Note: If you're happy with the ending in part 9, if you're a diehard Chuck/Casey shipper, DON'T READ THIS! It's the part with implied Chuck/Sarah shipping. For those of you who are interested, I plotted the story (intentionally, from the start) around a fantastic film called Kissing Jessica Stein. I don't think I've done as good a job as the writers of that did, but then again, it's a pretty kick-ass film and I highly recommend it.
12 Months Later...
'Chuck? What are you doing here?' Sarah wiped her forehead with a towel.
Chuck dropped the pen back on the counter and pushed his form over to the receptionist before turning around. He took a moment to simply look at her, glowing with health and relaxed in a way he'd seldom seen, before breaking into a big smile.
'Sarah, wow! Fancy meeting you here! You're looking good. So this is what you've been doing since you quit the Agency, huh?' He took a deep breath and forced himself to look away at around the elegant dojo, taking in the whitewashed walls and warm wooden floors, at the class gathering up their things and heading for the showers. 'You enjoy teaching martial arts?'
Sarah smiled back at him; her smile was awkward but genuine. 'Actually, yes. I've got another couple of ex-CIA operatives here taking classes too, so we share the workload. We do some training for agents in the area, but it's good having my life back in my control. So were you checking up on me?'
'Oh, no, I figured I could probably use some exercise, you know? And I heard about this new place that's supposed to be really good, so I thought I'd check it out. I wasn't expecting to see you here.'
'And the five times you've walked past or sat outside were a coincidence, hm?' She smiled warmly and Chuck grinned sheepishly.
'Coincidence, yeah, sure.'
They smiled at each other for a long moment before Sarah looked away and dropped her towel on the counter. 'So how are Ellie and Captain Awesome doing?'
'Fine, fine,' Chuck beamed. 'Still working hard and Devon's still trying to get me to white-water rafting, but I suspect Ellie's pushing for babies. How's your dad doing?'
Sarah rolled her eyes. 'Staying out of jail, so that's an improvement.' She paused. 'How's Casey?'
'Oh, you know, now Fulcrum's history and the Intersect's out of my head, they reassigned him,' Chuck said lightly. 'Last I heard, he was heading for Kandahar, but he could be anywhere by now.'
'You guys split up? Are you okay?' Sarah put a hand on his arm, concern evident in her wide eyes.
Chuck nodded. 'I wasn't, not for a while. I mean, John was... You know. I loved him, but in the end, we were more like room-mates than, than lovers, I guess. He deserves better than that. I hope he finds someone who can give him more than I could.' He forced a smile. 'I got to keep the apartment, though. The NSA gave me a cheque for back-pay for all the time I spent as the Intersect, and that's covered the rent for long enough that I could quit the Buy More. Dad's staying with me for a bit, and we're working on a kick-ass computer game for training operatives. Oh, and Morgan and Anna are getting married next year. He trained as a hibachi chef. He's quite good, actually.'
'You know, I missed you all,' Sarah confessed. 'I missed being part of your lives, and I really want to hear all about how everyone's doing, but I have another class starting in a few minutes. Would you like to meet for coffee some time?'
'Tomorrow? Say, eleven?' Chuck asked.
'Sure,' she smiled.
'I'll meet you out front,' Chuck said.
Sarah hugged him, and he hugged her back, feeling the lithe strength in her slender frame. Then he let go and, with a genuine smile, headed out back into the LA sunshine. Flipping open his phone, he strolled through the late-afternoon warmth.
'Hey, John? Of course the line's scrambled. Yeah, I did it. Sarah looks great, we're meeting up for coffee tomorrow. She asked after you, by the way. How're you doing? Wow, Ilsa, huh? I thought she was undercover somewhere dangerous. Oh, you both are? Stay safe, you hear? When are you guys coming out here to visit? Okay, okay, go shoot bad guys! Bye!'
Chuck snapped the phone shut and paused, looking over at the single-storey building set back from the road. It was an iHoP. Half a dozen cars were parked outside and through the windows he could see a couple of waitresses moving about. He came to a decision and grinned to himself.
Tomorrow, he'd take Sarah for pancakes.