Characters: Sarah, Chuck, Ellie, Mama B, Carina, Morgan, Casey, Clara (aka, Lieutenant Awesome)
Pairing: C/S, of course
Summary: The week before the wedding, and a few days after, in the life of Sarah Walker.
Disclaimer: Song is Howie Day's "Collide," just to bring this beast full-circle. I own neither the song nor this show. I don't even own enough internet to get Comic Con coverage. :(
A/N: Here it is, guys. Here. it. is. It's hard to believe we've made it this far – the show has been chugging along for four seasons, and I've been chugging along for three and a half years now. But it's time to put this baby to rest. 50 chapters is a great number to wrap up with, especially since it's now difficult to update.
However, I want to thank every single person who has ever read a chapter of this story, especially those who reviewed. I truly appreciate your support and feedback. You're the best! And I want to tell you how lucky I feel to be part of this community, even if I don't get to hang around so much nowadays. I miss you guys a lot and think about you often! I'm fortunate to have met and befriended so many of you! I don't see many (if any) more Chuck stories in my near future, but I hope we'll keep in touch!
Back in May, my little drabble Target Practice won at the Awesome Awards. I haven't had a chance to thank you guys, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do so here. I really appreciate the fact that you remember such a small piece. :)
I also want to extend a huge thank-you to wickedinsanity, once again, for being my beta-er, posting proxy, and friend. The girl deserves a hand! Not only does she keep me updated on news, but she helps to keep me sane.
Dedication: This story wouldn't be possible without a number of people, including everyone who's beta-read for me over the chapters and everyone who's written me a review (whether positive or something along the lines of, "Are you kidding me? I hated this chapter!" :P). But most of all, it wouldn't be possible without my good friend BillatWork, who's shared ideas with me, offered me song suggestions, talked me through hiatuses, caught me up with season four, and generally just been a great friend. So this final chapter is for him.
The gentle night breeze cools her skin, calms her mind. Chuck would chastise her amusingly if he saw her out here, in the middle of the night, clad in only her boy shorts and a t-shirt. She takes a deep breath, inhaling the airy aroma of the flowers that fill the courtyard, and drops her hand into the fountain waters.
There's no spy mission on her mind, no worry about bad guys trying to take over the world. All that fills her is a soothing sense of peace. A smile plays over her lips, one that's been constantly there for weeks now. Because she's getting married in a week. One week, and she'll be Mrs. Charles Bartowski. Or, as she likes to tease him, he'll be Mr. Sarah Walker. She never thought they'd make it this far, and the knowledge that only a week separates them from a life of wedded bliss sends butterflies stirring in her stomach.
She looks up as Ellie walks into the courtyard, dressed in blue scrubs, a weary hand to her back as she stifles a yawn. The doctor tilts her head curiously when she catches sight of Sarah sitting on the fountain.
"What are you doing up so late?" she queries, taking a seat beside her soon-to-be sister-in-law.
Sarah shrugs. "Just . . . taking it all in, I suppose."
"Yep," Ellie nods with a tired chuckle, "pre-wedding contentment. I remember it well. Comes right before the jitters."
Sarah smiles. "Don't worry, I had my fair share of jitters this morning. Chuck, too."
"You seem fine now. What's the secret?"
"We did a dry run," she chuckles, confessing the memory of this morning, Chuck with his suit jacket over his pajamas, her with a table doily on her head as a makeshift veil.
Ellie lets out a laugh. "That was Chuck's idea, wasn't it?"
"How'd you know?" Quietly, she adds, "But it helped a lot."
Ellie sighs and regards her knowingly. "If there's anything you need to talk about, Sarah, I'm right here. And I'm not saying that because I'm the maid of honor. I'm saying it because you're my friend, and you're about to be my sister."
Sarah feels a contented warmth settle upon her as Ellie slides an arm around her. It's been so long since she's had a sister, so long since she's thought about her own, and the embrace stirs a part of her she thought she'd tucked away for good. Then again, the Bartowskis have a keen talent for drawing the forgotten past from her. But sitting on the fountain under the stars next to the woman she may soon call 'sister', Sarah finds that she doesn't mind.
During the planning, what had scared her most about this wedding was family – the Bartowskis' overwhelming desire to include everyone in theirs, and the complicated estrangement of hers. But here she is, a week before her wedding, with a fiancé and a sister and genuine friends surrounding her, and, even though she is no closer to figuring out her own family situation, she's happy. She's happier than a woman like her deserves to be, happier than she ever thought she could be, given the way she grew up and the career she fell into.
"You know, Ellie," she murmurs, "there's nothing I need to talk about. Absolutely nothing. Because everything's perfect, and, God, I don't even want to go to sleep because I don't want to miss a moment of it."
"Oh, honey," Ellie says with a soft, lilting laugh, "I knew you were in love but I didn't know it was this bad."
Sarah simply grins. "That's not my fault, though, is it? Blame it on your brother."
"Blame him? For finding a wonderful woman who makes him ridiculously happy, and for bringing you into this family so that I now have a sister as well as a little brother, and for the two of you growing into this perfect, amazing couple? No, I think I'll thank him instead."
The dawn is breaking
A light shining through
You're barely waking
And I'm tangled up in you
Sarah looks up in surprise as Ellie, Awesome, and Chuck all leave the living room at the same time, as if on cue. She'd been too engrossed in Lieutenant Awesome, reclining happily in her baby carrier on the sofa, too engrossed in trying to make her laugh to pay much attention to the reason they've all departed at once. She turns back to the baby and lets her grasp a hold of her forefinger.
"Well, Clara," she breathes, "only three more days before I'm officially your aunt. What do you think about that?"
Clara gurgles smilingly, which she takes as a good sign.
"I'm not very good at baby stuff," she confesses, "or family stuff, really. I think that's why they only leave me alone with you for five minutes at a time." Clara goes quiet, her eyes wide as she stares up at Sarah's face. Sarah leans in conspiratorially and whispers, "However, I've had it from a reliable source that if this goes well, they'll bump me up to eight minutes. I know. I'm excited, too."
She swings Clara's arm back and forth gently, the baby's fingers fastened tightly around hers.
"It seems as if all I've been lately is excited," she tells her niece with a smile. "I'm not exactly the type of girl who plans on getting married, or even thinks about it. But your Uncle Chuck is pretty amazing, and the day I met him, he taught me how to think differently. "
Clara frowns, and Sarah experiences a sudden, brief nervousness. She doesn't like when Clara frowns, or shows any sign of unhappiness, and she likes when Ellie or Awesome are on hand in case the frowns turn into cries. A bit hesitantly, she reaches into the carrier and, gently, slides her arms under the baby to hoist her out. Clara's smile returns as she settles in her arms against her chest.
"Have I ever told you about how your uncle and I met? No, I don't think I have. Well, it started with a computer called the Intersect. Your uncle got it stuck in his head, and the CIA sent me to get it back. So I came out to California, to the Burbank Buy More, to find a Nerd Herd computer repair tech." She pauses at this part of the story, her mouth dry at the memory of their first meeting. "The first time I saw him, I thought he was a huge nerd," she confesses. "He had this curly hair, and he wore a pocket protector, which I actually think is sort of sexy now, and he was absolutely nothing like most of the men I knew. He was cute, but didn't know he was. He was honest, and proud of it. And he had this adorable, nervous rambling thing he did. He still does it actually."
She stops to give Clara a good rock. A thoughtful frown plays over her lips. So much had happened then, in just a few nights. She still finds it hard to believe how quickly her world changed, how quickly she went from badass superspy to badass superspy crossed in love with her asset. A few shy smiles, a few nervous jokes, a few genuine words were all it took to bring the great Sarah Walker's defenses crashing to the ground. Back then, she had thought it was the end of the world, the end of her career. Now, though, she knows meeting him was the best thing that could ever happen to her.
With a deep breath, she returns to the story. "Well, we went out on a date. He took me to a Mexican restaurant, and then we went out dancing, and then we got chased by Uncle Casey and his NSA men. I crashed Uncle Chuck's car. And, well, it's actually sort of a long story, but it ends with Uncle Chuck as the hero, as he has certainly proved himself to be since then. He diffused a bomb. I won't tell you how until you're at least 13 probably, but he was incredible, just incredible." She smiles again, tweaks her niece's nose. "And somewhere in all that spy mess, I fell in love. Of course, it took me two-and-a-half years to ever admit it, but spy habits die quite hard, you know."
She looks down into Clara's smiling face, feeling that familiar tug that always comes whenever her niece is in her arms, that tug that tells her that those certain habits are truly dead, never to return. And in their place, new ones are forming. She and Chuck have new habits now, ones that revolve around their relationship, their family.
"And you know something, Lieutenant?" she murmurs. "I don't mind at all."
I'm open, you're closed
Where I'll follow you'll go
I worry I won't see your face
Light up again
She's still groggy when she opens her eyes, but she's had enough rest in the past two days to last a lifetime and she doesn't want to sleep anymore. Early evening light streams in through the hospital window, casting a golden glow over the room.
She's been in and out of consciousness since Chuck, her knight in camouflage, had raced in with the antidote, but there had always been a crowd in her room, her family sitting and waiting protectively. Now, though, there's only one person, who sits in the corner, staring at her quietly.
She stirs woozily and pushes herself into a sitting position. Mary gets up to pour her a glass of water, which she accepts gratefully, before taking a seat again.
As Sarah looks at her, she fears that their relationship will always be one of grudging, mutual respect. But even as she thinks it, she realizes that's not how she wants it to be. This is Chuck and Ellie's mom, her fiancé's mother, and that's a relationship she needs to cultivate. She and Chuck made a decision early in their relationship – family is what matters most at the end of the day.
"Thanks," she says tentatively, her voice still scratchy from sleep.
Mary offers a calm smile. "I meant what I said at the engagement party, you know, every word." When Sarah doesn't reply right away, she continues, "You're good for my son, for the whole family actually. And . . . I'm very glad that you're okay."
Sarah feels a smile tugging at her tired lips. She takes another sip of water to wet her throat and says, "You were right, too, about us taking care of each other." And now she does smile, because she never had someone who took care of her – who wanted to take care of her –until she met Chuck, and, even sitting in this hospital bed recovering from poison, she's never felt luckier.
"Well, it's a good thing you two have each other then, isn't it?" Mary asks rhetorically, and Sarah can see in her gaze everything she means behind the simple statement.
They're both perfectly aware of how differently this could have turned out. She could have been ordered to put him in a bunker that very first day, or even to terminate him, as if she could've carried out that command even after a day. He could have decided that spy life wasn't for him at all, decided that a normal life was what he was after, one which didn't include her. Their paths could have diverged after the Intersect 2.0 download, diverged for longer than just six months.
Or worse, he never could have opened that email, meaning she never would have met him at all. They may have even crossed paths once or twice in their lifetimes, and she never would have realized that her soul mate – and when did she start believing in that concept anyway? – that her soul mate just passed her on the street, or sat next to her at a restaurant, or fixed her broken phone.
So many turning points in their relationship, and yet they've managed to make it out on the other side with barely a scratch.
She sits up a little straighter, looks her soon-to-be mother-in-law in the eye, and says, "I'd say it's a good thing we've all got each other."
Surprisingly, Mary leans forward to slide her hand on top of hers. And Sarah, with her broken home and her unconventional childhood and her unemotional career choice, knows she's finally part of a true family, however unusual it may be.
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills my mind
I somehow find you and I collide
Sarah smiles as Morgan appears in the door of the back room of the church, where she and her bridesmaids are getting ready for the ceremony. They file out with encouraging looks as he steps aside to let them through the door and into the hallway. He grins at her as he walks toward her, and she has to admit that he looks very, very handsome in his tux.
She has the sudden, intense feeling that their lives are all falling into place. She's about to marry his best friend, the love of her extremely unusual life, and he's got a girlfriend of his own, a girl who adores him as steadily as he does her. It's an odd yet sweet relationship, one which makes her smile when she catches them in a rare quiet moment. With all the craziness and chaos in their lives, they haven't actually had that much opportunity to get to know each other. But now that things have calmed down, she looks forward to having him in her life, as a friend, one of the best.
Morgan's grinning when he takes her hands in his. "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah," he mutters. "May I just say, you look absolutely gorgeous. Not that you don't every single day, but today, especially gorgeous."
"Thank you, Morgan," she says, reaching out to straighten his tie. "You look pretty handsome yourself."
"Ah, thank you. It's a wonder what a little confidence can do, isn't it?"
"Well, you've probably already guessed that the Chuckster sent me to make sure you're doing all right, that you've got everything you need. Because, Sarah, I'm serious. Tell me you need a submachine gun or a one of those planes that turns into a boat or a coded message in the DJ's turntables or something, anything, and I'll get it for you, I swear. I may no longer be CIA, but I'm still rocking some important connections."
"You are, as always, Morgan, the best man," she tells him truthfully, "but I don't need any of that. I'm actually planning on nothing at all spy-related happening today."
"Right-O. And you have my full support in that, soon-to-be soul sister."
"How's Chuck doing?"
She's calm, collected, because she's learned that happiness isn't something to be nervous about. Not to mention she's had years of training. But Chuck isn't like that. He lets his emotions fly right out to the surface for everyone to see, and she can imagine him standing up in front of that crowd, palms moist as he adjusts his cufflinks for the twentieth time, Devon coaching him through calming breathing techniques.
To her surprise, Morgan chuckles. "Chuck? Chuck's the calmest I've ever seen him, and this is the guy who breaks a sweat when he thinks a TV character's in trouble, and that's just when we're watching reruns."
"Good," she nods thoughtfully. "Good."
He tilts his head. "And you're doing all right, too, right? Because I gotta give my report to your guy and I wanna tell him everything, down to the last details."
"Well, you can tell him that I'm . . . I'm ready."
She says it with a smile which grows into a grin as Morgan pulls her into a bear hug, and then the grin bursts into a laugh.
"So am I," he tells her happily. "So am I."
They are ready. They're all ready to grow up and start the lives they were meant to lead all along, hand-in-hand with people who inspire them to be better than they are, and side-by-side with the family who makes them whole again.
When he finally releases her, Sarah looks at him, still smiling, and says, "I know we haven't spent that much time together, but I hope that'll change. And I hope you know that . . . I really like having you as a friend."
Waving off her compliment, he exclaims, "Sarah, come on! You and I? Besties." He stops, his face falling a bit, before he adds, "Don't tell Casey, though. He's the jealous kind."
"I won't," she laughs. "I promise."
I'm quiet, you know
You make a first impression
I've found I'm scared to know
I'm always on your mind
Sarah grins knowingly as her redheaded bridesmaid stalks up to her and hands over her bridal bouquet.
"So," Carina begins, a gleam in her eye, "are you ready to pull the proverbial trigger on this?"
"It'd be nice if you stopped acting like this were the end of my life," she tells her friend teasingly.
Carina throws up a hand in protest. "I'm not! God knows relationships and marriage aren't for me at all, but it seems to work for you and the kid." Her expression softens as she bumps Sarah on the shoulder. "In fact, I'm sort of . . . sort of proud of you."
"Oh, yeah?" Sarah chuckles. "Why's that?"
"I've known you for how long now? And I don't think I've ever heard you say one thing about your feelings. And look at you now, all dressed in white and not even a spy anymore and happy about it."
Sarah waves her flowers in her friend's face. "Carina, is that . . . jealousy I hear?"
"Please," Carina puffs as she pushes the flowers away playfully. "I've been good for all of this. I'm even wearing this silly dress for you. Don't mock me by pretending I want the same things out of life as you do."
"Fine, but you're happy for me, right?"
Carina is quiet for a moment, regarding her oldest friend reflectively, before pursing her lips and admitting, "Freaking ecstatic. You happy now?"
And Sarah lets out a peal of delighted laughter.
Carina, smiling now too, adds, "It is sort of a shame that Martin's got a girlfriend now though. Star Wars sheets aside, he's actually turned out pretty well. Confident and gentlemanly and all that."
Sarah lifts a warning eyebrow. "But you've learned your lesson, right? Morgan and Alex have a good thing, and you're not going to ruin it."
"I know, I know," Carina assures her, and it's almost assuring. "I won't go near that freaky little dwarf relationship." She levels a finger at Sarah. "But your dear fiancé, or at least his sister and brother-in-law, better have some cute friends. What's a wedding without a little shameless flirting?"
"And flirting's all you'll be doing, right, Carina?" Sarah asks. "Right, Carina?"
"Oh, come on. That wedding in Spain was a mission, remember?" she protests as Sarah laughs. "Remember?"
But Sarah just laughs it off, because she's got one of her best friends here, and even with all her grousing and teasing and protesting, it's just really good to share this day with her.
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the stars refuse to shine
Out of the back you fall in time
Somehow find you and I collide
Sarah's gaze is drawn towards the back archway of the church as Casey appears, tugging his suit jacket into place, his daughter hanging onto his arm with a smile. They stop, and Alex straightens his collar before leaning up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his cheek. A hint of a smile appears on Casey's face, and then she pushes him off towards the waiting bridal party.
He doesn't say anything as he steps up beside her, but that small smile lingers, and Sarah has to grin, because she can vividly recall what they were like four years ago, both cut from the same mold. They were agency people, duty-minded and terrified of letting another person into the lonely little world they'd each created. But then they met Chuck Bartowski, who broke them down little by little, day by day, joke by joke, until they let in friendship and let in family and let in love. As he stands beside her, he in his tuxedo and she in her white gown, she realizes how amazingly far they've both come, that there's no one else she'd rather have made this journey with. It's been years now since she's counted him as a much more than a partner, but a close friend, even an older brother.
"Are you ready for this, Casey?" she asks.
He lets out a throaty chuckle that could pass for one of his famous grunts. "Shouldn't I be asking you that?"
She turns to face him, though he's still looking out at the crowd gathered in the church. "I don't know," she answers contemplatively. "I think my fate was decided the day Chuck and I met. It was just a matter of us deciding that we were more important than everything surrounding us. But you, you've always been country over self."
"I just held out longer," he says. Turning to regard her appraisingly, he continues, "Doesn't mean I'm not ready to see the best damn partner I ever had finally be happy."
He holds her gaze for a long moment, and Sarah feels a lump growing in her throat. But Casey isn't a Bartowski, effusive and gushing and always talking about his feelings. No, he keeps them close to his chest, and it's an honor when he lets anyone catch even a glimpse of them, even though those glimpses are becoming more and more frequent these days, with Alex around. Still, he's Casey, and their relationship isn't one marked by deep, heart-to-heart talks. It's just not who they are.
So instead of saying something heartfelt, like Ellie or even Chuck would have, she teases, "The best? Are you sure? You've also been Morgan Grimes's partner."
He grunts another soft laugh. "Two completely different experiences, I assure you."
Laughing, she says, "I can imagine. But maybe this isn't the end." Off his curious look, she explains, "It doesn't have to be just me and Chuck, and you and Morgan. I know we're in a bit of a spot right now, but we'll figure something out. We'll be a team again."
Casey nods, a smile tugging at his lips again. "Sounds good to me." He clears his throat and holds out his arm for her. "But first, we gotta get you two married."
Before she takes his arm, she says, "I never thanked you for agreeing to walk me down the aisle, did I?"
"Of course you did. Right after you asked me and I said I would."
Of course she had said 'thank you', but she doesn't mean that. "No, I never thanked you properly, though," she insists, leaning forward to wrap him in a tight hug.
He stiffens instinctually at first, but then his arms slide around her as he returns the embrace. And then they break apart, and Casey's gaze darts around as he straightens his jacket again, as if making sure no one has caught his demonstration of affection for his friend.
"You're welcome," he says softly.
No longer fighting the grin, Sarah links her arm through his as her bridesmaids line up in front of them.
"Oh, and Casey?"
"Don't freak out."
Don't stop here
I lost my place
I'm close behind
Silence descends in the limo after they open Volkoff's gift, and Sarah rests her head comfortably against her husband's shoulder.
Her husband, she thinks with a smile. It's taken them so long to get to this point that she finds it nearly unbelievable that she's sitting here, in the back of a limo, dressed in the most gorgeous white gown she's ever beheld, one that makes her feel like a princess, beside the man she adores, who adores her.
"Is this really happening?" she murmurs happily.
Chuck, grinning, shifts so his embrace is more comfortable, and says, "I know. It feels unreal, right?"
She takes his hand in hers, runs her thumb tenderly over his knuckles as she looks out the window at the passing scenery. Her thumb pauses in its exploration when it reaches his wedding band, the metal warm beneath her skin.
"What are you thinking about?" he asks softly, dropping a kiss in her hair.
She tilts her head to look up at him. "Mmm, what are you thinking about?"
"Fine, I'll go first," he chuckles. "I am thinking . . . about getting to spend every day of the rest of my life with you, waking up beside you, watching you brush your teeth, snuggling on the couch together. I'm thinking about how every single moment from now on is going to be so, so perfect."
A smile grows on Sarah's lips as he leans forward to kiss her, and she reaches up to place a palm against his cheek.
"Your turn," he teases when they break apart.
"Fine," she says with an exaggerated sigh, repositioning herself against him. Quietly, in that quiet voice she uses when she confesses all her secrets to him, she tells him, "I'm just thinking about how lucky I am, how lucky we are."
He intertwines their fingers. "Is it luck, though?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," he says with a little confused shrug, "finding a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk is luck. Getting an extra eggroll with your sizzling shrimp is luck. Getting the last copy of a game before the store sells out is luck. But what we've done, surviving spy life for four years, falling in love and making a relationship even with all the obstacles we've encountered, maybe that's something else entirely."
She lets out a thoughtful hum as she considers his words. She's never stopped to think about it like that. After all she's experienced in her life, she'd simply assumed that it couldn't be anything other than luck that helped her to overcome her past and even her present in order to make it to this future with him. Maybe he's right. Maybe it's not luck at all. Maybe it's just faith and hard work and love.
"You mean something like love?" she asks.
Chuck smiles, that adorable smile she fell so hard for. "Isn't that what life boils down to anyways? The people we care about, the things we do, the decisions we make . . . it's all about love."
"If you would have asked me four years ago, I would've told you that I didn't believe in love."
"And if you'd have asked me four years ago, I would've said all it's good for is breaking your heart."
She smiles up at him, her thumb running along his cheek. "So maybe it was luck that we met the exact right person to change our minds."
"Maybe," he murmurs contentedly. "Maybe we'll never know."
Staring up into her husband's warm brown eyes, she says, "Whatever it was that brought us together, I'm glad it did. And I intend on making the most of it."
Chuck's grin grows before he leans down to kiss her once more, and her heart swells at the pure love that bursts between them.
Even the best fall down sometimes
Even the wrong words seem to rhyme
Out of the doubt that fills your mind
You finally find you and I collide
Early morning sunlight streams in through the open curtains of their bedroom window in their French honeymoon villa, but Sarah's already awake, has been for an hour at least, just staring at the man beside her.
He's sleeping soundly, his chest rising and falling in an easy, comforting rhythm. His face is turned toward her, even in sleep, and there's the barest hint of a smile on his lips, as if he's having pleasant dreams.
This isn't real, this isn't real, this isn't real, she tells herself over and over again. But it is. It is, and she's lying next to her husband, and nothing – no spy rules or missions or secrets or the heart she'd locked away for so long – nothing is going to get in the way of that. She knows it's real because of the elated fuzziness that threatens to explode from her chest, and the way she can't stop grinning, and the way bright rays of sunshine glint off the rings on her left hand.
She reaches out to trace a finger over his brow, to brush a stray lock behind his ear. He stirs slightly, but doesn't awaken. With a long, soft sigh, she lies back down and turns her face toward him.
This is the first day of the rest of her life, she realizes with a smile, the rest of their life. A life where they make their own rules and call their own shots, a life where they decide what matters, and what matters is always going to be their relationship above all else. Because she's spent so long putting duty before desire, but he's proven to her that they can coexist. They can make this work. They will make this work. Not because they're Sarah Walker and Charles Carmichael, spies extraordinaire, but because they're Chuck and Sarah Bartowski, bonded for life by heart and by law.
Just as that thought crosses her mind, he wakes up, blinking blearily at her.
"Hey," he murmurs groggily, scooting closer to slide an arm around her waist. "Good morning, Mrs. Bartowski."
Smiling radiantly, she lets him gather her up in his arms and press a sleepy, happy kiss to her lips.
"Good morning, Chuck," she murmurs back with another sigh, letting the contentment fill her up.
"How's my wife this morning?" he asks, grinning now.
She reaches up to lay a palm against his cheek and whispers, "Perfect. Just perfect."
You finally find
You and I collide
Sarah feels a familiar warmth curl in her stomach as Chuck slides his arms around her shoulders. She smiles, but doesn't turn as she types away at the Castle main computer.
"Whatcha working on?" he queries lightly. "Is this our first official, unofficial, independent mission?"
"Actually," she begins, and the way she says it makes him slide down in the swivel chair beside her to regard her intently, "this is just a little personal thing, now that we've got all these resources at our disposal."
"Oh, yeah?" His foot nudges at hers, and a supportive smile plays over his lips. "Are you going to tell me about it, or are you going to make me seduce it out of you? Do I have to remind you how adorable I am?"
She twirls in her chair to face him, arms crossed and smirking. "No, I think I'm perfectly aware of that, thank you."
"Are you sure?" he asks, leaning forward so that his nose nearly touches hers. "Because I wouldn't mind jogging your memory."
She's giggling as he sneaks a kiss and she sweeps a hand through his hair, but she sobers when she pushes him gently away. He gazes at her steadily, and she feels that inviting cushion of comfort that he always provides. His brown eyes are deep, soothing, let her know she can spill all her secrets to him and still be loved.
After a deep breath, she asks, "Do you remember how I told you my family situation was . . . complicated?" Their favorite word, really. He nods, patient for once and letting her speak, and she continues, "The wedding, it made me think a lot about family, about our family, about mine."
When she has trouble explaining further, he prompts gently, "And?"
"And, well, you know what my relationship with my father is like. But the truth is I haven't spoken to anyone else for so long. Our family was a broken one, and when I was with my father, I felt like they wouldn't want to reconnect with a long lost daughter or sister or granddaughter who was a con artist. I was happy, too. And then after I joined the CIA, I had to leave that all behind. I couldn't think about it anymore."
"But now, no more CIA," he says, gathering her hands in his.
"Exactly," she smiles. "And now that we're no longer slaves to duty, now that we can focus on family, I think it may be time to . . . find what I've been missing all these years."
"Okay," he nods, and she can see the excitement shining behind his eyes. "So, where do we start?"
"You're going to help me?" She knows the answer, but she likes to hear him say it anyways.
"Of course," he grins. "You helped me put my family back together. Now it's time for me to help you do the same for yours. So, do we have a place to start?"
"Well," she begins, twirling his fingers in hers, "I want to find my sister."
Chuck starts a little, because she hasn't mentioned anything about her sister since the first few weeks of their cover dating, back when he doubtlessly took most of her stories as falsities, just little lies told to shore up her backstory and their fake relationship.
But then he nods, gazing intently at her, and she knows they're in this together. Family above all, is what they've decided, and that's what will carry them through.
He spins in his chair to face the computer and lifts his hands to crack his knuckles like he always does before having a crack at a computer or a video game. "So," he says brightly, "your spy skills, my unique cleverness. This should be a piece of cake."
Sarah rolls her eyes slightly at his antics, but she can't stop the affection that swoops into her heart. Yep, that's her guy, and together, they're going to put their family back together.