Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Okay, this is the final chapter of this wonderful journey…and the much anticipated sixth sense. I've had a few comments stating an interest on how exactly I'm gonna go about this, and no, I'm not going to have Chuck suffer through some head trauma and magically wake up from a coma as a psychic…it'll be a lot more subtle than that. Once again, the beginning of this chapter is a bit risqué, read at your own risk…
And without further ado, the final chapter of Sensory Perception.
Extrasensory Perception (ESP)
Clairvoyance and Promises
Considering Chuck Bartowski had quite the affinity for comic books, video games, and had the entirety of two versions of the government's secrets downloaded into the hardwire of his brain, he wasn't beyond believing in the wonders of the sixth sense. In fact, he truly believes in psychics, and he's been accused of being a bit of a psychic himself. Perhaps it's really something beyond his five normal senses, maybe he is just insanely perceptive, but Chuck finds that years behind a Nerd Herd counter has given him insight on the myriads of different kinds of people and how to deal with him. And by covertly studying his wife, he had effectively deciphered many aspects of Sarah's then-enigmatic personality. That slight presence of the ever finicky sixth sense has more than drastically abetted his occupation as one-fourth of the best espionage team America has to offer. Given his encounters with different subjects revealed by the Intersect, that insanely acute perception has turned Chuck into quite the negotiator. He knows the right things to say and when to say them. And, not surprisingly, they crumble fairly quickly to his needs.
But, at times, Chuck thinks that his acute perception borders on a slight clairvoyance. And, even now as he goes about a seemingly normal day, that feeling is particularly strong. It's a feeling that's been nagging him for days now, sending him into a peculiar mood as that feeling overwhelms him. Even Sarah notices his anxiety, saying as much as he got ready for work.
The morning sun filtered through the blinds of the room, basking one Sarah Bartowski in their warmth. Stirring slightly, Sarah awoke and languidly stretched, her eyes adjusting to the less-than welcome brilliance invading her slumber. Immediately, she noticed the lack of warmth beside her, and her eyes immediately scanned the room for her wayward husband. Her gaze fell on his lofty frame by the closet, sans shirt, a pair of black dress pants encasing his long legs. Sarah took a moment to admire Chuck Bartowski shirtless. Even before Agency training, Sarah was surprised the first time she saw him bare-chested, his pectorals unexpectedly defined, arms corded, and stomach flat. But as her eyes drift northward, still glinting with her admiration, her brow furrowed as she caught the look on his face from the mirror. It was one that had been present for a few days now, one that was a cross between anxiety and preoccupation. She rose from the bed, clad in one of his t-shirts and snuck up behind him.
"Good morning, Mr. Montgomery…"
"Huh?" Chuck jerked from his stupor as a pair of elegant hands snaked around his shoulders, and he turned to find his wife's bold blue eyes peering at him through sleep-tousled hair.
"Oh, good morning, babe." His lips sought hers in a chaste kiss, and even in an act where he's normally so focused on her, she sensed his fixation.
"Chuck, honey, are you okay?"
Chuck extracted a shirt from his assortment of work clothes. "Whassat?"
"You've been off lately," Sarah pointed out, sitting on their bed, gazing at her husband. "Is everything alright with the company?"
"No, yeah, everything's fine," Chuck assured as he slipped his arms through a light blue dress shirt. "I mean, what can't be fine with a multi-million dollar company?" he joked, and the quip even sounded half-hearted.
With a good amount of CIA training and field experience beneath his belt, Chuck had the ability to withstand intense interrogation from rather formidable foes, but under the cool stare of his wife, Chuck couldn't quite maintain an aloof veneer and conceded to her reproachful look.
"Alright…I've got this…feeling," Chuck admitted as he took two ties from his closet, offering both up to Sarah for inspection.
"Like a flash feeling…?" Sarah ventured, her eyes scanning both selections. The first one was a piqued dark blue, the diamonds a contrasting pale cobalt.
"No, no! Nothing like that…" Chuck hastened to reassure her as her gaze flicked to the second option, an alternately striped light blue, silver, and white tie. "It's just a weird feeling…" He assessed his two choices. "Either of these match, right?"
Sarah nodded as she pointed to the latter of the two ties. Fashion crisis averted, Sarah returned Chuck's attention to the matter at hand. "What kind of weird feeling?"
"I denno," Chuck divulged. "Just…like," he stumbled slightly, unsure of how to compartmentalize this niggling emotion as he fitted the tie beneath the up-turned collar of his shirt. "Like, something's going to happen, and I'm just not quite sure what."
Chuck's normally apt hands fumbled the silk, sending it hanging limply from his neck. He huffed a frustrated sigh, rubbing one hand across his forehead, a gesture Sarah had come to recognize as one of his anxious tics.
Sarah's brow furrowed as she took the tie from his hands, re-looping it around his neck and carefully arranging it into a half-Windsor knot.
"I'm sure it's nothing, babe," she assured him as she tightened the tie and folded his collar over the fabric. "With the new products coming out, you're under a lot of stress to find a good advertisement team to sell them. Plus with that mission in Guam…"
Chuck sighed, nodding his head. "Yeah, you're right." He pressed a grateful kiss to her lips. "Thanks."
"No problem." Sarah smiled. "At least you're not going through some weird existential meltdown."
Chuck laughed, shaking his head as he turned to the bathroom. "God, I hope not."
Sarah grinned to herself, puttering to the closet to begin her own day. Raising her voice, she addressed her husband as he primped in the bathroom. "So I was thinking we could have a nice family dinner tonight. You wanna cook us some Italian?"
"Italian?" Chuck asked, his voice echoing in the spacious interior.
"Yeah." Sarah stood before her wardrobe in her skirt and bra, eyes scanning the numerous items in search of a matching top. "Alfredo, salad, and your special garlic bread?"
Chuck exited the bathroom, his hair combed and styled and freshly shaved with his subtle Ralph Lauren scent drifting from his collar as he adjusted his cufflinks. "You know, that actually sounds good…"
Chuck trailed off as he registered his wife's state of undress, and one eyebrow shot skyward with interest. He sidled up behind her, slipping an arm around her waist as the other plucked a top from the depths of her wardrobe.
"How about this one?" Chuck eyed her impressive body. "Although I've gotta say, what you have on is equally enticing."
"That wouldn't be very professional, now would it, Mr. Montgomery?" Sarah teased, looking coyly over her shoulder and into the sepia spheres of her husband.
"Professional? No, of course not, but I must admit," Chuck's voice lowered to a husky whisper that fanned deliciously across her neck as his lips neared her pulse point, "I'm definitely hot for teacher, Professor Bartowski…"
"Chuck…" Sarah admonished half-heartedly as his teeth nibbled at the skin of her neck, "you're…oh…" a gasp filtered from her lips as he hit that spot right beneath the curve of her jaw, and the top he picked out tumbled to the carpet as she grabbed onto his forearm to steady herself, "gonna be late…"
"I'm the CEO, babe," he reminded her, his breath hot at her ear, his palms wandering across her exposed skin. "I make my own hours."
"Well, you're…ah…" The whimper became much more pronounced as he continued his torturous ministrations on her neck, her particular sensitive spot. His fingertips danced across the swells of her breasts, playing with the straps of her bra as his other palm glided down from her abdomen to rest against her lower thigh. Head swirling, Sarah bit her lip to muffle a stifled groan as his hand began a torturous ascent upward, disappearing beneath the fabric of her skirt. That time, the moan did escape, and she hastened to grasp his nomadic hand before it crossed into dangerous territory. Despite her protests, her other hand wound into his hair, the dark strands contrasting starkly against her pale skin, and she cursed her traitorous voice for being so breathless. "You're gonna make me late."
"So have them stay a bit after…" Chuck's voice was adorably cheeky at the innocent suggestion as his tongue traced the shell of her ear.
Mustering all her resolve, fighting to ignore the intense torrent of sensations bearing down on her body, Sarah steeled herself, hoping that her voice sounded somewhat authoritative. "Chuck!"
"Alright, alright…" Chuck acquiesced, pulling away with a sigh. Immediately, Sarah reevaluated her decision to halt the activities that would surely make them both extremely late at the loss of his warmth and those big brown eyes entreating her as he pouted. Deterred but not defeated, a sly smirk flitted across his face as he placed one final kiss on her lips. "But make sure you take an extra long lunch break…"
Sarah laughed, swatting him away and pushing him through the bedroom door. "Get outta here and let me get ready!"
And now, as Chuck sits in his office, he couldn't quite shake that feeling that had plagued him all morning. The day had begun normally as Chuck went through his daily routine. Nothing different. Nothing out of place. He had picked up the morning paper from the front step before hopping into his car and driving to his favorite coffee place. Despite the early morning Los Angeles traffic, he had made it to work in the normal time, greeting Roland, the doorman before Casey, in his new cover job as head of Charles Montgomery's security detail, had met him at the of the headquarters of Traversal Industries and escorted him up to his office. He had gotten the day's agenda and other notes from Neil Grayson, the agent assigned to replace Sarah as one of his primary handlers, under cover as his personal assistant. But that's when the normality ended. First, a strange postcard had appeared among his morning notes. It wasn't particularly suspicious, just one of those flashy, touristy types, but it had come from Sweden. On the back was nothing but a type-written address and a short note no more than three words long.
Chuck, Sarah. Congrats.
When Chuck had shown Sarah the postcard, following a very long lunch break, she had frowned and kissed him, shifting a bit on his lap. "You know I love you, right?"
"Ye-es…" Chuck ventured, unsure of if he was going to like what came out of Sarah's mouth next.
Sarah cocked an eyebrow. "And you don't recognize that handwriting?"
Chuck looked again at the three words scribbled on the back and resisted the urge to smack himself on the forehead. Of course he recognized that writing. He had seen that writing countless times on the whiteboard outside of his room back at the fraternity house. He had read the notes scribed in that handwriting, meticulously copying them after he missed a week of class due to a bout with the stomach flu. He could recognize Bryce Larkin's handwriting anywhere.
Chuck frowned, the postcard clasped in between his fingers. "It's been five years. Why wait till now to contact us?"
"He must still be deep under cover," Sarah reasoned. Dipping her head down, she noticed the faraway expression adorning Chuck's features. "Chuck?" Sarah dragged a hand down his chest, her other hand sifting through the fine hairs at the base of his neck. "Babe?"
Chuck turned to his wife and ran a tender hand through her golden waves. Leaning in, he brushed a gentle kiss to her lips. "Huh…at least I know he's not gonna hunt me down and kill me in my sleep…"
Sarah had laughed, cupping his cheek. "Are you kidding? With your shot, you can so take him…"
Grinning at the memory, Chuck places the postcard away from his paperwork, picking up his pen to look over the paperwork concerning the new software his designing team was creating. Rubbing one hand over his forehead, Chuck leans back against his chair. Bryce's postcard had alleviated some of that nagging feeling, but he still couldn't shake that sentiment that something else was about to transpire. His gaze scanning across the desk, he notices his office phone lighting up on the line to the receptionist, and leaning over, Chuck pushes the speaker button.
The perpetually perky voice of his receptionist, Joyce, crackles through the speakers. "Mr. Montgomery, you have a visitor. A Ms. Caroline Carmichael."
The name causes Chuck to pause, his chair clunking to an upright position as he is yanked back to a time before he met Sarah, before the Intersect made its way to his brain, back to when the most worries he harbored were if Jimmy Wiseman was going to give him a wedgie during recess or stuff him into the garbage can.
Chuck stirred awake, curled up in Ellie's bed with her arms around him, and the events of last night filtered into his mind: their mother screaming, their father yelling, glass crashing to the ground, splintered in millions of pieces, their mother loading luggage into a taxi cab before it screeched away with her in the backseat. Straightening, he looked to Ellie, blinking blearily. The Bartowski siblings shared a look before getting out of bed and making their way downstairs.
As they passed the living room, Chuck allowed his eyes to on the shattered remains of their family photo, knocked from the mantle and lying abandoned on the floor. Bending over, mindful of the glass, Chuck extracted the photo from its frame. Ellie wandered where a vase sat on the surface, a single yellow rose settled innocently amidst the water, an envelope leaning against the vase. Chuck joined his sister on the couch as she began to read the contents.
Dear Ellie and Charlie,
I'm sorry to leave you like this, kids, but I just couldn't do it anymore. Your father and I just couldn't stay married anymore. It was too hard on us, and we know that it was extremely difficult on you. So, I've decided it's best if I leave…
"'I hope one day I'll muster up the courage to return to you, and I hope you two would find it in your hearts to forgive me. Love always and forever, Mom…'" Ellie recited, placing the letter on the table. Clasping her hands before her, Ellie released a shuddering breath, turning blank eyes to her brother. In stark contrast, Chuck bolted from his side of the couch and began pacing before Ellie. As he rounded on his sister, Ellie stared up into the burning fire smoldering in his deep chocolate gaze. Chuck very rarely exuded anger, but when he did, it was with the kinetic force of an atom bomb.
"A note?!" Chuck whirled, angrily pacing before Ellie, the anguished expression adorning his face torn between ire and incredulity. "Mom leaves us a fucking note as an explanation?! You leave a note for some jackass boss or an over irritating coworker, but not your children. A note? Really?"
"Chuck, language!" Ellie scolded.
Chuck ignored his sister. "This is absolute bullshit! Who the hell just up and leaves their kids?"
Slightly stunned at the uncharacteristic profanity bursting so easily from her younger brother's mouth, Ellie took a moment to respond before she entreated, "Chuck, calm down."
"Calm down? You're honestly telling me to calm down?" Chuck hovered in front of his sister, his voice lowered to a faux calm. "Okay, Ellie, oh enlightened one, since you're so calm about this situation, what the hell do we do now?" The smoldering, incensed expression once again materializing across his countenance, Chuck spoke slowly, enunciating each proceeding word with deliberate care. "WE HAVE NO MOTHER."
"We go on," Ellie replied firmly. "She doesn't want us? Fine. We don't need her. All we need is each other, Chuck. Us and Dad. That's enough."
Chuck paused in his tirade, surveying his older sister with the bottomless chocolate spheres that conveyed so much depth and so much intelligence that extended past his thirteen years. "Is it, though?" he posed rhetorically. "Is it enough? You sure about that, El?"
"No," Ellie answered honestly, "but that's the way it is now. It's not ideal, but we're going to have to make it work." Ellie's eyes shone with potent intent. "And we can make it work."
"Yeah?" Chuck challenged. "You really think it'll work," he gestured between them. "Two teenagers and one barely there father?"
Ellie quirked a somber smile. "It only will if we do this together, Chuck."
"You know that's asking a lot, right?"
"I know," Ellie admitted with a sigh, "but we can handle it. We just have to be ready to make some sacrifices. We can't be selfish anymore. Everything we do needs to be with each other and Dad in mind," she finished, a resolute sheen skating across her features.
Chuck appraised his sister for a long moment, his deep, intellectual eyes studying her. "Just you me, and Dad, huh?" With an acquiescent sigh, Chuck shrugged. "Go, Team Bartowski…"
Chuck shakes himself from the reverie he's plunged himself into, and he tries to ignore the waver in his voice as he answers, "Send her in." Burying his head in his hands, Chuck attempts to calm his racing heart. It's been so long…
She's a tall, graceful woman, her dark chocolate hair highlighted with a touch of gray, and her hazel eyes sparkling as she enters. She strolls into his office, her skirt swishing around long legs, as elegant as his memories recall, and it's as though he's transported to twenty years prior when the Bartowski family wasn't quite as fractured as the present.
Chuck rises from his desk, one hand consciously drifting to his neck to fix his already flawless tie. "Mom…"
Caroline Carmichael, once Caroline Bartowski, greets her son with a warm smile. "Hi, Charlie."
Chuck releases an unconscious chuckle. "You always did hate that Grandpa gave me my nickname."
Caroline waves away his assertion with a graceful hand and wrinkled nose. "Chuck is so undignified and you, my son, were nothing of the sort." She takes a casual glance around his spacious office, sprinkled with awards and plans of new software ideas. "I see you've done quite well for yourself."
Chuck shrugs, and he knows she's impressed with the magnitude of building and the luxury of his office. Being CEO of Traversal Industries dealing with computer software and technology that skirted just beneath Apple and Microsoft when it came to the kings of the computer world, allowed such expenditures.
"I'd say so," he agrees, and despite the smugness he invariably feels, a slight blush tinges his cheeks as his innate humility kicks in. "Although I do think Forbes was a bit too generous concerning my status and influence."
"And how have you been personally? Any girlfriends?"
Irritated with the small talk, Chuck doesn't answer her question. "What are you doing here, Mom? It's been over twenty years. Twenty years with no phone calls, no letters, not even a Christmas card every once in awhile. You left us with nothing but a letter to explain everything, and now you just want to waltz back into my life as though you never left?"
"Charlie, honey, it was a complicated situation," she pleads. "Your father and I…" Caroline falters. "We just…couldn't anymore."
Chuck's eyes blaze with an anger so foreign to those who know him best as he vents over two decades of this sentiment of abandonment. "Oh, you just couldn't?" he scoffs. "So you just couldn't come when I graduated valedictorian? You just couldn't come and help me out when I got expelled from Stanford? You just couldn't bother when Ellie got married? When I got married?"
"You're married?" Caroline's eyes flick down to his left hand amidst its wild gesturing, catching the platinum band adorning the appropriate finger. "Why didn't I hear about it?"
Barely cocking an eyebrow, Chuck doesn't relinquish his sullen expression or tone. "You don't even attempt to contact me or Ellie in over twenty years, you can hear about it the way everyone else did: through the papers."
"And how long have you two…?"
"Dated for a year in a half, married for five with two kids," Chuck answers shortly and shows her the picture of their twins, throwing it on his desk before his mother. "They're two." Chuck crosses his arms over his chest, scrutinizing his mother closely. "Why are you here, Mom?"
Caroline ran a hand unconsciously through her hair. "Well, honey, I was up in Napa visiting Uncle Jim and Aunt Tricia when I saw that article about you in Newsweek. It took a bit, but I finally found out where your office was and decided to come down to see you."
"Okay, so let me get this straight," Chuck garners, striding around his desk and leaning up against the edge. There's an intensity to his eyes that Caroline has never seen before, and it's slightly unnerving as though he's constantly analyzing her. "You have been on the coast…hell, in this state all this time, and you haven't thought to contact me and Ellie once? It's only when you see me in a magazine that you decide to come here?"
"Well honey, it's not everyday that you see your son in a national publication," Caroline entreats. "Charlie, I had no idea you were so successful, it's wonderful. You've always wanted to do something like this. I remember you talking with Morgan about someday starting a software company."
"Yeah, Mom, I always did," Chuck asserts, "but see, the thing is, I always imagined more family than just Ellie standing beside mewhen I finally achieved that dream." He's not shouting, but the words ring as clearly as though he broadcasted them from a speaker. "I mean, do you realize what you've missed Mom? Never mind me, what about Ellie? She had to sacrifice the most when you left us." Chuck's eyes mist over with the bout of emotion assaulting his synapses as he finally confronts his mother after all these years.
"You should have seen Ellie's face when she when she saved her first patient. When her husband proposed to her. When she said 'I do.' But you missed all that. You didn't even try. We worked so hard to move on from all the pain and the hurt we felt when you left us. And yeah, it took awhile, but we did it. We moved on…without you."
Thrown by his words, Caroline takes a long look at her son, far from the gangly, awkward thirteen year old she left him as. He's blossomed into a tall, strapping, handsome man. His hair, once carelessly unkempt and always hanging disparagingly onto his forehead, is much shorter, neater, and styled expertly skyward in an array of spikes. His outfit screams professionalism, power, and even affluence from head to toe, evident in his crisp dress shirt and silk tie, to the clearly expensive watch that peeked just beyond his shirt cuff adorned with titanium cufflinks, to the sharply tailored slacks, to the impeccably-shined shoes. Caroline stares at her son for a moment. He's certainly come a long way from the Star Wars t-shirts and ratty jeans combination so prevalent in his wardrobe but that's not the only difference she sees. He's got this confidence about him that is commanding yet unassuming but surely present, but there's no vestige of arrogance in his carriage. He hasn't lost his endearing charm or that adorable goofy grin. And as she takes in the image of her son standing before her, the thought hits her conscious mind. This is the man her boy has become, and she had no part in it. This amount of success, this happiness so rampant on his face, all this he has obtained on his own.
"Well, honey, it looks you and Ellie have done just fine for yourselves," Caroline acknowledges with a disparaging sigh. "Guess you don't need me anymore."
Chuck's face remains resolute as he looks his mother straight in the eye, the intent clear in his brown spheres. "We never did."
Their moment is interrupted at the sound of the door opening and a pair of heels clicking against the hardwood floor of the hallway, and Caroline turns to the source to find an extremely beautiful blonde striding in commandingly, her piercing blue eyes focused on her son.
"Chuck, honey, we have a problem. There's a situation in Italy, and Casey and Neil are going ballistic trying to get us there on such short notice, and Ellie or Awesome can't baby-sit…" Sarah immediately halts her tirade as she realizes the third party in the room. "Oh, excuse me! I didn't know you were in a meeting." Sarah turns a confused stare in Chuck's direction, communicating in the silent manner perfected a long time ago.
The weariness is palpable in his deep brown gaze as he shakes his head. "No, it's not a meeting." He turns to his mother. "This is my wife, Sarah. Sarah, this is my mother. Caroline Carmichael."
"Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Carmichael," Sarah greets Chuck's long-absent mother, extending a hand.
"Caroline, please," Caroline corrects, grasping the offering as she not too unobtrusively appraises the woman her son has chosen to marry. Sarah is obviously just as successful as her Charlie and dressed just as impeccably in a sophisticated skirt and cashmere sweater. A diamond ring and matching band sparkle from their place at her finger, the elegant design and magnificence of the set a subtle reminder of the wealth her son has accumulated, and Caroline smiles at her boy's wife. "I'm delighted to see that my Charlie's married such a wonderful woman."
"Thank you. I wasn't aware you were in town," Sarah shoots an admonishing glance to Chuck whose eyes widen as he raises his hands in a helpless gesture.
Amused at the unspoken repartee exchanged between her son and his wife, Caroline assures Sarah with a small smile. "I didn't tell Charlie. I was up in Napa visiting family when I saw his picture in a magazine I was reading, and decided to come and see how he was doing."
"Would you like to stay for dinner?" Sarah offers. "We'd be happy to have you. I'm sure the kids would love to meet their grandmother."
Despite the impact Chuck's words have wreaked on her psyche, Caroline still declines gracefully. "Thank you, dear, but I do have to go."
Sarah nods in understanding. "Oh, well, you're welcome to stop by any time you're in LA."
Caroline smiles at her son's wife. "Thank you, Sarah. It was nice meeting you." She returns her gaze to her son, a slightly somber sheen to her hazel eyes as she accepts her place – or lack thereof – in one Charles Montgomery's life. She places two fingers to her lips, extending them out to her son in one final farewell. "You take care of yourself, Charlie."
As Caroline exits the office, Sarah turns to her husband, an expression torn between amusement and confusion adorning her face. "Charlie?" she repeats, sidling up to him.
Chuck shoves his hands in his pockets, shrugging in a manner strongly reminiscent of the days he was clothed in a short-sleeved dress shirt complete with pocket protector and grey tie rather than Armani. His eyes linger on the doorway his mother has just disappeared through. "She never liked Chuck."
Sarah cocks an eyebrow, frowning. "Shame. You know, Charlie doesn't really suit you…"
His grin flickers brightly. "Nah, I'm a Chuck, through and through."
"Are you okay?"
Chuck sighs, pulling slightly on his tie and unbuttoning the collar. Turning to Sarah, he slides his arms around her waist, wrapping her in a tight embrace. She melts in his arms, providing comfort he way he had so many times for her. Pulling back, Chuck leans down, his lips seeking hers. She leans into his kiss, returning his passion with equal fervor. In the kiss is a silent entreaty, pleading with her never to abandon him the way his mother had, and Sarah hastens to reassure him nothing short of death would make her leave him. Chuck smiles serenely, one hand gently cupping her cheek.
"Yeah," he answers simply. "I'm okay."
Sarah returns his smile, her hands running up the planes of his chest, feeling the muscles twitch beneath her fingertips. "Well, look on the bright side," she cajoles lightly. "You were right on that weird feeling…"
Chuck groans, shaking his head. "Yeah, but something tells me I'd rather have been proven wrong."
Sarah chuckles, cocking her head to the side as she appraises her husband. "You ready to go?"
Chuck nods and strolls back to his desk, gathering his suit jacket and briefcase, sifting through his paperwork. Remerging with a confused glint to his features, Chuck frowns at his wife. "Hey, babe, where's my…?"
"Top drawer, under the annual reports you were looking through earlier," Sarah answers without missing a beat.
Chuck rotates towards the compartment as per her instruction and rummaging through the mess, finally finding the object in question. "Thanks. Remind me to ask Joyce to fax those to Graham and Beckman. Apparently, they want to see if the Forbes piece was exaggerating or not."
Sarah grins. "Was it?"
"Unfortunately, no," Chuck admits in the sheepish modesty even millions of dollars haven't manage to diminish as he extracts the elusive article from its hiding place. "I was planning on donating a load of it to that women's shelter on Eighth and Figueroa. I passed by it on the way to Morgan's and thought it looked a bit run-down." Chuck's gaze drifted up to Sarah's. "What do you think?"
Sarah smiled. "I think it sounds like something Chuck Bartowski would do."
"What about Charles Montgomery?" Chuck teases. "By the way, if you bribe Morgan with enough grape soda, I'm sure he and Anna wouldn't mind watching the twins, though we should ask Graham and Beckman to send an alternate team if we can't find a sitter on such short notice." Loading the compact Glock with a deft hand, Chuck returns his attention to Sarah. "So what's this about Italy?"
Sarah would never put it past him, but she swears that Chuck is psychic. She hasn't quite figured out exactly how he does it, but Chuck always seems to anticipate her every move. Maybe he really does have a hint of clairvoyance, maybe it's an indication of exactly why the CIA was clamoring to recruit him aside from the whole subliminal image recognition ability as was the case with the Intersect, maybe he just is amazingly perceptive when it comes to her, but even from the beginning of their relationship, in a short amount of time, he had already deciphered so much of her and the secrets she keeps hidden. And as their relationship progresses beyond anything she's ever anticipated, he becomes even more proficient. When the Monday Morning Blues rear its ugly, unfortunate head, he's there with a cup of coffee and that ridiculous grin of his. When her cover job at UCLA becomes more tedious than normal, she comes home to champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and rose petals strewn in a bubble-laced bathtub as Frank Sinatra drifts from their extensive stereo system. And when she feels that this balance of normality and the espionage world is reaching the brink of insanity, his shoulder is in easy reach and his arms secure around her.
But the biggest instance of his clairvoyant abilities as he's on the field. Being relegated to an analyst, she's essentially switched places with him, staying in the car while he tracks down their current target. He's remarkable, somehow able to sense things that escape a normal person's comprehension. And with his already present charisma, he's also very apt when it comes to talking down skittish subjects. Sarah admits that she fell in love with him because of the unguarded, innocent way about him, but she's also the first to admit that CIA Agent Chuck Bartowski is hot. He's focused on the field, very mission-oriented but still able to crack the inane joke at the most inopportune moments, much to Neil's amusement and Casey's annoyance (although the NSA agent has become quite fond of the asset-cum-agent – though he will never admit it – Chuck still finds ways to aggravate him to no end). And although she is the first to admit that this Chuck is very appealing, not to mention extremely arousing to her female sensibilities, one niggling emotion still arises. As his prowess plunges him even deeper into the world Sarah's been a part of for such a long time, she fears that he's on the verge of teetering on the precipice she once came so close to plunging off. But her worries are soon assuaged. As soon as each mission is completed, he's back to the same nerdy, goofy, compassionate Chuck she fell in love with. She attests part of that seamless transformation to their relationship, but also attests that transition to the fact Chuck tends to let Casey or Neil do the messy killing. He's still Chuck after all…
As the years go by, she is very quick to blame that acute perception to something otherworldly. So she supposes it's not really that surprising that when she tells him she's pregnant, he only smiles a serene smile possessing no aspect of surprise, just uninhibited joy. She's at least expecting something, but it seems as though nothing about her current admission has thrown him. Not even in the slightest. His response is simple, and he leans in, brushing a kiss across her lips before touching his forehead to hers, his eyes shining with joy, gratitude, and love.
She doesn't bother asking how he knew, knowing he'll just shrug with some vague, ambiguous answer, but she is surprised when moments later, he slings an arm around her shoulders and makes one quiet, confident assertion.
"It's a girl…"
Sarah frowns, cocking her head slightly. "How do you know?"
Just as she predicted, Chuck only shrugs. "I just have a feeling…"
And he's correct, and about seven months later, little Madeline Eleanor Bartowski is born. Right out of the gate, everyone can see that she's as feisty as her mother. Madeline makes her entrance with quite the notable show as the Bartowskis hear her even before they see her as she utilizes an impressive set of lungs. But about eight minutes later, they both get a shock as Landon Charles Bartowski follows. Unlike his wailing, squirming elder sister, he simply emerges from his apparent hiding place behind his sibling and straight into Ellie's waiting arms. Much to Chuck and Sarah's surprise.
Sarah Bartowski had been shot, stabbed, thrown from moving vehicles, and even tortured, but the pain she endured then was nothing compared to pushing a living, breathing infant from her body. Never in this lifetime did she think she would have to experience that particular brand of pain. But in nine short months, Sarah Bartowski found herself experiencing such pain, she just didn't think that it would occur twice. Slumping back against the pillow, Sarah peers down at the unanticipated second product of her and Chuck's whirlwind romance. Blinking a set of milk chocolate eyes amidst the dark brown curls that dusted the top of his head, a wrinkly baby boy stared wondrously at his surroundings, absorbing the world around him with an innate curiosity that would surely to yield to brilliance, if not a boatload of trouble. And as he turned eyes identical to those of his father's, the aforementioned man stared right back, the blatant surprise palpable in the spheres. Chuck gaped, his eyes flicking from his son to his daughter and back again as his mouth opened and closed but no sound filtered forth.
Chuck's eyes flicked to back his wife before rolling to the back of his head, sending his lanky six-three frame tumbling to the ground. Luckily, with the many medical technicians on hand and after the scent of smelling salts drifted through his nostrils, he bolted upright, his eyes blinking with potent confusion. Sarah's face hovered over his, and he met her concerned gaze with a wondrous look that screams of his son's paternity.
"Chuck, sweetheart, are you okay?"
Again, his mouth moved but expelled no sound as Chuck struggled for coherency, the absolute shock barring him from the simple act of speaking. Finally, he managed the barest of sentences. "There's two of them?"
"You betcha, Chuckster. Awesome, eh? Who knew you were such a stallion?" Devon boomed, reaching out and clapping a hand across Chuck's back, sending the other man into a slight coughing fit. "Sorry, dude."
Chuck ignored his brother-in-law, instead turning his attention to his wife. "How could we not have known this?"
"Well, this is a common occurrence amongst twins," Ellie explained. "They tend to hide behind one another, and sometimes, the sonogram just doesn't pick up the other one."
"We have twins…" Chuck breathed out, gazing at his children. "We have twins," he repeated. His eyes widened as they darted to his wife. "We have a problem…"
"Well…yeah," Chuck answered. "We weren't planning on twins."
A crease appeared in Sarah's brow as she wondered exactly where Chuck was going with his assertion. "Uh-huh…"
An identical furrow appeared in Chuck's forehead as he gestured down to his son. "Well, what are we going to name him?"
Sarah's eyes widened incredulously as she hesitated, unsure if she really heard his prior statement. "You're worried about his name?"
"Well…yeah," Chuck disclosed. "I mean, the simple fact that we have another one isn't really a problem. We have the room…the house is huge, we have the means…the company's very successful…the only problem is we haven't really thought of what to name a boy…"
Sarah cut him off, reaching up and grabbing him by the lapels of his hospital-issued scrubs, yanking him down and pressing a fervent kiss on his lips.
Chuck's eyes glazed over as the sheer passion of the kiss bypassed his lips and shot straight to his nether regions. "What was that for?" he ventured weakly.
Sarah's smile gleamed incandescently as she shook her head. "You're unbelievable."
An adorably confused look crossed his features. "Uh…thanks, I think…" Clearing his throat, he gestured down to their son. "But really, what are we gonna name this one?"
Sarah gently stroked her son's petal-soft cheek as he squirmed, batting one fist in the air. "Landon."
"Landon?" Chuck repeated. "That's an interesting name. I like it." He ran an affectionate hand through the curls dusting Landon's crown. "What made you think that?"
Sarah's gaze grew soft as she ran a hand down the squat nose of her baby boy. "It's my father's name."
Chuck nodded, unable to deny his wife this one tangible reminder of the family she left behind. "Landon it is. And the middle name?"
Sarah didn't even have to think. "Charles."
Chuck cocked an eyebrow. "You want the kid to have my name?"
"Who better?" Sarah asked.
Chuck laughed. "At least he won't have the misfortune of bearing Chuck…"
"What's wrong with Chuck? I fell in love with a Chuck."
"You try going through most of middle school with the oh-so clever moniker of Woodchuck, then get back to me."
Sarah mimicked her husband's expression, one eyebrow quirking upwards. "Woodchuck?"
"He had big, wide-set front teeth before he got his braces," Ellie whispered for edification.
Sarah reverts back to the present, and she looks up just in time to meet Chuck's eyes, the dark chocolate spheres glinting with slight trepidation.
"Are we ready for two?"
Sarah looks at him as though another head has sprouted from his shoulders. "Of course we are."
Chuck pauses, slightly thrown at her conviction. Normally, he's the one who provides the reassurances, and he's impelled to ask, "How do you know?"
Sarah only laughs and places their daughter into his arms. Chuck looks down into the deep blue eyes of the bundle held captive in his grasp before they fluttered close. With the warmth of her father's arms surrounding her, Madeline unconsciously snuggles into his chest, huffing out a contented sigh.
Sarah's voice reaches his ears, soft with affection and conviction. "That's how…"
Chuck feels his heart melt as he gazes down at his baby girl, and he freezes. Sarah's brow furrows as she misconstrues his body language as a flash from the Intersect, but it's actually flashes of the future that skate behind his eyelids.
Chuck grasping his son's hands as Landon takes his first tentative first steps towards his mother's outstretched arms, Madeline perched in her lap.
Sarah wrestling with the twins as they splash in the bathtub, shooting disgruntled glances at her husband through soapy hair as he films the chaotic scene before him.
Chuck and Sarah enjoying scant moments of peace on Christmas morning before their bedroom door bursts open and the twins come barreling in, leaping onto the bed with excitement.
Little Landon marking the spot above his head before standing back, eyeing the notch in comparison to his father's height.
Madeline prancing around in a leotard and tutu, practicing her dance for class before grabbing her karate uniform at the insistent cries of her mother and racing out the back door.
Landon scrunching his nose up in concentration as his father shows him how to throw the perfect spiral, which he does…straight into Chuck's crotch.
Chuck and Sarah glaring daggers at their two children as they are hauled into the principal's office for yet another one of their ingenious pranks. Landon and Madeline are pictures of innocence, but Chuck and Sarah know better. After all, the byproducts of two spies are nothing but innovative.
Madeline leaving for her first date on the arm of a young boy, vainly trying to hide his terror as each move goes noticed under the watchful eye of Madeline's father, her brother, Uncle Awesome, Uncle Morgan, and Uncle Casey, whose fingers twitch, slowly inching back to the gun holstered at the small of his back, only to be snatched away by Sarah, communicating words with a single glare.
Landon being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates amidst the cheers of his high school as the scoreboard reads in his favor. He frantically searches the crowd for his family, waving manically as he spots them.
Madeline sobbing in her father's arms the day she finds stupid David Henley kissing that slut Heather Shaw, amidst the thankfully indiscernible growls from her Uncle Casey about a twelve-gauge and Second Amendment rights.
Landon holing himself in his room for a good week as his girlfriend of six months breaks up with him, stating he's just "too nice." Madeline threatens to beat the little whore to the ground and Sarah starts rummaging through their house for her throwing knives.
Landon and Madeline throwing their caps in the air, clutching diplomas as they celebrate with their peers.
Chuck sniffing back tears as he walks Madeline down the aisle, giving her away to the man who's to become her husband.
Chuck and Sarah, their hair sprinkled liberally with silver and hands joined, sitting contentedly as their grandchildren putter around the yard amidst their parents chatting amiably by the pool.
Chuck jerks himself from his bout with unconscious clairvoyance and meanders a ways away, gently rocking Madeline to sleep. His head is bent down to his daughter, but Sarah can catch his whispered words.
"Hello, gorgeous. I'm your Daddy. Listen, kiddo, here's the deal. If you're anything like your mom, you're gonna be a knockout and I've gotta feeling I'm gonna have a helluva time beating all the boys away with a stick. So you wanna do me a favor and keep the boys to a bare minimum? I don't think I can handle that stress. Me and Mommy know a lot of ways to hurt people, but we all know I'm kind of a softy. I'll only threaten them. But I'll tell you this, if anyone tries to hurt you or your brother, that shot Mommy's always bragging I've got, well, I'll put it to good use…" Chuck returns his eyes to his daughter, running one hand over her dark curls. "Whattya say, Maddie? You don't date till you're thirty and I'll keep you safe?"
In response, Madeline yawns, nuzzling into her father's shirt, taking the same comfort her mother does from his distinct scent. Chuck takes that gesture as acquiescence and grins. "Alright, sounds good."
Seeing the natural tenderness and the loving care he pays to their daughter, Sarah knew Chuck's prior worries were nothing of import, just a passing concern, and a few days later as Chuck jokes about all the things he saw that day, Sarah can't help but dwell on what he's said. Okay, yes, Chuck was insanely perceptive, but he was no psychic. But in her deepest of hearts, Sarah has no reservations whatsoever in believing that all he claimed he saw would come true.
She gazes down at the bundle slumbering in her own arms, knowing Landon Charles Bartowski will turn out just as kind-hearted and handsome as his father and hopes Madeline Eleanor will reflect a bit of her feistiness. Sarah looks to her husband. Their pasts left so much to be desire, but the future…the future now lay in her arms, innocence and optimism bundled in a blue blanket. It seemed a bit brighter. They could forget what happened in the past. What they made of the future, that was more important, and Sarah knew their twins would never see the extent of the human condition they saw and fought against. Just as Chuck promised Madeline, they would shield them for the La Ciudads and the Payman Alahi's of their day, and the twins would certainly never have to sacrifice anything for the greater good of their country. That innocence Chuck and Sarah had both surrendered so long ago would be preserved in babies for as long as the real world allotted. Yep, life with the Bartowski family was going to be fine. Just fine.
And cut! That's it, folks. The end!! Wow, I'm tearing up here. It's been such a great ride, and I'm happy that so many of you took it with me. Thanks for all the feedback and reviews for this story, especially the criticisms and advice. Hope to see you all in the Chuckverse again. I'm not quite sure if I have another one in the works. Maybe if the inspiration strikes. Until next time…