyes closed until the sounds of their footsteps fades away and all she can hear is the quiet of Chuck's breathing.
Chuck leads her to a bench and sits as far from her as humanly possible. There's a heavy silence and the air holds a palpable tension. There's so much they both want to say to each other, finding a start point seems impossible. Sarah fiddles with her hands. "How – how have you been?" Chuck asks finally and he winces at what a terrible question it is.
"Fine," Sarah says but means awful, I'm miserable without you, I hate all my assignments since I left you, I don't understand what kind of girl I've become. Sarah's always been strong and independent and no assignment, no person, has ever affected her so much. She's done her duty this past year, going to South America and Europe and New Jersey and wherever else the government needs her to but her heart has never left LA. It's extremely out of character for her and its unnerving but it's been a year and nothing's changed. "What are you doing here in DC?"
Chuck explains about the video game and the conference and Sarah laughs when he's done. "The premise sounds familiar," she teases but it misses its mark and Chuck bristles.
"I cleared it with Director Graham," he says defensively.
"Yeah, he's called a few times over the year, to check up on me. I'm sure they've kept tabs on me too, or at least sent agents into the Buy More, to make sure I don't have the secrets in my head anymore." Sarah's surprised, she didn't know anyone was still in touch with Chuck. "Do you ever see Casey?"
Sarah shakes her head slowly. "We're in different branches so our paths don't cross much." She's sadder about this than she expected.
They lapse into silence again but it's more comfortable this time around. Sarah wants to know anything about Chuck's life this past year, if he's still at the Buy More, if he's dating anyone, how Ellie and Awesome's wedding was, but she refrains because knowing more details of his life will just make it harder to leave again. Chuck stays silent because he knows she probably can't tell her anything anyway and just seeing her again is enough.
They sit together for a while, reveling in each other's presence until Sarah looks at her watch. "I have to get going," Sarah says and smiles apologetically. Chuck stops her with a light touch to her arm and it's the first contact they've had in over a year. Goosebumps immediately appear all over Sarah's body and Chuck pulls his hand back quickly, as if she burned him. They chuckle self-deprecatingly at each other's reactions and Chuck clears his throat. "The conference is having a fancy dinner tonight. We're allowed to bring a date. I was going to bring Ellie but – uh – would you, would you like to come with me? If you're free, that is."
Sarah nods her head slowly, once, twice. "I'd love to," she tells him sincerely.
Sarah wears the green dress she wore to Chuck's cousin's wedding and the detail does not escape Chuck. His hand is warm on her bare back as he leads her to the table and Sarah shivers when he removes it. The dinner is boring but the company is not and as she laughs with Chuck, their easy camaraderie falling back into place after all these months, Sarah finds herself longing to do this every day. It's not an errant thought, it's a thought that's become more common throughout the year – and a thought that Sarah is seriously contemplating making a reality.
She never expected to find herself wanting to give up the CIA but as Sarah unconsciously leans into Chuck, she never expected to want something else so much more.
After the dinner, she and Chuck move into the hotel bar. The lights are low and the booth they are in is intimate. Their knees brush underneath the table and the conversation is light and flirty. Both are enjoying their unexpected night together, not wanting to say anything that will disrupt the balance, not wanting it to end.
There's a lapse in the conversation. Chuck plays with the label on his beer, flicking his eyes up to her face once or twice. Finally, he says, "Do you want to come up?" His voice is low and tentative, he won't look at her, but it's a lurid proposal, there's no way around that, and Sarah feels her body respond accordingly.
She looks at him: his curly hair is a little shorter now, his strong, capable hands are tracing the condensation on the bottle, his foot is tapping a rhythm only he knows against the table base. He's so familiar and yet so foreign and Sarah has a brief irrational worry that he wouldn't be real if she reached out to touch him.
"I can't," Sarah tells him and the foot tapping stops, just for a second, before resuming. "I have something I have to do." As she says the words, she realizes it's true. It's been a stroke of fortune, her and Chuck finding each other in Washington DC, and it's given her the answer she's been searching for these past months. It's presented her with the chance to finally make her desires a reality, if she chooses to, and Sarah can't ignore that. There's nothing more she wants than to say yes but she knows she won't be able to fully be with Chuck until there are no obstacles in the way. Last time had been pure torture, wanting to touch him, wanting to fall apart in his arms, knowing that she shouldn't. Sarah won't allow this time to be tainted by the same things.
It turns out she can still read him, after all this time, and he's uncertain and confused. "Now?"
"Yes," she tells him, tells herself. "What time is your meeting tomorrow?"
"Call me afterwards," she tells him and writes her number down on a bar napkin. "I'll buy you lunch." Her smile hints at something more than lunch and Chuck's face lights up in a grin so bright, it gets Sarah through the night.
Even though she has made her mind up and she knows it is what she wants, truly, Sarah still cries when she quits the CIA. Director Graham is clearly blindsided by her decision and tries valiantly to get her to stay but Sarah's resolved and eventually they strike a deal. They agree that Sarah will open a completely legit self-defense studio in LA and the CIA will give her an exclusive contract to train all the new agents in that area. It's a compromise for both of them and Sarah takes it gratefully, knowing she got the better end of the deal.
Chuck's video game gets bought at an absurd price and he's also named lead developer on the project to bring it from crude coding to full scale graphics. Sarah buys lunch for him, as promised, and that's where she drops her bombshell on him. Chuck sputters in disbelief until he finally leans forward and kisses Sarah in gratitude and sheer bliss.
She flies back to LA with him and they hold hands the entire way. They make love for the first time on Chuck's bed and, in a nice change of pace, no one is listening to them. It's better than either expected, which is hard to believe, and Chuck is so content afterwards that his limbs feel like jello, until Sarah rolls over on top of him and whispers, "Again."
Chuck asks her to marry him in response. She's not sure if he's serious or kidding but she still moans yes as he slips into her.
Lisa Casey Bartowski is born fifteen months later at 11:42 am. She has 10 fingers and 10 toes and is pink and perfect. She has a shock of curly brown hair on top of her head and bright blue eyes that stare around wondrously. She's quiet but nestles into Sarah immediately and Chuck's heart is so full in his chest, he thinks it might burst.
Ellie and Awesome and baby Tyler and Morgan and Anna coo over her from the nursery window. "That's your cousin," Ellie tells Tyler, who is just under a year old and has no idea what is going on. She has happy tears in her eyes and she hugs Chuck tightly every couple of minutes.
Even though it's been two and a half years since John Casey was in their lives, Morgan immediately asks if Lisa's middle name was in reference to that "scary dude" who used to work at Buy More. Chuck denies it vehemently, making up something about a cousin Sarah had, and it seems to satisfy everyone.
(( But after everyone goes home, Chuck gives the digital camera to a nurse and settles on the bed next to his wife and his baby. He puts his arm around Sarah and beams down at Lisa and the nurse takes the picture. He prints it out a few days later when they get home and writes Lisa Casey Bartowski 7/22/10 on the back. There's a lot more he wants to write but Casey's still an agent so Chuck has to settle for simplicity over explanation if he wants to send anything at all. Sarah still has a contact in the NSA she trusts and they know he got the picture because a few months later, they receive a postcard from Nepal that's blank except for Good work Bartowski, Walker scrawled on the back. They hang it on the refrigerator next to a picture of Lisa in her Halloween costume. ))
Chuck and Sarah stare at their beautiful baby for hours, kissing every inch of exposed skin. "She's beautiful," Sarah whispers and she has never been happier.
"She looks just like her mom," Chuck whispers back. Sarah beams up at Chuck and kisses his lips softly. She shifts over in the small hospital bed and pats the space next to her. Chuck gets up from the chair near the bed and nestles next to her.
Eventually, a nurse comes to bring baby Lisa back to the nursery. In the bed, Chuck and Sarah fall asleep leaning into each other, their hands clasped together, small smiles on their faces.
Another disappearing act it seems,
Another conversation gone midstream.
It's never easy, when you're gone from me,
But could you keep me in your thoughts throughout the day?
Keep me in your thoughts while I'm away -
Remember how it was and the words we thought to say.
-- Keep Me In Your Thoughts, Stephen Kellogg