"Chuck, Chuck, you gotta help me out, man! I'm in need here!"
Morgan was pleading with his friend, which was hardly something new, but the look on his face was more pathetic than usual. He had even resorted to bending his knees a bit, but before the smaller man actually got it into his head to drop to the floor, cling to Chuck's pant leg and grovel in supplication, the not-so-fearless leader of the Nerd Herd relented.
"Okay, Morgan, I'll help you. What is it this time? Resident Evil strategy? Short-term loan?"
Chuck paused to think. Snapping his fingers an inch from Morgan's nose, he declared, "I've got it! How to explain to Big Mike about that flood in the men's room!"
Morgan flushed and looked at the floor, proud but modestly embarrassed, his hands thrust deeply into his pockets.
"Yeah, that was classic," he said in a faraway tone before looking at Chuck again. "But none of the above, amigo. I need to decide on a birthday present for Anna."
"Morgan, Anna's birthday isn't for another six months. Why the rush?" Chuck asked, curious.
Morgan's face softened and his eyes unfocused a bit as he replied, "My Anna deserves just the right gift. She's not the girl who has everything but she's the girl who is everything," he sighed.
Chuck looked at his friend with a new appreciation. "Morgan, you have the hidden soul of a poet. I see this is going to take some thought."
Chuck pondered for a moment, rubbing his chin. "Hmmm, that shouldn't be too hard. Anna's a pretty cool chick. You could get her almost anything and I'm sure she'd like it."
"Yeah, man, but it has to be something really special, you know? I mean, Anna and I are at that stage in our relationship where just the right thing could spell eternal bliss and the wrong thing – well, all I can say is woof, woof, if you know what I mean."
Later that evening, Chuck thought about what Morgan had said about a birthday present. He was pretty sure Sarah had a real birthday – after all, even Casey had commented that he hadn't been hatched – but Chuck, for the life of him, couldn't remember a date ever being mentioned. He'd even tried flashing but all he could find were a series of different dates related to various covers and missions, so there was no way of being sure of Sarah's true date of birth. Chuck resolved to ask her about it when they met up for an early briefing in Castle the next morning and went to bed still gnawing on the problem.
By the time he awoke the following day and dressed for work, Chuck decided he had come up with a pretty neat Plan B if – or probably when – his Plan A didn't pan out.
Sarah, Casey and Chuck sat around the conference table waiting out the few minutes left until the general was scheduled to begin the briefing. Chuck figured now or never and plunged right in.
"So, Sarah," he commenced nervously, "I was wondering when your birthday is."
Sarah shot him a penetrating look, one designed to make men's intestines turn to jelly, but Chuck stood his ground.
"I mean, I assume you have a birthday, right?" he hazarded, raising his eyebrows and trying to appear innocent.
Sarah impatiently blew some air out through her nose. "Yes, Chuck, of course I have a birthday. Why do you ask?"
Chuck could see Casey out of the corner of his eye. The man was doing his usual superior smirk routine, his What's the lovesick sap up to now? look clear on his face.
"Well, I was just wondering –"
"He wants to blow out your candles, Walker," Casey supplied helpfully, following his comment up with a dirty snicker.
"No, Casey, I think Chuck's right," Sarah said after a moment. "We've been here for a while and a birthday is overdue. In fact, we should both have one. Why don't I go first and then in a couple of months it will be your turn, Casey."
Chuck beamed at the blonde agent. Plan A had failed but Sarah had put Chuck's Plan B into play without his even having to bring it up. Maybe he was starting to think like a spy after all.
At that moment, both Chuck and Sarah suppressed a laugh as they heard Casey grousing under his breath, "I don't do birthdays."
Chuck naturally asked Ellie to help plan Sarah's birthday party, which she immediately agreed to do. She set about writing lists of decorations and food and handed them out to Chuck and Devon and even Casey to get for her, and on the appointed day, the apartment was strung with bright balloons and paper streamers, since Chuck and Ellie had decided that a childlike birthday theme would be the most fun for Sarah.
They had been right, apparently, because the look of pure delight on Sarah's face as she came through the door couldn't possibly have been a fake one, leading Chuck to believe that Sarah hadn't had many birthday parties growing up or even as an adult. Chuck had a picture in his head suddenly of a single birthday candle stuck in the middle of a cupcake and Sarah drinking wine and toasting herself in a lonely hotel room in Berlin. Except for the city, he wasn't far off in his supposition.
Ellie had invited the usual suspects and they put on paper hats and played all the childhood party games – from Blind Man's Bluff to Pin the Tail on the Donkey – and ate hot dogs and cake and ice cream. Even Casey joined in the spirit of the day and smiled once or twice, especially the time when Sarah mashed cake and frosting into Chuck's face and then ran around the room screeching as he chased her while growling like a monster.
Finally, it was time to settle down a bit and open the presents. Casey took Sarah aside for a moment and whispered, "Your real present from me is in Castle. Happy non-Birthday," and Sarah thanked him before opening his cover present, a bottle of perfume that Sarah thought was just fine, which set her to wondering what her real present from her partner would be.
Chuck also had a cover present for her, as she was to find out when she opened up the box with a cashmere sweater inside and found a note under it that said Come to my room.
She palmed the note and held the sweater up so everyone could exclaim over it for a minute, then put it down and excused herself saying she had to go to the washroom. Of course, instead, she scooted along the hallway and pushed the door to Chuck's room open, whispering tentatively, "Chuck?"
Chuck was standing in the middle of the room waiting, having left the party just moments before her. He was holding a small box in his hand that he gave to Sarah, saying, "Happy Birthday, Sarah. When it's your real birthday, you can look at this and pretend you've just gotten it."
Sarah smiled at Chuck and eagerly unwrapped the gift, her eyes widening when she lifted the lid of the small box.
"Oh, Chuck, it's lovely! she exclaimed, removing the small charm and then holding it up next to the bracelet she was wearing, Chuck's mother's charm bracelet he had given her on Christmas Eve.
The little silver birthday cake, complete with candles on top, sparkled in the last bit of sunlight coming in through Chuck's bedroom window as it twisted in a half circle and back again. Sarah carefully returned the charm to the box so she wouldn't lose it before she could get it put on the bracelet, then went up on her toes to kiss Chuck on the cheek.
"This has been my best birthday ever. Thank you, Chuck," she whispered before they rejoined the party in the living room.
When they re-emerged to speculative looks from everyone present, Chuck took the opportunity to put his arm around Sarah's waist and pull her close, beaming goofily around the room when the whole group burst into spontaneous applause. Everyone, that is, except Casey, who snuck up behind Sarah and whispered in her ear once more, this time saying, "I don't know what he gave you that's so special. Wait until you see the gun I got for you," and Sarah laughed at the somewhat jealous tone to her partner's voice.