Sometimes Chuck dreams about the perfect day. Correction: daydreams about the perfect day. He's tried to subliminally control his night dreams, but they always start out somewhere sane and even pleasant only to derail into something totally terrifying or creepy or an unsettling mix of the two. Especially if he falls asleep talking to Morgan while eating pizza and drinking beer. That combination is a guaranteed way to drift off into Bizarro World. Once, in the eleventh grade, this said combination occurred right before bedtime, and Chuck dreamed that he had turned into a handsome jock that had a beautiful cheerleader girlfriend that one day woke up to find herself turned into a dolphin. She promptly made love to his pet Springer spaniel Peaches (the first Peaches) and then gave birth to a BMW 3-series convertible. The Beamer then crashed through the wall of his fifth period English class (yes, he was in the eleventh grade) and killed him on impact. As a final touch, when Chuck woke up, he'd wet the bed. He'd had to drag his sheets to the laundry room past the knowing stare of Ellie, who was wearing a look that suggested that she believed he'd had the exact opposite of the driest dream known to mankind—except for the part about the dolphin. And Peaches.
He still cringed when he thought about it.
But not today. Today, and yesterday, and many days in the last few months, he had comfortably indulged in the glorious control of daydreams. Daydreams about how his life could be, and how so very close it was to really being...
It was close...but just sooo far away.
"So Chuck, when are we going to start hitting the gym again?"Awesome put his fist to Chuck's chest for emphasis.
This question…again. Which, honestly, wasn't so bad really. "Devon, you know I love working out—"
"Actually I don't." he said flatly. Chuck cut his eye at Awesome, only to meet a smiling brother in law to be. "Just kidding, buddy," he said patting Chuck on the back. "Just a year ago, or less even, you and I…we used to rock that gym."
"Devon, you used to rock that gym."
"No…we did Chuck. We used to spot for each other, jog together, brag about our girls to piss off hot babes," Another activity he'd enjoyed alone. Awesome looked off in the distance wistfully. "Those were good times."
"Times we can have again, as soon as…" Chuck searched frantically for an excuse.
"As soon as...?" Devon asked.
"As soon as Sarah, Morgan, your lovely fiancée and the Buy More give me enough wiggle room to start hitting those good old…" Chuck sighed through a toothy smile, "that old chest press machine."
"And the fly machine and the bicep curl and the donkey calf." Awesome seemed to get excited just talking about it. "Look, just holler when you're ready, OK? I'll be there."
"Absolutely, Devon," Chuck nodded, and the two shared a fist bump. Just then Ellie and Sarah came bustling from the kitchen, with Morgan trailing behind them.
"Sarah and I just came up with the best idea for an evening of entertainment pleasure,"
"Hey," Morgan interrupted, "I mean c'mon ladies, give credit where credit's due."
"Morgan, this was not your idea," Elle retorted.
"Excuse me but you sci-fi faulty females didn't even know Donnie Darko had a soundtrack. Does that factoid count for nothing?"
"Can Awesome and I get clued in just a little?" Chuck pleaded with a pinching gesture.
"Sarah?" Ellie offered.
"Soundtrack karaoke/name that tune!" she revealed. "You sing the tune, and your partner has to say which movie it came from."
"It's like the best of both worlds!" Chuck exclaimed. He turned to Awesome, "You in buddy?"
"Absolutely," he replied, high-fiving Chuck. "So how're we doing this?" He turned around and took a quick head count. "Odd number," he said. "As usual," he mumbled under his breath. All heads snapped to Morgan.
"You know, the more I think about this," Morgan began, "the more I realize I'm the worst singer in the world, and, when it comes to movies, me and Chuck are like Siamese twins connected at the brain, which would give us a totally unfair advantage. So, how about I just sit this round out and then play the winner the next go round?"
"Or you could keep score." Ellie offered.
"Or I could keep score," he conceded, and took a seat on a stool by the kitchen.
"OK, then couples karaoke it is," Sarah said, taking her seat on the arm rest next to Chuck, her feet propped across his lap.
"No, babe: Couples SoundtrackKaraoke Name That Tune."
"Of course," she purred. "You're right, sweetie." She slid down the armrest onto his lap and pecked him on the nose; she threaded her fingers in his with one hand and gently scratched the nape of his neck with the other. Then, she leaned her head against his till they sat there—forehead to forehead. Chuck had seen this girl kick ass so many times in so many different ways using so many different terrifying weapons (including her own two fists) but sometimes—in moments like this—she was simply a girl, hisgirl, sitting on his lap. And Chuck couldn't help it; his eyes drifted shut as he savored the heat from her skin and the scent of her perfume waft towards him. When he finally opened them again she was looking at him with that radiant smile biting her bottom lip in thought. Ellie was fighting through the lyrics to "Short Skirt/Long Jacket". "This is so much fun, Chuck," Sarah said, sighed really, into his ear. "Maybe I should have Ellie and Awesome over sometime. We could watch Waitress together. Its one of my favorites." She was talking to him. Just him. And not as a spy and not as a cover, but just… about something real.
Chuck smiled. "Yeah. Sounds fun."
The moment was so real that it seemed impossible that after another hour or a couple more glasses of wine that this would be over, and that she'd go back to being warm but cordial, and he'd keep lying to the people he loved most while being stuck in a uncertain present and an even more uncertain, lonely future.
Instead, with Sarah tucked under his arm and his sister and her fiancée singing across the room, he liked to imagine that when the game was done, he and Sarah might go outside by the fountain, and instead of ironing out the discrepancies of their fake relationship or sorting out the next mission, they might have some couples talk, and share a lengthy kiss by moonlight. He imagined that she might invite him back to her place, and after one more glass of merlot, or even Corona, they'd find their way to her bedroom and burn off the sexual energy they only pretended to have on Bartowski game nights. He'd wake up in the morning and she'd kiss him, even though no one else was around to see. And not on the nose, or forehead or cheek, but square in mouth, pressing those rose-colored lips and golden skin against his own. She'd hug him and beg him not to go. He'd say he didn't want to but it was time, and they might steal one more kiss and promise to meet back up later. He'd make his way back home to find Morgan waiting there, and Chuck would haverealsecrets to hide about a realnight of passion. But he wouldn't lie. Not to Morgan. Not to Awesome. And not to Ellie.
Especiallynot to Ellie.
In this life, there'd be no Intercept, and no Castle and no General. No bugs, no watches, no tracking devices. And Chuck could make Mother's Day, or Exercise Night, or Saturday afternoon Call of Duty, or any other event that any of them threw at him. Because you can do things like that, all the normal things, when your life is real, and you're in no danger, and you're not a spy, and your life belongs to you.