Good morning Vietnam... er, I mean readers!
So, it seems that a number of people over at Television Without Pity are wondering where the hell I am, how I know what's going on in the Chuck Fanfiction forum, and why I'm being a lurker.
Let's just put it this way – it's a long story. If you'd like the explanation, send me a private message here on FanFiction, tell me who you are on TWoP, and I'll be happy to fill you in.
And now, with no further ado… on with the story!
"Chuck…" Sarah whispered.
She didn't say anything for a moment. In fact, she was silent for so long that he was afraid she'd fallen back asleep. But then…
"I love you…"
Chuck's breath caught in his throat. For a moment, he wasn't sure if he was hallucinating, dreaming, or what. But when he opened his eyes, he found her eyes open, looking at him, piercing into him. Asking him to answer. Begging him.
He forced himself to take a deep breath, and prepared himself to say something he hadn't said for years. Something he'd feared ever saying again. Something he'd last said to a woman who betrayed him and turned to his former best friend.
Then it occurred to him – the implicit irony of who the last person Sarah had said "I love you" to would have been. The same person Jill had turned to.
He closed his eyes again – and he swore that a little devil appeared on one shoulder, and a little angel on the other. "Tell her," the devil hissed. "Do it to get back at Bryce. He stole your life, he stole your girlfriend – repay the favor!"
"Don't you dare," the angel said. "If you're going to tell her, tell her because you actually feel that way. Which you know you do. You have since the first time you set eyes on her. Since before you knew she was an agent. Since before you knew her connection to Bryce. Say the words, Chuck. Be a man."
When he reopened his eyes, he saw that Sarah's were beginning to fill with tears – he had just stood there, saying nothing for almost a minute, and putting that on top of her pain, her exhaustion, the emotional roller-coaster she'd been on the last few days, it was just too much.
Chuck's eyes went wide with horror. Quickly, he grabbed her hand again, and crouched down by her bed. "Sarah… Sarah Walker, I don't care if that's your real name or not, I love you so much… I love you more than words can describe."
And it was as if a switch had been flipped. The expression on her face went immediately from one of pain and rejection to one of joy and acceptance. He reached his right arm behind her back, and careful not to jostle her right hand side, drew her to him and held her for what seemed like forever.
Finally, she whispered something in his ear. He drew back. "What?"
"That's my real name," she replied. "But that's not how you know me. That's not how I want you to know me. That's not even how I know myself anymore."
Chuck was absolutely stunned. This gesture, as small as it may have been to Sarah, seemed so intimate to him, more intimate than anything he'd ever before experienced.
He was about to say something when the door opened. The look on Sarah's face changed to one of resignation and a little bit of fear. Chuck stood up and turned around –
To see General Beckman and Director Graham standing by the door, Ellie and Devin behind them, with Casey in his wheelchair. Beckman had four envelopes in her hand.
Nobody spoke for a very long moment. Finally, General Beckman said, "You're a real pain in the ass, you know that, Bartowski?"
Chuck nodded his head slightly.
"I will say this for you," she continued. "Outside of the President's Protection Detail, I have never seen a group of people so dedicated to one individual person as the four in this room."
Chuck smiled. "I think they're all a little bit crazy, General."
Surprisingly, General Beckman's face relaxed a little, a small smile appearing on her face as well. "I can't argue with that one, Bartowski."
She handed him the envelopes. "You apparently have fans in high places," she said. "That, and a certain agent of mine by the name of Ulysses Howard has been quite the busy bee since you arrived here."
Chuck opened the first envelope. He removed a piece of heavy cotton-base paper and unfolded it. The seal of the President of the United States was in the header.
To Whom It May Concern, the letter read.
Be it known that Dr. Eleanor Fae Bartowski has committed a number of offenses, both petty and felonious, against the United States of America, during the period of March 1, 2008, to March 4, 2008. These include, but are not limited to, theft of United States government property, impersonating an employee of the General Services Administration, failure to yield to the authority of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and most egregiously, kidnapping the director of the National Security Agency.
However, it is understood that these offenses were committed not of malice aforethought, but rather of a desire to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitutional rights of a citizen of the United States of America.
Therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Eleanor Bartowski for all offenses against the United States which she, Eleanor Bartowski, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from March 1, 2008, through March 4, 2008.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.
George Walker Bush
President of the United States of America
The other envelopes held similar letters for Devin, Casey, and Sarah, although Devin's only crime was failure to yield to the authority of the L.A. Sheriff, whereas Casey and Sarah's letters (Sarah's in her real name) had a laundry list of charges as long as Chuck's arm. But that was okay, because the President himself had cleared them of everything.
Chuck handed the envelopes to the appropriate people. Casey opened his and a huge grin appeared on his face. "A letter of pardon, for me, signed by President Bush," he announced. "I do believe I will frame this."
"The hell you will, Casey," General Beckman warned him. "That will never see the light of day again, is that clear?"
Casey got a grumpy look on his face, but said, "Yes, ma'am," and nothing more.
Ellie, on the other hand, read over hers, and said, "There's no way the President wrote this. It sounds too intelligent."
Beckman and Graham both shot her dirty looks, Devin rolled his eyes, Sarah smiled slightly, and Chuck could've sworn that Casey growled. "My sister, the unabashed liberal," Chuck laughed.
Director Graham also held an envelope, which he handed to Chuck. "What's this?" Chuck asked, taking the envelope and opening it.
The paper in this one bore the letterhead of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was a formal letter of apology from Director Graham, on behalf of the CIA, for the treatment that Chuck had received while at the facility in Moab.
Chuck read over the letter, then looked up at Graham with a guarded expression on his face. He didn't say anything for a while, but finally, he spoke.
"Director… I'm sorry about your balls."
General Beckman actually laughed. She laughed out loud, which shocked Chuck more than the Tasers he'd been shot with in Utah. Director Graham merely raised an eyebrow, while the other four in the room looked confused.
Casey asked the unspoken question. "Uh, Bartowski… what the hell are you talking about?"
"His first day in the facility, Chuck got loose," General Beckman explained. "He encountered Director Graham in a hallway and kicked him in the crotch."
Devin got a pained look on his face. Ellie and Sarah exchanged a look of shock, while Casey rolled his wheelchair across the room to Chuck and stuck out his hand.
"EXCELLENT work, Bartowski. Well done."
"I see there continues to be no love lost between our agencies," General Beckman commented to Director Graham. Graham just shook his head, and then spoke again.
"Here's the deal," he started. "There's a lot that has to be done within both agencies to make this whole thing go away. It would be very helpful if the two of you" – he pointed to Casey and Sarah – "just disappeared for a little while. Fortunately, it's quite clear that you, Major Casey, and ESPECIALLY you, Agent Walker, are going to need an extended leave for recuperation.
"Bartowski will have a protection team from the Secret Service; however, they will be in a passive role, not an active one. Neither Bartowski nor either of you will participate in any active missions unless he flashes on something that we determine requires immediate attention."
"And let me make something very clear," General Beckman added. "If either of you ever again so thoroughly disobeys orders and violates regulations as you have these last two days, you will become part of the 91,000 homeless in Los Angeles. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Casey replied.
"Understood," Sarah said.
"Very good," General Beckman said. "Now, though I do so hate to displace all of you, I would like to speak to Agent Walker for a moment, in private."
There was a chorus of "Yes, ma'am"s, and everybody slowly filed out of the room, Director Graham shutting the door behind him as he went.
General Beckman stood at the end of Sarah's bed and looked down at her. "Agent Walker," she began, "your actions of the last few days have been so unconscionable and inexcusable that I don't even know where to begin."
Sarah nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I know."
"I do not, I cannot, I will not ever condone the actions you have taken in the last seventy-two hours," General Beckman continued. "As a national intelligence officer, I am disgusted and offended that you would utterly disregard your duties and your training in the fashion you have since Saturday."
Sarah remained quiet, but her mouth had tightened to a hard line.
General Beckman took a breath. "However.
"As one woman speaking to another, I fully understand and appreciate your motivations. Were I to discover that the man I loved was in such a situation, and if I had the resources and abilities to help him, I almost certainly would."
Sarah's jaw unclenched, and a look of near-disbelief painted itself on her face. "Wait… how did you know?" she asked. "The Rohypnol…"
"First of all, Agent Walker, I didn't need you to tell me. It was quite evident. However, as regards the Rohypnol, while I have fuzzy memories of most of yesterday, I do very clearly remember you telling me, 'I made the mistake of falling in love', as you were leaving my bedroom on Sunday evening.
"Quite frankly, Director Graham wanted to pull you off of the Intersect assignment and stick you in some godforsaken posting in Zanzibar or something like that. However, I persuaded him that Mr. Bartowski would probably be even better protected if the woman who loved him was watching out for his well-being."
"Enjoy your time off, Agent Walker. Try not to get into too much trouble. There are indicators in the middle east that tell us we're probably going to need the Intersect more than ever before too long."
Chuck awoke slowly, the shaft of light playing across his face. He tried to burrow under the covers to block out the offending sunlight, but to no avail, as an agent of true evil pulled the comforter off of his head.
"Good morning, sunshine," Sarah said with a laugh. "Happy fourth of July, oh America's greatest intelligence asset."
"America's greatest intelligence asset wants to SLEEP," he grumbled.
"Not a chance!" she replied with a giggle, starting to tickle him.
"GAH!" he shouted, trying to roll away, and succeeding merely in rolling directly off the side of the bed, tangled in the duvet.
His only consolation was that Sarah was so entangled in the duvet that she came rolling off the bed with him, landing fairly softly on top of him. He had no complaints about that. He had come to live for her touch, the soft feel of her skin against his, the unevenness of the fading scars on her shoulder and abdomen.
He loved the scent of her hair, the taste of her lips against his, the way she looked into his eyes. He especially loved it when she teased him, like she was doing right now.
"Well, I think that since you're such a national treasure, and I'm a national intelligence officer, we really should celebrate our country's freedom in an… EXPLOSIVE fashion," she said, a naughty undertone to her voice, as she shifted her weight further down his body.
"I fully agree," Chuck replied, a gasp slipping out at the end of his sentence.
Not too long after that – Chuck was, after all, a man, and not a machine – Sarah was in the shower, and Chuck was on the balcony of their hotel room. He had no idea how she'd gotten the CIA to splurge for an ocean view hotel room in San Diego for the Fourth of July, but he wasn't complaining. He enjoyed watching the ships come in to the bay… although, that one…
A blur of images flew by in his mind – a case of Stinger missiles, a briefcase full of cash, blueprints of the MV Pacific Voyager, a mugshot of a rather unhappy looking Argentinean, and… a piece of carrot cake.
His eyes went wide, and he shook his head. "Good Lord!" he gasped. "They're going to try to get those missiles to a sleeper cell in San Diego and shoot down aircraft at MCAS Miramar!"
Chuck ran back into the hotel room and walked into the bathroom without knocking.
"Sarah!" he said, as he entered.
She stuck her head out of the shower, a playful grin on her face. "Are you ready for round two – Chuck? What is it?"
"I just flashed on a ship in the harbor," he replied. "Stinger missiles on board, headed for a sleeper cell here in the city."
Sarah's eyes went wide. She shut off the shower, reached out, and grabbed a towel. She wrapped it around herself and stepped out of the shower.
"Alright, give Casey a call. I'll get ready as quick as I can. We're going to probably need to head down and intercept the shipment."
She turned and looked at him. "And Chuck, please. I don't want you to get hurt. Would you please, just this once…"
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll stay in the car."
THE END… perhaps?