March 17th, 12:15 P.M.
Chuck Bartowski strode across the parking lot of Empire Plaza, each step taking him just a little bit closer to Wienerlicious.
It was the best part of his day, each afternoon, walking in there, seeing her for the first time that day, watching her face light up as he walked through the door. The shy smile that drew itself on her face, the one he had only ever seen on the faces of girls who had for whatever reason fallen head over heels for him.
The problem lay in getting her to admit it. Ever since the incident on the helipad six weeks before, she had not said word one to Chuck about how she felt about him. Quite frankly, he thought that that sucked. Oh, sure, he could understand the justification – it could compromise the mission.
As if he gave a rat's ass about the mission at this point.
"Screw the government, anyway," Chuck muttered as he got closer to Wienerlicious. He was not pleased with the federal government just then – as if it weren't bad enough that he was stuck under their thumb so long as he had the Intersect in his head, it turned out that the IRS didn't think he had paid enough tax over the course of the prior year, and so he had ended up having to send in a check for almost eight hundred dollars along with his form 1040 that morning.
However, as he approached the Wienerlicious, he groaned. Casey was in there, standing behind the counter with Sarah, looking down at the cash register. They were clearly talking to either Director Graham, General Beckman, or both, about who knew what.
The bell on the door jingled as Chuck pulled it open. Both Sarah and Casey looked up, startled, then relaxed when they saw that it was just Chuck.
Sarah turned an accusing eye on Casey. "I TOLD you we didn't have enough time for this," she mocked him.
"Oh, shut up, Walker.
"Hey, is that Director Graham you're talking to?" Chuck called across the dining room, not hiding the displeasure from his voice as he approached the counter.
"Yes, it's me, Bartowski," came Director Graham's disembodied voice. "What do you want?"
"What do I want?" Chuck replied. He turned the corner and stepped behind the counter, coming into view of the webcam. "I want the eight hundred dollar check I just dropped in the mail to the IRS back, that's what I want."
Casey looked at Chuck in disbelief, then back down at the webcam. "He's got the Intersect stuck in his noggin and we couldn't at least give him a break on his federal taxes?"
Graham rolled his eyes. "I work for the CIA, Major Casey, not the IRS."
"Still," Sarah interjected, "it seems like it's the least we could do."
"You would think so, wouldn't you?" Graham replied with a sigh. "Fine. I'll see what I can do. We'll continue this later."
The screen went black, and began to fold back into the cash register. Casey shook his head. "My lunch break is over in less than five minutes," he sighed. "I've got to get back over to the store. You two have fun talking, or eating lunch, or whatever it is you kids are calling it these days."
He brushed past Chuck, and headed out of the store. Sarah shook her head. "Whatever we 'kids' are calling it these days."
"Hey, he IS older than us."
"Yeah, but he's making sound like he's fifty and we're teenagers!" Sarah replied. "Which, I hate to break it to you, but we're not."
"Thank God," Chuck sighed. "If we WERE teenagers, this would be the time of year when I'd have to start working up the nerve to ask you to prom."
Sarah made a face. "Prom. What a waste of time."
"Thank you!" Chuck exclaimed. "I mean, the cost of the tickets, and the tux, and the corsage, the limo, dinner… and God, let me tell you, when you go to Beverly Hills High, it's a freakin' joke."
"So, Chuck," Sarah said, "who was your senior prom date?"
Chuck gave her a look. "Are you gonna tell me about yours?"
Sarah sighed. "No…"
"Then why, oh why, should I debase and humiliate myself in such a fashion?"
Sarah pouted and opened her eyes as wide as she could. "Because I'm a pretty girl and I'm giving you puppy dog eyes?"
Chuck tried to keep a straight face. He really did. But he couldn't hold it for very long against such a potent weapon, and finally burst out laughing. "FINE," he groaned. "Her name was Dana Lorenson. She was the varsity cheer captain."
"No WAY!" Sarah gasped. "YOU went to prom with a varsity cheerleader?!"
Chuck frowned. "Is that so hard to believe?"
Sarah was quiet for a moment. "Actually," she said, "it's really not."
Chuck smiled. "Anyway, prom was at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She got a room there, and I went up there with her, all ready to go… then, she comes out of the bathroom in this tiny lingerie thing, and tells me she wants me to go get a bucket of ice so she could 'show me a good time'."
Sarah's eyebrows went up. "Wow," she said, a little smile creeping onto her face. "So what happened?"
"I took the ice bucket, went to the ice machine, and completely freaked out," Chuck replied. "Fortunately, I still had my wallet and my keys in my pants pockets, so I just walked back to Ellie's apartment. It was something like three miles."
Sarah burst out laughing. "Hey," Chuck said, "that's not very nice."
She shook her head. "No, you're right, I'm sorry," she replied. "I can't tell you anything about my senior prom except this: mine was worse."
Chuck was quiet for a moment. "Good Lord," he finally said. "That sucks."
"Yeah, well," Sarah replied. "Anyway. Old times I don't need to remember. New subject. Why are you wearing a Buy More polo today instead of your uniform?"
Chuck cocked his head to the side. "Because it's green…"
"And that matters because…"
Chuck looked at Sarah strangely. "You're kidding, right?"
She shrugged. "Nope."
"Sarah," Chuck said slowly, "have you been under a rock? It's March 17th. Saint Patrick's Day?"
Her eyes widened, and her mouth fell open. "Oh, no," she whispered. "Shit!"
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Okay," he said. "You forgot it was Saint Patrick's Day. That seems like a rather violent reaction…"
Sarah sighed. "No, Chuck, you don't understand." She put her hands on her hips and looked at the ceiling. "This doesn't leave this building, okay?"
"What doesn't leave this building?"
She looked back at him. "My father is Irish. My mother was Scots-Irish. I grew up Catholic, in Boston. So, it's a little embarrassing for me to have forgotten about Saint Patrick's Day."
"Ohhh," Chuck said. "I see."
He paused for a moment. "Um, well, Morgan and I had been planning to go hit up this Irish place in Santa Monica tonight… there's this Flogging Molly cover band from UCLA playing there. He had to back out, but I'd still like to go – and if you'd like to come, that'd be fun…"
Sarah looked at Chuck with an amused expression. "Why, Chuck Bartowski," she said, "are you asking me on a date?"
He shrugged. "I suppose you could look at it that way," he replied. "Or, you could look at it as me giving you an opportunity to redeem your Irishness."
Sarah smiled. "Hmmm," she said. "I guess it'll be up to me to decide which one of those it is."
Sarah showed up at Chuck and Ellie's apartment just before 6:00. He saw her out the window, coming across the courtyard. She had changed into jeans and was wearing a dark green jacket, which was unbuttoned just far enough for Chuck to be able to see a kelly green t-shirt that might have had white printing on it – but Chuck wasn't sure.
Chuck opened the door and stepped outside, in order to avoid the grand inquisition that Ellie and Devin were sure to visit upon them. "Ready to go?" he asked.
"What?" Sarah shot back. "I don't get to say hello to your sister any more?"
"Not if you want to leave here in a timely fashion, you don't," Chuck replied, taking Sarah by the upper arm and gently guiding her away from the apartment. "I've been getting the third degree lately about where our 'relationship' is going."
He paused for a moment, and muttered something under his breath that sounded distinctly like, "I wouldn't mind knowing that myself."
Sarah opened her mouth to reply, and then thought better of it. It didn't matter what she said, it would just cause trouble.
When they reached the Herder, Chuck opened Sarah's door for her, as always. She smiled as she got in the car, and as she always did, put her hand to the door frame for balance – but this time, her hand landed on Chuck's hand. She didn't move her hand, letting it linger there until she was seated.
After she pulled her hand away and buckled her seatbelt, she expected Chuck to shut the door – but he just stood there, a dazed expression on his face. "Chuck," she said gently, "the door?"
"Right!" he said quickly, snapping out of his trance. He pushed the door shut, and dashed around to the other side of the car.
Chuck was quiet for most of the drive out to Santa Monica, speaking only occasionally to curse at the "idiots on Santa Monica Boulevard". Sarah was somewhat surprised but secretly pleased that simply resting her hand on Chuck's that briefly could still affect him that way.
When Chuck reached the end of Santa Monica Boulevard, he turned left onto Ocean Avenue, and drove south to Kinney Street, where he turned left again. "And there it is," he proclaimed, pointing through the windshield.
"O'Brien's, huh?" Sarah asked, a note of sarcasm in her voice. "Sounds like a real Irish place, all right."
"You mock," Chuck replied, "but you have no idea. Besides which, isn't 'O'Brien' an Irish name?"
"Yep," Sarah said, not saying any more.
But when they got inside, she changed her mind. "Okay, yeah, this looks like it was lifted straight out of Boston," she admitted.
"Told you," Chuck said with a grin. Sarah began to unbutton her jacket, and Chuck stepped behind her to help her take it off.
The kelly green t-shirt came into view, and just as Chuck had suspected, it had white print on the front. "Kiss Me, I'm Irish," it said.
Chuck smiled. Not exactly the shirt he would've expected Sarah to wear, but it was definitely amusing. She looked up at him and smiled – and Chuck made a snap decision.
Reaching a hand behind Sarah's back, he placed it between her shoulder blades and gently pulled her toward him. He bent his neck slightly, and kissed her.
She was definitely surprised, but she also made no effort to resist. It only lasted for a moment, and then Chuck pulled away.
Sarah had a surprised expression on her face, and it took a moment for her eyes to flutter open. "Okay," she finally said. "I think you just made the decision that this is a date, which means…"
She smiled. "You get to pay for everything!"
"Uh-uh," Chuck replied, shaking his head. "Your shirt says, 'Kiss Me, I'm Irish,' and part of this whole thing is that were supposed to be redeeming you regarding your Irish heritage."
Sarah's smile got bigger, and she shook her head. "Touché," she replied. "Now, if I wear a shirt that says, 'Chuck, Stay In the Car,' will you follow those instructions, too?"
He shrugged. "Probably not."
She laughed and punched him in the arm. "You're a pain in the ass sometimes, you know that?"
Chuck grinned. "I try."
Sarah rolled her eyes, and then headed for the first empty table she saw. It was tiny, and she was amazed it was unoccupied – this was, after all, an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day. However, there were two chairs, and that was quite enough for the two of them.
They sat down, and waited a couple minutes for a server. One finally came up to them, dressed from head to toe in green. "Happy Saint Patrick's Day, folks, and welcome to O'Brien's!" he greeted them. "What can I get for you?"
"Bring me a Car Bomb," Sarah replied with a grin.
Chuck's eyes widened. "Uh, I'll just have a Coro-"
"Make that two Car Bombs," Sarah interrupted him.
"Two Car Bombs, be right back!"
Chuck looked across the table at Sarah. "Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?" he asked playfully.
"Come on, Chuck, you can't go to an Irish pub on Saint Patrick's Day and drink CORONA," Sarah shot back. "That's like… it's sacrilege!"
"WELLL… my apologies!" Chuck said, holding up his hands in surrender.
About five minutes later, the server returned, setting two pints of Guinness stout on the table in front of them, along with two shot glasses. Chuck picked up the shot glass and looked at it curiously, examining the Jameson's whiskey floating on top of the Bailey's cream.
Sarah smiled. "You've never done a Car Bomb before, have you?"
"I can't say that I have," Chuck replied. "It was mostly tequila up at Stanford."
"Alright," Sarah said. "Here's how it works. You take the shot glass, you drop it in the beer, and then you chug."
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Sarah, that's Guinness," he protested. "Chugging that would be like speed-eating a sub sandwich."
She shrugged. "Okay," she replied. "But if you don't chug it, it starts to curdle."
Chuck looked at the pint of beer, and then back at the shot glass. "Really?"
"Oh yeah," Sarah said. "Ready?"
"Tough. One, two, three, DROP, and CHUG!"
Chuck didn't appear to actually want to do it, but he did anyway, dropping in the shot glass, and then tossing back the Guinness. Sarah finished hers long before him, and slammed the pub glass down on the table.
Chuck kept pretty good pace, although the shot glass fell out and clunked against his nose as he was drinking the last dregs. "OW!" he objected, his voice muffled by the pub glass.
He set the glass down on the table. "Okay, that wasn't THAT bad," he allowed.
Three bottles of Guinness draught each later, Sarah ordered a second round of Car Bombs from the server. "Are you trying to prove something here?" Chuck asked in amusement, after they had both drained the Guinness pints. "Specifically, are you trying to out-drink me?"
"But of course!" Sarah replied, even as her brain said, BAD IDEA! She was already feeling about a sheet and a half to the wind.
"Then there's something you should probably know," Chuck said, his voice full of sweetness and light. "Up at Stanford, I used to drink Bryce under the table all the time."
And that set alarm bells off in Sarah's head. She had never been able to keep up with Bryce, and if Chuck had consistently drunk Bryce under the table… "Uh-oh," she whispered.
"Yeah, uh-oh might be right," Chuck replied, an amused grin appearing on his face as he pulled out his phone. He pressed a button, and held the phone to his ear.
"Casey," he said a moment later. "You still out there?" He was quiet for a moment, and then his grin got even bigger. "What can I say. I saw you get in that cab. I'm getting better at this."
He didn't say anything for another moment, and then said, "Yeah. I don't really feel safe to drive, and Sarah's drunk as a skunk."
"I am not!" she protested.
"Sorry, Casey, she's gonna be drunk as a skunk in about ten minutes." Silence. "Yeah. We'll be out there in a moment."
Chuck stood up, reached into his pocket, and withdrew his wallet. Opening it, he pulled out four twenties, which he tossed on the table.
Sarah went to stand up as well, but suddenly went very light-headed, and the room began to spin. Seeing her wobble, Chuck reached out and grabbed her arm. "Careful, there," he said. "Drunk CIA agents tend to fall over easily."
"Shut up," she shot back, trying to sound playful but instead sounding drunk. Good job, Walker, she thought to herself.
Casey was standing by the Herder when they came out the door. He looked very amused. "Can't hold your liquor, huh, Walker?"
Sarah didn't say anything, but lifted her right hand and flipped Casey the bird. "So uncivilized, Sarah," Chuck jokingly admonished her as Casey opened the shotgun door of the Herder.
The world began to spin as Chuck sat her down in the back seat of the Herder. She closed her eyes, and it seemed to come to a stop. "Okay," she whispered.
The drive back to Sarah's hotel didn't seem to take very long, but maybe time had just compressed itself in Sarah's impaired mind. When they got there, though, and she opened her eyes, the world didn't spin, for which she was very grateful.
"You need me to wait, Chuck?" Casey asked. Chuck shook his head.
"I might be here for a while," he replied. "I'll catch a cab if I need to."
Casey nodded. "See you tomorrow, Bartowski."
Sarah might have been drunk, but she wasn't too drunk to pick up on what Chuck said. "You might be here for a while?" she asked playfully. "Expecting something to happen, are you?"
Chuck turned bright red, but managed to recover. "I figured just in case… you ARE pretty drunk, after all."
"No I'm not!" Sarah insisted. But the sound of her voice was more than enough to convince her that yes she was.
Chuck didn't say anything in response, just smiled and shook his head, guiding Sarah to the elevator. When they reached her floor, an idea began to form in Sarah's drunken mind.
She managed to get the door unlocked and opened, and Chuck followed her inside. As soon as they were both in, she pushed the door shut, and then turned, put her hand on the back of Chuck's head, and pulled his face down to hers, kissing him hungrily.
Chuck responded in kind at first, but after a moment, pulled back. "Sarah," he said cautiously, "are you sure ab-"
She cut him off, kissing him once again. This time, he didn't resist or interrupt it, not stopping until he had to come up for air.
When he broke away from Sarah, she wrapped her arms around his neck and stood on her tiptoes, putting her lips next to his ear. "I want to make love to you," she whispered.
And instantly, she felt Chuck's body stiffen, and he began to back away from her. Confused, she looked up at him, directly into his eyes.
"I… I can't believe I'm about to say this," he said softly, "but I don't think that's a good idea."
"Why not?" Sarah asked insistently, feeling both confused and hurt. "You've wanted me since the day you laid eyes on me! I know you have! Now, I tell you that I want you too, and you say no?!"
Chuck's mouth set in a grim line. "Sarah," he replied, "I want to be with you more than anything else. But you are drunk. If I let myself sleep with you, I would feel like I had taken advantage of you, and I just can't do that."
The logic of Chuck's argument penetrated through Sarah's drunken haze, and she found that she couldn't argue with it. "Okay," she whispered, disappointed. "But will you at least stay here tonight?"
"Yes, I will," he said with a smile. "But I'm sleeping on the couch."
Sarah woke up at 8:30 the next morning to the smell of coffee brewing. Surprisingly, her head wasn't pounding, but she had a dim memory of Chuck forcing two aspirin and a couple glasses of water into her before she went to sleep.
Speaking of Chuck… yep, he was still there, she was happy to see. He was sitting on the couch, still wearing the green t-shirt and jeans he had had on the night before, looking at something on his iPhone.
"Morning," she said quietly.
He looked up from the phone. "Good morning," he replied with a smile. "How are you feeling?"
"Not that bad, surprisingly," she said, beginning to sit up. "I usually fe – WHOA."
Sarah wrapped her comforter around herself. "I'm naked," she said accusingly.
Chuck held up his hands. "Your choice," he replied. "I turned off the lights before you got that way, too."
"Oh," she said. "Did we…"
Chuck shook his head. "You wanted to," he replied. "But I said no, because I would've felt guilty."
Sarah nodded. "Okay." Then she smiled, and cocked her head. "Come here," she told him.
Chuck rose from the couch, crossed to the bed, and uncertainly sat on the edge. "I don't bite, Chuck," she promised him. He smiled and scooted a little closer.
Sarah looked at him. "Chuck, this might sound like an odd question coming from somebody who's at least a little bit hung over at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning…"
Chuck laughed. "That was quite a mouthful," he interrupted.
She reached an arm out from under the comforter and smacked his shoulder. "Shut up and listen," she said playfully. "Anyway, do you know what you want in life?"
"Wow," Chuck remarked. "Quite the question. Um, the answer? Not really. I have no idea what I want to do tomorrow. All I can really tell you is that right now, I want to hang out with you, which is why I called us both in sick."
Sarah's eyebrows shot up. "You did what?!"
"You'll thank me later," Chuck replied. "Now, I think it's only fair to ask you the same question."
"No!" Sarah shot back, and pulled the comforter up over her head. Chuck broke out laughing, and leaned over. His shadow fell across her head.
"You can't run away from life that easily," he said softly.
Sarah pulled the comforter down to just below her eyes and looked up at him. His face was maybe a foot from hers. "I don't know," she admitted quietly. Then she smiled, and pulled the comforter down to her chin. "But just like you, I do know what I want right now."
"Oh?" Chuck asked, cocking an eyebrow. "And what would that be?"
Sarah withdrew an arm from under the comforter, placed her hand on the back of Chuck's head, and pulled him to her, kissing him gently. "I want you."