Thanks again to Poa for the proofreading.
Here it is. The final chapter of…
CHUCK VERSUS A NORMAL LIFE
The End of Normalcy
The alarm flashed over from 6:59 to 7:00 and Huey Lewis and the News' "I Want a New Drug," began blasting out of the speaker. Chuck sat up and glared at his alarm. He shoved the alarm off the bedside table, sending it slamming against the wall. "I am so tired of that damned song," he shouted.
A moment later, his door flew open and Ellie and Awesome came running into his room. "What is it, Chuck? What's the matter?" Ellie asked.
Chuck put his hands to the sides of his head. "Make it stop," he moaned.
Ellie sat down on the bed next to him and put her arm around him. "Make what stop, Chuck?"
"That damned beeping," he cried. "Don't you hear it?"
Ellie looked up at Devon, who shook his head sadly.
"Chuck. Devon and I are going to take you down to the hospital. I want to have them check you out."
Chuck jumped to his feet and glared at her. "There's nothing wrong with me," he shouted. "I just… I just…" He clenched his fists so hard that his arms shook.
Devon put a hand on his shoulder. "Easy, bro," he said. "We're just trying to help."
Chuck took several deep breaths. "It was just a bad dream," he said. "I… I woke up in the middle of it and it freaked me out. I'm fine."
"Chuck, you are not fine," Ellie said. "I want to take you down…"
"I said I was fine," Chuck said through clenched teeth. "I just need… Could you call the Buy More and tell them I'm sick?" he asked.
"Of course," Ellie said. "Then will you let me take you down to the hospital to have you checked out?"
"I'm going to be okay," Chuck said. "It's just the stress at work."
"Chuck, you work at the Buy More," Ellie said. "It shouldn't be causing you this much stress."
"Please, just call me in sick," Chuck said. "I'm going to take a shower."
Ellie stared after him helplessly as he walked out of his room and into the bathroom. He turned on the shower then looked at himself in the mirror. He rubbed the crook of his right arm. It was uncomfortable, as if something was poking him there. He tried to ignore it and got into the shower. The cold water was something of a shock, but it helped clear his head.
He toweled off, brushed his teeth and went back into his bedroom. Instead of his Nerd Herder uniform, he changed into jeans and a knit shirt, although he did wear his ubiquitous Converse All Stars. He glanced at his bedroom door. His sister was bound to badger him until he agreed to go with her to the hospital. He opened his window and left via the "Morgan door."
The Nerd Herder was parked outside. At first, he just drove, with no particular destination in mind. He was surprised to look up and see that he was in front of Sarah's hotel. He stopped and parked, contemplating going in. He sat for a long while, simply watching the door to her building. Finally, he started up the car and started driving again.
Now he had a destination in mind. Whenever he needed time to just sit and think, he always went to the beach. There was something about sitting on the shore, watching the waves and listening to the surf, that relaxed his mind. He parked and locked the herder and looked up at the seagulls swooping and crying overhead. Ever since he had read 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' as a kid, he associated seagulls with freedom.
He walked to the beach and sat down. It was still a little chilly, so the beach was basically deserted. For a long time he just sat there, watching the waves slip up on the sand, then slither back out again. Over and over.
"You know that you can't stay, don't you?" a voice next to him said.
He looked over at Bryce, dressed in jeans and a knit shirt, like Chuck himself. But Bryce also had on his dark "spy glasses."
"I know," Chuck said. "But I want to. I just wanted a normal life."
"But you're not normal, Chuck," Bryce said. "You never have been. I protected you as long as I could, but it was inevitable. I see that now. If I hadn't sent you the Intersect, you would have been drawn in some other way. What was it Sarah said? 'Some people want to be heroes and others have to be asked.'"
"But I never asked for this," Chuck said.
"I know, Chuck," Bryce said. "And I'm sorry. I really am. But I didn't have a choice."
"We always have a choice," Chuck said. It would be so easy to just allow this fantasy to swallow him up. And he knew it was a fantasy. He had known it for awhile. He just didn't want to admit it. And yet, even in this fantasy of a normal life, his life as the Intersect had intruded.
"Yeah, we do," Bryce said. "And now it's time to make yours."
Chuck closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Chuck!" He recognized Sarah's cry. He slowly opened his eyes and turned around. She was walking across the beach toward him, carrying her boots, just like the morning after their first date. He glanced next to him. Bryce wasn't there.
Sarah knelt down next to him and hugged him. "Ellie called and told me that you were acting strangely this morning. She said you had slipped out and she was worried."
"How did you find me?" Chuck asked.
Sarah looked nonplused. That was obviously not the response she expected. "Our first date," she said. "We came here after the Echo. I figured this is where you came to think."
He smiled at her, a wan smile. "You know me so well, don't you?"
"Chuck, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Everything," he said. "You, me, this life. This isn't my life."
"What do you mean?" Sarah asked. "Of course this is your life. This is the life you've wanted."
"Wanted?" Chuck asked. "A dead end job at the Buy More? No prospects? No plan?"
Tears filled Sarah's eyes. "What about me, Chuck?" she asked. "I suppose you don't want me, either?"
If Chuck Bartowski, Computer Nerd and Intersect, had a Kryptonite, it was women's tears. The moment Sarah started crying, he melted.
He gathered her in his arms. "No. No, of course not," he said. "You are… amazing. Incredible. Smart. Beautiful." But a part of him told him it was a lie. This was not Sarah. Not his Sarah.
Sarah pulled away from him and smiled. "Let's go away, Chuck," she said. "Just you and me. Right now. Escape all of this."
She silenced him by lunging at him and pressing her lips to his. She reached up and slid her hand behind his head and pulled him into the kiss. Her tongue slid over his lips, seeking access. He resisted for a moment, and then parted his lips to allow her in. Her tongue explored his mouth and her free hand roamed over his back. He tried to resist, but slowly gave way to his growing passion. He slipped his hand behind her back and pulled her into him. She moaned softly at his touch.
Suddenly he pulled away. There was anger and hurt in her eyes. "What's the matter?" she asked.
It should have been the most passionate kiss of his life. But all he could think about was his kiss with Sarah on the docks and the 'practice kiss for Roan Montgomery. This paled compared to those.
Sarah slumped a little. "What is it Chuck? Don't you want me?"
He looked down. "It's not real," he said.
"What?" Sarah asked.
"It's not real," he said. He looked up at her. Her expression was one of fear and anxiety. "You're not real."
She grabbed his right hand and squeezed. "What do you mean?" she asked. "Feel that!" She raised their clenched hands to shake them in front of his face. "Feel this!" But he barely felt it. Barely felt her flesh pressing against his. Only his left hand felt the light pressure and warmth of another's hand on his. He shook his head sadly.
Sarah pulled away from him. "She'll never be yours," she said angrily. "Not like I will. To her you're just an asset. You're just a friend. You'll dance around each other forever, close, but never connecting. Is that what you want?"
"No," Chuck said sadly. "But if that's all I can have, then I'll accept that. To be with her, I'll accept even that."
Chuck stood and walked away, leaving her sitting there on the beach. He knew what he had to do.
On the way back to his apartment, he saw a familiar figure in green and yellow peddling toward him.
"Hey, Chuck. Skipping work today?"
"Actually, it's time I was going back to work," Chuck said.
"You mean it's James Bond time?" Morgan asked, making karate chops in the air.
"I think I might be more Inspector Clouseau than James Bond; but, yeah, it's time to go back to my real life."
Morgan climbed off the ten-speed and clasped Chuck's hand, then pulled him into a back-slapping 'man hug.' "We had a good run, though, didn't we?" Morgan asked.
"Stuff of legend," Chuck said.
Morgan started to get on his ten-speed and then stopped. "So do you really think I have management potential," he asked. "I mean, the real me?"
"Yeah, buddy. I don't say it enough. But I think you can do whatever you finally put your mind to."
"Well, thank God this isn't real, then," he said. "I have mad work avoidance skills, you know."
Chuck smiled. "I know, buddy."
Chuck walked back to his apartment. Casey was in the courtyard, waiting. "You really going to do this?" he asked.
"I have to," Chuck replied. "It's who I am."
"You're a moron, Bartowski," Casey said. "You'll never be a real spy."
Chuck smiled at him. "But I don't have to be," he said. "You and Sarah can be the real spies. I can be the Intersect."
"And sit in the van and flash?"
"And you'll catch me when I fall."
Casey straightened and threw Chuck a perfect salute. "Carry on, moron," he said.
Chuck unlocked the door to the apartment and went in.
Ellie jumped up from the couch. "Chuck! I've been so worried."
"You don't have to worry any more, sis," Chuck said. "I know what I have to do."
"I'm not sure I like the sound of that, Chuck," she said.
Chuck walked over to her and enveloped Ellie in a hug. "There's something I want to tell you," he said. "Here, while I can. I am sorry for all the lies. I'm sorry for not being able to tell you the whole truth. You mean so much to me, sis. You've always been there for me and I don't know how I would have survived the last six years without you and Morgan. I want you to be proud of me, and all that I've done this last year. I want to tell you about the spying, and the saving the world, and this incredible life I've stumbled into."
Ellie returned the hug. "Oh, Chuck. You know I'm always proud of you. Whether I know about Spy World or not. You're my little brother and I will love and respect you no matter whether you're super spy Chuck Bartowski or Nerd Herder Chuck Bartowski."
Chuck smiled at her and pulled away. "I love you, sis," he said. "I'll see you in a few."
"I figured you'd be here," he said to the figure in the hallway.
Bryce smiled and handed him his dark glasses. "For a real spy," he said.
Chuck just took the glasses and nodded, but he didn't put them on.
"So you're going, then?" Bryce asked.
"I have to. As much as I thought I wanted it, this isn't my life. I have to go home now."
"Well, you've always had the power."
"So help me, Bryce, if you say 'just click your heels together'…"
Bryce smiled; that smile that was somehow both smug and sincere at the same time. "Give my best to Sarah," he said, and then he was gone.
"You know, I still hate you Bryce Larkin," Chuck said to the empty air.
In his room, Chuck turned on his computer and accessed his email. He knew it would be there. An email from Bryce Larkin: . He clicked on the email. The screen want black and a phrase appeared: "The terrible troll raises his sword." Chuck typed, "Attack troll with nasty knife" and then took a deep breath and hit 'Enter.'
A series of pictures appeared on Chuck's screen and he passed out.
Sarah was sitting by Chuck's bed, holding his hand, just as she had been every day since 'the accident,' as they were calling it. They couldn't exactly tell everyone the truth. So everyone believed that Chuck had been injured stopping a mugger from assaulting Sarah. Sarah had insisted that the story include Chuck's heroics. It was the least she could do.
The nurses passed by the room and shook their heads. It was tragic, they said, that one so young and lovely was wasting away sitting by the bed of a young man who might never wake up. At least Doctor Bartowski had gotten her to go home with her for a little while each night to freshen up and eat something.
Sarah looked at her watch. It was nearly six. It was funny how she seemed to lose all track of time sitting here with him. At first, the days seemed to drag on forever. The waiting was excruciating. But now, she barely noticed the hours passing.
Ellie would be in soon to bundle her off to Ellie and Devon's for dinner, a shower, and a change of clothes. It had become something of a ritual. It was sad that it took a tragedy to make Sarah finally feel like part of Chuck's family.
Sarah squeezed his hand. "Ellie will be by soon," Sarah said softly to Chuck. "I'll go for a little while, but I'll be back, I promise."
She felt Chuck's hand move slightly and she almost jumped. "But I just got back," Chuck said, his voice hoarse and dry.
Sarah jumped to her feet and grabbed his hand. "Chuck? Chuck! My God. Chuck!"
He blinked his eyes, "Don't have to yell," he said. "Right here."
"Chuck! Oh God. You're awake." She started toward the door to tell at the nurses, but she didn't want to let go of his hand. Finally, she settled for throwing herself on his chest and hugging him.
"Tired," he said. "I'll be back."
Then he was gone again.
"Chuck!" Sarah yelled, shaking him. "Chuck!" She ran out in the hallway. "Nurse!" she yelled. "Nurse!" Then she ran back in his room and grabbed his hand. "Talk to me, Chuck," she cried.
The duty nurse came running in at Sarah's cries. She half expected to see that he had flatlined. It sometimes happened in cases like these. They just faded away.
"Ms. Walker?" the nurse asked. "What is it?"
"Go get Ellie… Doctor Bartowski."
"What is it?" the nurse asked again.
Sarah whirled and gave her a look that brooked no argument. "Go get Doctor Bartowski!"
The nurse ran from the room. Two minutes later, Ellie came rushing into the room, her lab coat flying. "Sarah?" Ellie asked. "What it is? What's wrong?"
Sarah looked at her, her eyes shining. "He was awake!" she said. "He squeezed my hand! He talked to me!"
Ellie hesitated a moment. She had seen cases like this before, where the family member or friend by the bed had dozed off and dreamed that the patient had awoken. But Sarah sounded so sure. So positive. She stepped back to the door and flipped on the lights. Sarah blinked in the sudden brilliance. Then Ellie went over to the bed, opened one of Chuck's eyelids, and shined in a light. Chuck blinked and moaned. Ellie jumped.
"Oh my God!" she cried, her eyes filling with tears. She turned to Sarah and tried to speak, but no words would come. She simply grabbed Sarah and hugged her tight.
"But… but he's gone again," Sarah said.
"Sarah, it's okay. It's normal for someone waking from a coma to wake briefly and then fall asleep. But he's asleep, not comatose. He's going to be all right!"
They hugged again.
Three hours later, the room was full. Sarah, Ellie, Devon, Morgan, Anna, even Casey. They were all standing around the bed, trying to whisper but their voices grew louder.
"Can't sleep with all this noise," came a sleepy voice from the bed.
"Chuck!" Ellie yelled.
"Hey buddy." "Good Morning, sleepy head." "Glad you're awake, bro." "Good to see you, Chuckles." "Harrumph." This last was from John Casey who, seeing for himself that Chuck was awake, slipped out of the room while the others clustered around the bed.
"Thirsty," Chuck said.
Sarah lifted a cup of water with a straw and Chuck took a sip. "Take it slow, Chuck," Ellie said.
"Had the weirdest dream," Chuck slurred.
"How come he's talking like that?" Morgan asked.
"It's going to take him awhile to get back to his old self," Devon said. "He'll have to undergo therapy, and we'll have to watch him pretty closely for a bit."
Sarah was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Chuck's hand.
"How long you been here?" Chuck asked her.
"Sarah's been here the whole time," Ellie said. "All your friends have visited, but Sarah wouldn't leave you."
Chuck looked at her and smiled. At least the old smile was back, the one that could melt even a cold-blooded CIA agent's heart.
They spent the next hour bringing Chuck up to speed on everything that had been happening while he was 'away.' Finally, Chuck yawned.
"Come on, everybody," Ellie said, shooing everyone except Sarah away like a mother hen herding her chicks. "We don't want to push Chuck too hard. They'll be plenty of time to see him."
Morgan slapped Chuck on the shoulder and Devon held up a hand for a high five, which Chuck weakly managed. Anna hung back a little, still nervous. Ellie kissed his cheek and said, "I'll be back in a little bit, Chuck."
Finally, they were all gone except Sarah. "I'll let you rest," she said, although she was still holding his hand.
"Stay," he said. She sat back down on the side of the bed. "I knew you were here," he said. He was still slurring his words, but they were coming a little easier now. "I felt you."
"I missed you, Chuck," Sarah said. "And thank you."
"For what?" Chuck asked.
"For saving my life. For coming back. For being you."
Chuck's eyelids were drooping. "So is Casey gonna kill me now?"
Sarah laughed. "I'm sure he's considering it," she said. "We're supposed to be protecting you, remember."
"Couldn't let them hurt you," Chuck said, his voice drifting off. "I luf-" And then he was asleep.
Sarah leaned over and kissed him. "Me too," she said, and then slipped into the chair beside the bed and laid her head on his arm. "I'll be right here."
Author's Note: So that's it. Another one down. It's a little shorter than the last one. I could have drug it out a little longer, but I couldn't put poor Sarah through any more.
I have a sequel in mind, showing Chuck's recovery but I'm sure everyone is 'angsted out' for now.
Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed 'Normal Life.' I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.