Chuck in a Moment
Chapter 18: Original of the Species
CAST (in order of appearance):
Sarah Walker – Yvonne Strahovski
Chuck Bartowski – Zachary Levi
Veronica Mars – Kristen Bell
John Casey – Adam Baldwin
Logan Echolls – Jason Dohring
Bryce Larkin – Matthew Bomer
Rev. Dana Hanson – himself
Ellie Woodcomb – Sarah Lancaster
Carina Hansen – Mini Anden
Morgan Grimes – Joshua Gomez
Devon Woodcomb – Ryan McPartlin
Corporal David Hernandez – Jon Huertas
Airman Joel Reynard – Michael Weston
10:30 A.M., Central Daylight Time
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota
"So," Sarah almost whispered, "I guess… I just want to know… do you still love me?"
Chuck sat up in his hospital bed as far as he could. "Of course I do!" he said, a look of shock on his face. "I could never stop loving you!"
Sarah's gaze moved to Chuck, and then to the floor. "Of course," she said. "I should've known better."
When she looked back up at him, there were tears shining in her eyes. "But that's the thing with you. You're such a good person, you're so fiercely loyal, that the way you care about people, it goes past just being friendship. You really do love all the people in your life. And I guess I asked the wrong question."
Sarah took a deep breath, and wiped the tears out of her eyes. "What I should have asked was if you still want to marry me."
Chuck closed his eyes and sighed. "Sarah…"
He put his left hand to his mouth, and slowly blew his breath out between his fingers. "There is absolutely nothing I want more than for you to be Mrs. Sarah Bartowski."
Chuck smiled. Sarah's face slowly morphed from a look of despair to a look of unabashed glee. She stood up from her chair and, being careful not to dislodge any of Chuck's IVs or probes, wrapped her arms around his back. She smiled as she embraced him, resting her head on his shoulder.
He lifted his left arm and wrapped it around her back. "I am gonna need a little time," he said quietly. "I think we should take at least a few months before the wedding. I think we also might want to consider premarital counseling."
Sarah pulled back a little and looked Chuck in the eyes. She slowly nodded. "Yeah, you're probably right," she said quietly.
Then she smiled. "But that's okay."
Chuck Bartowski was discharged from the 5th Medical Group hospital at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota on September 11th. Sarah, Veronica, and Casey were the only ones left with him – everybody else had returned to California, or in Bryce and Carina's cases, to their assignments.
Veronica and Casey had stayed with him because they were still his handlers, and Sarah had stayed with him for obvious reasons. Chuck was happy to have all three of them around.
Chuck thought it interesting that he was discharged on September 11th. The fact that they were still there that day meant that the three federal agents and the priceless federal intelligence asset got to witness Minot Air Force Base's annual ceremony to mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
At 7:46 A.M. local time – the exact same moment that American Airlines flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center, eight years earlier – the American flag was lowered to half mast. There was a moment of silence, followed by a twenty-one gun salute. Then the base commander began to read the list of the names of the lives lost on September 11th.
At 8:03 A.M., the moment that United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center, the base commander halted the reading of the names. There was another moment of silence, followed by a second twenty-one gun salute. Then the commander of the Fifth Bomb Wing picked up the reading of the names.
The reading continued for the next thirty-four minutes. At 8:37 A.M., the moment that American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, the moment of silence and the twenty-one gun salute were repeated once more. Following that, the commander of the Ninety-First Space Wing continued reading the names.
Twenty-two minutes later, at 8:59 A.M., the moment that the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, the commander of the 91st Wing stopped reading. A fourth moment of silence was observed, and a fourth twenty-one gun salute was rendered, but this time, a lone bugler played Taps as well.
After Taps was played, the commanders of the Fifth Bomb Wing's operations group, mission support group, maintenance group, and medical group came forward. For the next four minutes, they alternated reading the names, stopping again at 9:03 A.M. – the moment that United Airlines flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. Another moment of silence was observed.
As the moment of silence ended, a flight of four F-16 Fighting Falcons came into view. As they flew overhead, one peeled off and flew upwards – the traditional missing man formation.
Once the Falcons departed, the four group commanders continued reading the names. They stopped again at 9:28 A.M. – the moment the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. A final moment of silence was observed, a final twenty-one gun salute was rendered, and the bugler played Taps once more.
The three group commanders from the Ninety-First Space Wing then stepped forward, and continued reading the names. They read for twenty more minutes, and fell silent once the last name had been read. As they stopped reading, a low rumble could be heard.
A moment later, a few gasps were heard in the crowd. Heads turned to the east.
Ten B-52H Stratofortress bombers were flying toward the reviewing stand, low and slow. They were arranged in two columns of five bombers each – an approximation of the shape of the World Trade Center.
Chuck felt tears stinging his eyes as the bombers flew overhead. He would never forget that day – being shaken awake by Bryce, a horrified look on his roommate and friend's face as he turned on CNN. Those images would be forever burned in his brain.
Veronica looked desperately like she was trying not to break down crying. Casey was apparently ignoring the tears tracking down his face as he stood ramrod stiff, at attention.
Sarah, though, had in fact broken down. Her hands covered her face, her shoulders heaving. Chuck had no idea why she was affected so much by this, but there was something he could do about it.
Gently putting an arm behind Sarah's back, he pulled her into his embrace. She buried her face in his chest and wrapped her arms around his back.
Chuck had never been told the truth about what September 11th, 2001, had done to Sarah's family – how it had caused her father's post-traumatic stress disorder to lead to a psychotic break, how his behavior afterwards had driven her mother to suicide. He didn't know what was going on – he just knew that if he could hold her in his arms and let her cry, then eventually, everything would be all right.
Logan Echolls' pilots had picked up the Learjet 35J that belonged to John Casey from Hawthorne Airport in south Los Angeles and flown it to Minot Air Force Base to pick the four up. Logan was onboard to greet them.
"Hey, guys, who's ready to go home?" he asked cheerfully as they boarded the aircraft. But all four were rather somber.
"Okaaay," Logan said. "What did I say?"
"It's not you, Logan," Veronica replied quietly. "It's just that we just watched Minot's 9/11 observance."
"Oh," Logan breathed, and nodded. "Right."
Somewhere over Wyoming, Chuck asked Veronica and Casey if he could have a moment to talk to Sarah. They both readily agreed, and joined Logan at the front of the cabin.
"Okay," Chuck said to her, "I think that if we're going to get married, I need to know a little bit more about your past. This morning, it was pretty clear that the service affected you a lot more than me or Casey or Veronica. What happened to you on 9/11?"
Sarah tried to smile, but it didn't work. "Um, well, my dad was in the Army," she replied, as her eyes began to water. "He came back from Desert Storm with PTSD, which, well, they kind of ignored back then. He had a psychotic break on 9/11, after everything happened, and his behavior after that… um, it led my mom to OD on prescription sleeping pills right before Christmas."
"Oh my God," Chuck breathed. "Oh, Sarah."
He reached over to her and hugged her. She took in a breath, and then let it out again, shakily. "I'm okay," she whispered. "Today's just always a little tough for me."
She pulled back and looked at him. "But all of that happening is why I joined the CIA," she said softly. "And if I hadn't done that… I never would've met you."
Chuck smiled, but didn't say anything. He just reached out and embraced her again.
When they got back to California, Chuck had a surprise in store for everybody. It turned out that while he was cooped up in the 5th Medical Group hospital, he had finished coding the game that he started in Canada. Upon seeing it, Casey had jokingly suggested that he should call it Disaster City. Chuck actually liked the idea.
He had considered going back to Electronic Arts with it, but they had kind of screwed him on royalties and residuals for Mindnode. So instead, he went to Rock Star Games – the company that made the Grand Theft Auto series.
Rock Star Games took the game, looked at it, and basically fell in love with it. They paid Chuck ten million dollars for the rights to Disaster City, and signed him to a fifteen million dollar per game contract to develop two more games for them.
Chuck was, of course, absolutely flabbergasted. He went from a semi-successful video game designer and nerd to a multi-millionaire overnight. But despite his newfound fame, he followed through on his suggestion for premarital counseling, and the day after he sold the game to Rock Star, he and Sarah began an eight week premarital counseling course with Dana Hanson, Chuck's old pastor from First Lutheran Church of Northridge.
On October 1st, though, Chuck received what he considered to be bad news. Veronica came to the Buy More – where Chuck STILL showed up and spent eight hours behind the Nerd Herd desk every day, despite being a multi-millionaire – and she asked him if they could talk.
What came next was the worst news he had received in a very long time – Veronica had requested a reassignment. She made it very clear that she still wanted to be part of Chuck's life, to be his friend, but her feelings for him just weren't going away, and she needed to not be around him all the time, which she didn't have a choice about as his handler.
And so, one sad Saturday at the end of October, Chuck, Casey, and Logan showed up at Veronica's apartment in Santa Monica with a U-Haul truck and a case of beer. She had received her new assignment, to the FBI's field office in San Diego.
The three men packed everything in the apartment into the U-Haul. As they were getting ready to leave, Veronica asked for a moment alone with Chuck.
So, Logan headed downstairs to the U-Haul – "Oh, joy, I get to drive this monster," he had sarcastically remarked – and Casey just sort of disappeared for the moment.
"I'm gonna miss seeing you every day, Chuck," Veronica said softly, her voice making it quite evident that she was doing her best not to cry. "It's been a very, very long time since I was ever able to trust somebody as much as you."
Chuck smiled. "Hey, if it hadn't been for you, I would never have made it till Sarah came back."
He sighed. "You know, that night, back in January, when we first got together?"
Veronica nodded. "I had gone to the bridge that night, the one Sarah jumped off of. It was the same day, just a year later. And… I was going to jump."
Her eyes widened. "Logan showed up," Chuck continued. "He didn't know why he was there, he just said he had a feeling. And he told me to think about everybody in my life, to think about you."
His eyes started to fill with tears, but he smiled. "You saved my life, Veronica Mars. So, all that, up in Canada… that was just me returning the favor."
Veronica smiled and nodded, but didn't say anything – she just hugged Chuck tightly. After a moment, she let go, turned, and headed down the stairs, without a backward glance.
Chuck stood, watching after her. He heard the U-Haul truck start up, and saw it pull out of the parking lot, Veronica's Aston Martin behind it.
"Well, Chuck, you certainly do have a way with your handlers," Casey said.
Chuck nearly jumped out of his skin. "Jesus, where'd you come from?!"
"It's a little complicated, involves my mother and father and a bottle of Jose Cuervo, but – oh, you're talking about right now," Casey said, as Chuck shot him a look of exasperation. "I was just around the corner, talking to your new handler."
Chuck looked at Casey incredulously. "Already?!"
And Bryce Larkin stepped around the corner. "What can I say," he said. "Hunting Fulcrum got boring. Seems like all the excitement is wherever the Intersect is."
Chuck shook his head. "Well, this should be interesting."
Bryce nodded. "Listen, Chuck, there was something I was kind of hoping I could get you to do, if it's not too much to ask."
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "And what's that?"
Bryce sighed, and looked skyward. "Listen, I was hoping… I mean, I know I've pulled some pretty stupid shit on you… but I was hoping, if you could find it in yourself, to forgive me."
Chuck sighed. Bryce had pulled a lot of stupid shit on him. Stanford. Jill. Sarah.
But Bryce had also been his friend for a long time. Chuck closed his eyes and nodded. "Absolutely."
Bryce smiled. "Thank you."
"Of course," Chuck said, and then smiled. "But if you touch Sarah once, I'll kill you."
Bryce's eyes widened, but then he threw off a mock salute. "Message received and understood, SIR."
2:30 P.M., Pacific Standard Time
Saturday, January 30th, 2010
First Lutheran Church, Northridge, California
It had been two years. Two years to the day since she had jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge.
And now, she was about to take a plunge of a very different sort.
Sarah stood in the bridal dressing room, looking at the mirror. As a little girl, she had on more than one occasion fantasized about what her wedding would be like.
The reality didn't appear to be too far off.
She hadn't been able to find anything in white that she liked, but the cream-colored Versace gown she had found on Rodeo Drive had been perfect. Chuck, still used to living on his Buy More paycheck, had just about had a heart attack upon seeing the price tag – and then his sister had oh-so-kindly reminded him that his income was now approximately equivalent to the gross domestic product of a small third world nation.
The only thing that disappointed her was that her father wasn't going to be able to give her away. He was very sick, and the staff of the Beacon Hill Convalescent Home didn't think it was a very good idea to travel, let alone to the other side of the country.
So she had gone with the next best thing.
"I can't believe I'm giving you away," John Casey grumbled as she came through the door from the dressing room into the narthex.
Sarah smiled. "Hey, somebody had to do it. And for the record, you look good in a tuxedo."
Casey smiled and shook his head. "Well, glad to know one of us thinks so."
The wedding coordinator crooked her finger, indicating that it was just about time. Sarah and Casey crossed the narthex to the doors of the church, and came to a stop – just as the organist began to play Richard Wagner's Bridal Chorus.
"Let's go get you married," Casey said, unable to keep his smile from turning into a full-blown ear-to-ear grin.
Casey escorted Sarah into the sanctuary, and almost immediately, her finely-tuned observation skills went to work. Directly down the aisle from her was Dana Hanson, pastor of First Lutheran Church. To his right stood the three bridesmaids – Ellie Woodcomb, as the matron of honor stood on the first step down, facing the congregation. To her right, on the next step, was Veronica Mars, and to her right, a step below Veronica but still towering over her, was Carina Hansen.
Sarah had finally forgiven Carina right before Thanksgiving. Carina got strangely emotional over the whole situation, saying that she had never wanted to hurt Sarah, and that she couldn't stand the fact that she'd hurt somebody who she considered to be a friend so badly.
On the other side of Dana Hanson – there was Chuck. His face lit up with the smile that Sarah loved so much as she entered the sanctuary, although it appeared to be even brighter than usual, if that was possible. On his left was Morgan Grimes, as his best man, and then Bryce Larkin and Devin Woodcomb.
The wedding service seemed almost to be a blur. Sarah would, of course, later be able to recite every last part in sharp detail, but while she stood up there on the chancel of First Lutheran, her hands in Chuck's, her eyes never left his, her mind never thinking about anything but him.
When she said, "I do," she felt a wave of happiness wash over her like she had never felt before. Sarah Walker, the legendary CIA operative who had made a business of being able to leave anything, at any time, for any reason, had just committed the rest of her life to one person.
And that was absolutely all right with her.
An hour later, the reception was in full swing at the Woodland Hills Country Club. John Casey had announced his intentions to get completely hammered, telling Bryce that he had to stay sober and watch over Chuck just in case somebody showed up and wanted to take him away.
"Well, Casey, Bryce is pretty much screwed," Sarah said, "because I plan on taking Chuck away!"
"Hmmm," Casey replied, "that being the case, I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be Bryce getting screwed – I imagine it'll be Chuck."
Sarah had blushed bright red at that comment, but laughed. "Touché."
Chuck and Sarah had decided to engage in a little bit of a conspiracy regarding the bouquet and the garter. When Sarah tossed the bouquet and it wound up in the hands of Veronica Mars, the FBI agent had simply had a "Oh, no way," sort of reaction. However, fifteen minutes later, when the garter ended up in the hands of Logan Echolls, the Balboa County Supervisor had swung by the front table, looked Chuck in the eyes, and simply said, "You are a dead man."
The biggest surprise of the evening, though, was yet to come. Chuck and Sarah were sitting down, taking a brief break between the garter and cake, when two men walked up to the table. Chuck's eyes widened in recognition, and he stood to greet them.
"Corporal Hernandez and Airman Reynard!" he exclaimed. "Holy crap!"
"Uh, you can call me David," Hernandez replied.
"Joel," Reynard added.
Chuck laughed and shook his head. "I don't believe it," he said. "So, what brings you guys here?"
"Well," Hernandez said, "we took your advice, and drove down here to southern California. Logan Echolls was able to give us jobs with the county, and it's all good."
"Thing is," Reynard added, "after being assigned together for so long, and then the drive down here, we realized certain things."
Chuck looked at Reynard curiously – and then realized that Reynard and Hernandez were holding hands. "No way!" he said with a laugh. "I will be damned!"
Hernandez shrugged. "What can I say," he replied. "Guess things just happen that way."
"I guess they do," Chuck said. He looked over and tapped Sarah on the shoulder, interrupting a conversation she was having with Ellie. "Hey, Sarah? I want you to meet these guys. They were probably the only two decent people at Lac la Plonge Auxiliary Air Field."
Half an hour later, cake had been served, and the dance floor had been opened to anybody who wished to go forth. With no parents of the bride or groom around, Chuck had latched onto Sarah at the beginning of the first song, and refused to let go for three songs, much to the amusement of those around them.
However, that's when the DJ put on Switchfoot's "Only Hope." Chuck's eyes widened. "Hey, Sarah, would you mind if I had a dance with somebody else?" he asked quietly.
"As long as you come back," she replied with a smile.
"You better believe it," he said as he walked toward the front table.
Veronica was very busy studying her fingernails, and so didn't even notice for a second that Chuck was standing in front of her. Then she looked up.
"Oh," she said, surprised. "I… I… this was sort of our song, wasn't it? I mean, that's why I just… kind of wanted to ignore everything…"
Wordlessly, Chuck nodded, and then extended his hand. With a smile, Veronica stood, took his hand, and let him lead her on to the dance floor.
"It's almost too bad you're getting married, Chuck," she said quietly as they slowly danced. "I mean, you're kind of the last of the good guys."
"No, I'm not," he said. "I'm sure there's somebody out there for you."
Veronica laughed, unable to keep a trace of bitterness out of the laugh. "Believe me, I've looked."
"You're twenty-two," Chuck replied. "There's plenty of time for you still. And I'm pretty sure there's a guy waiting for you. Perhaps even in this very room."
"Riiight," Veronica drawled. "And perhaps I'm the Queen of England."
"Well, your majesty," Chuck shot back as the song came to an end, "you might want to check… right… behind you."
Veronica gave him a puzzled look, and turned around. Standing about ten feet behind her, looking resplendent in a tuxedo, was Logan Echolls.
She smiled and looked at the floor as he approached. "May I have this dance?" he asked, as U2's "All I Want Is You" began to play.
"Of course, Mr. Echolls," she replied.
Chuck smiled as he took his seat back at the front table, next to Sarah. "My job here is done," he said, looking far too pleased with himself as he looked out at Veronica and Logan.
She laughed and shook her head. "God, but you're a trouble maker."
"Oh, no, you haven't seen me make trouble yet," Chuck replied.
"Yeah, the trouble-making will be in a couple of hours."
Doctor Martin Ducard was a misguided man. He tried to eliminate the quirks and foibles that make human beings who they are.
The fact of the matter was, two people probably were going to create a highly intelligent, highly attractive human being with an incredible proclivity for subliminal imaging retention. That person could possibly inherit the H1 haplotype genetic deficiency, but with less than one half of one one-hundredth of one percent of a chance of an individual ever developing progressive supranuclear palsy, it was a risk worth taking.
It seemed that the newest of those human beings wasn't too far away.
On May 2nd, 2010, Sarah Walker Bartowski discovered that she was just shy of three months pregnant.
And all was right with the world once again.