A/N: Does anyone actually remember this story? Nope, haha. But I wanted to finish it, and here it is. I won't bother you with excuses for taking so long. I hope you enjoy it, though, and I hope it helps you remember the fun things we love about Chuck and Sarah, and how lucky we are to be getting Season 4! :D
Sarah opens the door to the upstairs guestroom, where the bridal party is getting ready, and her gaze immediately settles upon her elder daughter.
Not that she's especially difficult to pick out, her ivory-colored gown standing out in light contrast with the deep scarlet of the bridesmaids' dresses. Seated in an armchair in the corner while Cole's daughter Maggie puts the finishing touches on her makeup, 27-year-old Megan looks perfectly composed.
But Sarah can see the hint of worry in her eye.
"Hey," she says, addressing the entire room, "how's it going in here?"
In addition to Megan and Maggie, Megan's aunts Ellie and Sophia and her cousin Emma are helping her (and each other) get ready for the ceremony. Gwen, the mother of Colin, the groom, is pinning Megan's veil on. And there's Katie, Colin's younger sister and Megan's fourth bridesmaid, who is sitting in the corner and lacing up her matching Converses.
"Almost ready," Ellie announces.
"Well you better slow down a little," Sarah laughs. "The ceremony doesn't start for another forty-five minutes."
Maria and Maggie ease off their tasks as Megan rises to her feet and crosses the room to Sarah.
"Have you heard from Jennie yet, Mom?" she asks.
"Not yet," Sarah offers with a sad smile. "Your brother's trying to get a hold of her, but you know how she is – always forgetting her phone."
When Megan's face falls, Sarah rubs her back comfortingly. "Hey, she'll be here, sweetie. She promised, didn't she?"
Sarah smiles at the stunning young woman standing before her. With long blond hair (pulled up in curls for the wedding) and pale green eyes from the Walker side, she reminds Sarah of her own mother.
Sarah presses a kiss to her cheek. "You look beautiful. Now, I'm going to go check on your groomsmen, but I'll be back."
She exits just as quickly as she came, leaving the women to their tasks and heading down the hallway toward the men's guest room. Inside, she finds her husband and her sons, 26-year-old Jason and 18-year-old Cole, along with Colin, Colin's cousin and best man Bradley, Uncle Casey, Uncle Morgan, Uncle Devon, Devon and Ellie's son Howie, Colin's father, and two of Colin's uncles.
It's even more crowded than the women's room.
Poking her head inside the doorway, she calls softly, "Chuck."
Chuck, laugh wrinkles around his eyes and his short dark hair streaked with gray, looks over with a smile. "Hey, hon. What's up?"
"Have you heard from Jennie yet?"
Frowning, he walks over to her. "She's still MIA?" Sarah nods, and he asks, "Does Megan know?"
"Well, it's a little hard to hide the fact that her maid of honor is missing."
"I suppose so," he sighs. "So what do we do?"
"Will you see if you can find Cole? He might have an idea of what's keeping her."
It makes sense. Out of their generation, Cole Barker is the only one still active with the agency. And, after he married Sophia, moved to the States, and made the switch from MI-6 to the CIA, he's been a mentor for Jennie, since her first day with the agency.
"Sure," Chuck nods.
Sarah turns away, but he catches her gently by the wrist to stop her.
"You know she's going to be here, Sarah," he prompts. "So what's really the matter?"
She frowns. Stepping out from the doorway, she leans against the wall and admits, "It's our little girl, Chuck. The things she could be doing . . . We don't even know where she is right now."
"Sarah, relax," he says with a smile, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "She just got out of the academy. What trouble could she possibly be getting into?"
"You're forgetting that this is our daughter," Sarah laughs, and he has to concede the point.
Two nights ago.
With the festival going on, the streets of Barcelona are crowded with citizens and tourists, alive with music and energy.
It's positively entrancing.
Jennie Bartowski's been to a lot of places in her life – parents who heartily believe in the benefits of life experience will do that to a kid – but she's never seen anything like this. She lives for new places, new people, new air, and this atmosphere is enough to intoxicate her.
It's a shame she has a job to do.
Patrick slides his arm around her and pulls her close. He's dark-haired, fair-skinned, and has a laugh that makes her feel like they can get through anything. The top two in their class, they've only been paired together for five months, but already they've become unstoppable.
"Do you see him?" he whispers.
She nods. "Over by the fountain."
"Ready to do this, Mrs. Bennet?" he grins.
Checking the Smith & Wesson tucked into the waistband of her jeans, she smiles back at him. "I was born . . . Well, no, I wasn't, but yes, I am ready now, Mr. Bennet."
Walking swiftly and fluidly, matching each other step-for-step, they head toward their target, and Jennie immediately feels that familiar wave of adrenaline she's coming to recognize as a mission high.
And she smiles, because, as much as she loves traveling to exotic places, nothing can compare to this rush.
Chuck wipes his hands on his tuxedo pants as he walks out of the manor house and into the gardens. The autumn day is warm, sunny, and beautiful, just what they could have wished for. Squinting against the afternoon sun, he winds his way down the garden path and toward the lawn, where most of the guests are already seated.
Bryce stands at the edge of the seating area, looking dapper in his suit as he ushers guests toward their seats.
"Bryce," Chuck calls, jogging over to his old friend. "Bryce, hey, have you seen Cole?"
"Barker or Bartowski? You know, after eighteen years, I still get confused. Couldn't you have given one of them a nickname?" Bryce laughs.
"You're just sore we didn't name him after you," Chuck teases.
"Of course not," Bryce shrugs. "After all, we couldn't have had him getting too jealous of my good looks, could we?"
"And I don't think you could've handled it if your namesake were better looking than you," Chuck replies with a laugh. "Which he is, by the way."
"Yeah, well, that comes from Sarah's side, obviously."
Chuck shakes his head with a smile before saying, "Anyways, Bartowski's upstairs, still figuring out to tie his bowtie, I think. But I'm looking for Barker. Any chance you've seen him?"
"No, I haven't seen him all day. Why? What's up?"
Frowning, Chuck admits, "Jennie's not here yet. Sarah thinks Cole might have an idea of what's keeping her."
"Don't we all have an idea?" Chuck lifts a brow, and Bryce continues, "Come on, buddy. We all know what the job's like."
"Yeah, but Megan, Ellie, Sarah . . . There'll be an entire line of people waiting to slaughter her if she doesn't make it today."
"It's a good thing she's quick with a gun, then."
"You are no help at all, you know that?" Chuck laughs.
"I've been told," Bryce concedes with a shrug.
"All right," Chuck sighs, fishing his cell from his pocket. "Jennie's not answering, but I'm going to try Cole. I'll see you in a bit."
Bryce nods. "Let me know if you need anything."
"Sure thing, buddy."
Chuck walks away, back toward the gardens, but Cole doesn't answer. The call goes straight to voicemail, and he cuts it off in the middle of Cole's voicemail greeting. Shoving his hands into his trouser pockets, he looks up at the sky in frustration.
But instead, he finds Sarah, standing on the balcony, gazing down at him.
He lifts a hand in greeting. She returns the gesture, tilting her head questioningly. He shakes his head, and his wife's face falls.
Chuck breathes out a deep sigh, letting his shoulders slump.
Nearly thirty years, and he feels like he's letting her down. She was always the one more comfortable with facing illegal weapons dealers than she was with facing in-laws, and he'd been the one to reassure her that family would be their rock.
But how can he put truth to those words when he can't even find their daughter?
Sweet autumn wind blows through Cole's hair as he lets down the convertible roof and steps on the gas. The winding country roads are perfect for his shiny new Porsche (an anniversary gift from Sophia), but his current preoccupation with speed is not an aging man's obsession with feeling youthful. A man of adventure until the end, he's never had that problem, especially with his wife by his side.
Rather, he is currently breaking every speed limit and even some additional road rules he encounters in a desperate attempt to get his best friends' daughter to her sister's wedding on time.
After all, he's never been a man to let his friends down, and the Bartowski clan has been invaluable to him over the years.
Not that he'd ever tell them that.
Jennie sits slouched in the passenger seat, nervously tying the laces of her new Converses for the twelfth time. They're dark red, to match her maid of honor dress, and he can't help but wonder whose idea they were exactly – hers, Megan's, or Chuck's. They're all so nerdy, it's hard to tell sometimes.
"Could you go a bit faster, Uncle Cole?"
Cole laughs. "If I go any faster, we'll plunge over these cliffs."
When Chuck and Sarah had retired the previous summer, they'd moved into the country. It's a beautiful estate, but the drive into the mountains can get treacherous, especially for those on their way to a very important wedding.
"Besides," he adds, "I thought spies were supposed to have patience."
"Well, I am a slow learner."
Cole rolls his eyes. She's her mother's daughter through-and-through, but when she effortlessly quotes movies like that, ridiculously nerdy movies from before her generation, he realizes again just how much of Chuck's personality she's inherited as well.
For some reason, that always surprises him. Maybe it's the fact that he's seen her on a mission, seen the deadly, focused look in her eyes, so reminiscent of Sarah's.
But today, those blue eyes are sparkling.
She may try to hide it, but Jennie Bartowski is just like the rest of them – formed by love, full of honor, brimming with hope.
After ten more minutes, in which Jennie fiddles incessantly with the radio, they pull into the driveway of the Bartowski home. Cole pulls the convertible around the circular drive and slows it to a skidding stop near the front steps, where Sarah sits, knees pulled to her chest, chin resting on her folded hands.
She regards them passively as they quickly hop out and head toward the house. Jennie stops in front of her mother, stooping to meet her eyes. The two lock gazes for a few seconds, an unspoken conversation passing between them that Cole doesn't understand, before Sarah smacks her daughter lightly on the cheek and Jennie rushes into the house.
Cole adjusts his cuff link as he meanders up the steps and takes a seat beside her.
"Well," he grins, "we made it."
Smirking, she taps the cell phone sitting next to her on the porch, takes a look at the time, and replies, "With eight minutes to spare. Impressive."
"I do my best."
Sarah sighs, a brooding crease in her brow, and Cole, squinting into the distance, can feel her silent reprimand. He suppresses a shiver, and then a small smirk. As amazing as Sarah is, he's glad he isn't the one who has to deal with that fiery temper.
Although, the look on her face makes him think that she's upset over more than just his unpunctuality and irresponsibility with his mobile (which he idly hopes Sophia had picked up before she left the house).
He sighs and says quietly, "I know what you see when you look at her. You see . . . scraped knees and bruised hearts. And I know she's still your little girl. But she's also a competent spy." He turns to her, a knowing smile on his face. "You and Chuck taught her well."
"Thank you," she nods solemnly.
He can't stop himself from beaming. Sarah Walker Bartowski is not a woman of many words, but she can manage to inject a million into just those two.
"Come on," he says, holding out his hand, "I do believe you have a daughter to marry off."
Cole walks straight through the house to the back patio, where the wedding party is waiting impatiently, while Sarah searches the first floor for her younger daughter. She finds her in the bathroom, bobby pins hanging out of her mouth as she sticks a few extra into her up-do.
"Hey, sweetie," Sarah says, standing in the doorway.
"Mom, I know I'm late, and you and Dad were worried and everything, but I have approximately four minutes to fix my hair and get my ass out there before Megan strangles me."
Sarah rolls her eyes at her overdramatic tendencies, but simply says, "Don't swear. It's vulgar." Now it's Jennie's turn to roll her eyes, but Sarah ignores her and continues, "No guns at the wedding."
Jennie immediately stops fixing her hair and looks incredulously at her. "But –"
"I'm serious, Jennie. No guns, no knives, no weapons at all."
"But what if something happens? I want to be ready."
Sarah fights to keep the smile off her face. Jennie is never so eager, so excited than she is when the possibility of a firefight comes up. "All your uncles are here, plus your aunt Ellie, not to mention your father and I. So what exactly do you think is going to happen?"
"I don't know," Jennie shrugs. "But you and Dad have lots of enemies, and I want to be ready, especially today."
"Well, I'm sure Megan would appreciate the thought –"
"If she knew."
"If she knew," Sarah concedes with a chuckle, "but this is still my house, and there will be no weapons at this wedding."
"What about the 30-foot rule?"
Smirking, Sarah thumbs her daughter's nose. "It doesn't apply at family celebrations, babe. Now, off with the hip holster."
Her eyes widening, Jennie exclaims, "How'd you even know?"
Sarah, already on her way out, stops at the doorway to look back and say, "Please, 22 years and you haven't learned that you can't hide anything from me? What kind of spy are you?"
Jennie shakes her head, a smile on her face, and hastily unsnaps her holster before following her outside.
Megan lifts a brow as they step out onto the patio and Jennie sidles up against her older sister.
"Glad you could make it, little sister," Megan greets.
Jennie accepts her bouquet from Katie, thanks her, and says with a shrug, "Yeah, well, I didn't have any better offers."
The two sisters stand in silence for a minute, Jennie shifting from foot to foot and Megan fiddling anxiously with her flowers, before Megan breaks and slides an arm around her sister's neck.
Pressing a quick kiss to her cheek, the bride says, "I'm glad you're here."
Jennie turns red as she tries to hide a smile, and, in an whisper, she says, "You know I wouldn't miss this for the world."
Sarah watches her daughters quietly from across the patio, smiling as she leans into Chuck's shoulder.
Chuck turns his gaze across the lawn, and, his breath catching at the sight of her, he marvels at the way she can still set his heart on fire even after nearly thirty years together. Picking up two flutes of champagne, he meanders his way across the lawn. She sits on a bench at the edge of the garden, illuminated by the fading sunlight and the garden lights, a contemplative smile on her face.
"You, my dear," he murmurs as he sits down beside her, "are as gorgeous as ever."
Sarah snorts, the sound sending a familiar wave of delight through him
Handing her a glass of champagne he says, "You've been pretty quiet all day."
She slides an arm around his waist and takes a sip of champagne before saying, "Just . . . taking it all in, that's all."
He lets out a deep breath, smiling happily as she rests her head against his shoulder. After all these years, just sitting beside her can still put him at such ease, can still put such a contentment in his heart.
He remembers a time when their lives were nothing but chaos and danger, and the memories make him eternally grateful that they can call this – this celebration, this happiness, this family – their life now. Taking a long look around, his smile gets wider as he takes in the scene.
There's Ellie and Awesome, slow dancing and looking as in-love as they've always been. Casey, Morgan, and Bryce are tossing horseshoes. And most of the Bartowski-Woodcomb cousins are hanging around in a circle in the middle of the lawn, drinks in their hands and laughter in their eyes – Howie, Emma, Jason and Maggie, Jennie, Peter, Cole, all their significant others and friends and more who have been welcomed into the family - including the newest members, Katie and Bradley.
And then there's Megan, her eyes closed in contentment as her new husband twirls her around in the grass.
When he closes his eyes, he can still see her as a newborn – pink and squished and beautiful. She's still beautiful, her mother's daughter, and he's going to miss her when she moves away to start her new life. She and Colin are off to live in Chicago after the wedding. Chuck has never been far away from family, because family had always meant Ellie, or Sarah, and they were always there. But this move is already hitting him hard.
Then again, he suspects he'll see her more often than it seems. Megan's playing first base for the Chicago Bandits, and Sarah's already bought season tickets for next summer. That will at least occupy them for a few months. He and Sarah have been going a little stir-crazy since their joint retirement.
"So what do we do now?" he asks.
She lifts her head to regard him curiously. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, there's no more wedding to plan, Jason's been on his own for a few years now, Cole's off at Stanford, and Jennie's . . . well, Jennie's pretty much you thirty years ago. No more kids to raise, an empty house . . ." He grins at her. "What do we do now?"
Leaning forward to press a soft kiss to his lips, Sarah shrugs and says, "Same thing we've always done."
"What?" he grins. "You mean, be awesome?"
She shakes her head with a laugh. "Yeah, something like that. Although I wouldn't object to doing a little traveling now that we have some time. You know, the sight-seeing kind."
"As opposed to the fighting bad guys kind."
"Mm-hmm," she murmurs, curling her fingers into his salt-and-pepper hair.
"Well," Chuck says happily, "it seems like we've got our whole lives ahead of us, doesn't it, Mrs. Bartowski?"
"It sure does, Mr. Bartowski," she chuckles, kissing him again. "And I'm looking forward to spending it with you."
Chuck's heart swells as he gives her a squeeze around the shoulders. He lets his gaze roam over the reception, over the guests, lets a feeling of lazy contentment fill him.
Sarah sighs and lets the silence hang for a moment before asking, "If you had a superpower, what would it be?"
Chuck lets out a charmed laugh. Because the fact is, with her around, he doesn't need any superpowers.