Again, this was a long delay. I'd be lying if I said last chapter's reviews didn't affect that delay. They definitely did. I welcome constructive criticism. I really do. What I don't appreciate is inconsiderate criticism. I got some reviews that said I ruined the story, I suck, etc. Just really the opposite of constructive. It made me want to not ever write a single word in this story ever again. Honestly. That's why there was a delay. It makes me angry to think that the internet has allotted people to suddenly grow some balls. Because I highly doubt those people would've said the same to me in person.
If it weren't for the people who gave constructive criticism, still had hope, or didn't give me criticism, this chapter would've never been fully written. I've had the outline for this chapter and the next for two months now, but I didn't want to write it; so to those who think I wrote this chapter and the next to please those irate reviewers, that's the furthest from the truth. I wrote this chapter and story for people with hearts...This chapter is dedicated to them. You know what? I love this chapter, so hopefully you do too.
(Also, I just updated my other story, About That Night, so this is my plug...)
"Charlie!" yelled Bob Fowler as he approached Andy and Chuck in the theater room playing Call of Duty.
"Bob?" said Chuck as he took himself out of the game. Andy meanwhile didn't care that Bob came over considering their game was at stake.
"Call of Duty."
"You guys just got back, huh?"
"A couple hours ago."
"How was your Thanksgiving?"
"Did you catch the Packers game? I can't believe they won."
"So what are you doing here, Bob?"
"I can't just come say 'hi' to a friend?"
"Well, you would've called. I know you. You must be here with some breaking news or something that you wanted to see my face for."
"You are correct. Did you hear?"
"Morgan Stanley just bought UBS, so we're all merging. If old man Hollingsworth would've waited a couple months, they would've gotten you for a lot less."
"Yup. I just wish Hollingsworth could've mentioned it to me maybe a week ago. I would've bought a lot of stock in UBS, because it is going wild today."
"Isn't that illegal? You know, insider trading?"
"Only if you get caught. Well, that's all I had to tell you. I have to get back and manage the fort. We're setting up the Christmas tree in t-minus ten minutes."
Right as Bob started to walk away, Andy pressed pause on the game, and turned towards Chuck.
"Are we getting a Christmas tree?"
"It's the day after Thanksgiving. Don't people set up their Christmas decorations this weekend? Although, how would I even know?"
"You've never had a Christmas tree?"
"I mean, I've seen them before-" thought Andy as he recalled one video with his parents that involved them setting up the Christmas tree.
"We're getting a Christmas tree. Come on-"
"Wait, can Sarah come too?"
"...You really want her to come? You don't want it to be like a manly outing type of thing?"
"We should do it as a family. For our cover."
"Well, let me talk to her first, and see what she's doing. Keep playing for now."
Chuck reluctantly climbed up the stairs, and almost ran into Sarah coming back from letting Bob out.
"Hi," said Sarah, stopping in her pace to talk to him.
"Andy has never had a Christmas tree, so I think we should get one. I had suggested that only me and him go, but he insists that you need to come for the cover."
"I just don't want you to think that I'm going to be led on if you come. I know where you stand. Just because we have to act like a real couple doesn't mean I don't know the difference between real and fake. It'll be fine."
"I said that's fine. Let's go."
The lucky thing about going on the day after Thanksgiving to look for a Christmas tree was that most people were out shopping for the presents to go under the Christmas tree. After bargaining Chuck's car to borrow Casey's truck, they went to a roadside Christmas tree seller with an oddly great selection. It had snowed the night before; and not only was the ground covered with snow, but the trees did too. Andy was bundled up to the max per Chuck and Sarah's request. He looked even more excited than a kid in a candy shop. As soon as the truck came to a stop, Andy tried running towards the trees, resembling a running marshmallow.
Chuck yelled, "Hey, wait up a bit for your mom and me."
Sarah's breath hitched, caught in thinking how natural and real that sounded, as real as one of these Christmas trees. The excitement stopped when she saw that Chuck had just nodded 'hello' to the tree attendant at the right, remembering that it was all for the cover. Chuck caught up to Andy, scooped him up under his arms, then put him on his shoulders. They finally stopped at a tree that was about as tall as the both of them.
"Is this one okay?" asked Andy.
"It's a little tall."
"Fine. Now we just have to go buy ornaments-"
"Actually, we've got ornaments in the storage room," said Sarah.
"I'm surprised the CIA didn't give us a dog too."
"Can we get a dog?" asked Andy.
"What kind of dog? Golden retriever?" said Chuck.
"No. My friend Alexander from school has one that he named Mango and I don't like it."
"Maybe because his name is Mango."
"Partly. The dog is just kind of annoying. I was thinking one of those wiener dogs. You know, a dachshund. When I was in Germany, my handler had one and brought it by sometimes. Those dogs just are hysterical. I mean, not only do they look funny...They're just funny all around."
"So you want a dog for comic relief?"
"It would contrast Casey pretty well."
"Well, then we'll think about it."
Chuck looked at Sarah for approval in his last statement, and she had already nodded in agreement.
Casey had just left after reluctantly agreeing and helping Chuck carry in the tree. Now Chuck and Andy were waiting patiently in the family room, waiting for Sarah to return with the ornaments that she thought she'd seen in the storage room in the basement. She found the ornaments and decorations quickly. The set up team had done a great job in labeling things. Sarah was just holding the decorating up, because her curiosity took the best of her. She didn't care about opening the first container marked 'ornaments' right now, but she did open the container marked 'family ornaments'. There were ornaments chronicling everything. There were ornaments of Andy as a baby, followed by age two, three, and four. It was really him. The pictures of ages two, three, and four looked more like mug shots if anything (probably ID pictures from being recruited), but they were still him. The baby picture was the picture she stared at the longest. It was him looking up towards the camera amongst the background of a Christmas tree, and the face he made...It was the same one he made sometimes when he found something interesting. His eyes were wide and loving, and his mouth was open in a half smile.
If that was anything to get emotional about, the next ornament was something completely different. It was Chuck as a baby. The writing and eighties style stitching on the embroidered ornament didn't even need to be there to let Sarah know it was him. It was all in that hair- the same hair she wondered if their baby would have. As she felt her head become light headed from possibly getting upset, she put the ornament back and closed the box.
"There you are," said Chuck as Sarah closed the basement door behind her with her foot.
"Sorry. There was a lot of stuff."
Sarah set down the containers on the coffee table in front of them.
"You know," said Sarah, backing up afterward, "I'm going to go get the another box."
"Okay," said Chuck, just focused on opening the container with Andy at his side.
Sarah eventually came back upstairs with that so-called box and saw Chuck just standing still, staring at an ornament while Andy was putting all the other ornaments wherever he could reach. She put the other box next to the others, inadvertently standing right next to Chuck.
"Can you believe that they have an ornament of me as a baby?" said Chuck, holding it up briefly for Sarah, "I mean, I never had this specific ornament. I remember having the picture...And then there's those ones of Andy. It's like the CIA has a special department for the sole purpose of making homemade Christmas ornaments. It's weird."
"I was just wondering why there aren't any of you."
"My dad wasn't one for documenting our existence."
"Do we have a Christmas CD?" asked Andy, interrupting Chuck's glance on Sarah.
"Um, I don't know. It's a good chance that we do though if we have all this stuff," answered Chuck.
"I'm going to go check downstairs."
Andy bolted as usual when he was on to something, and went downstairs.
"We should probably put the ornaments up that Andy can't reach to, you know?" said Chuck.
Chuck and Sarah grabbed a few ornaments each and stood side by side as they put them on. The one of Andy as a baby was the last ornament Sarah had in her hand. In his peripheral vision, Chuck had seen it.
"He's such a funny kid- getting into the Christmas spirit. He's just full of spirit in general. Makes me wish I was a kid again."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's like when you're a kid, you have so many dreams for yourself. And they're acceptable dreams, because you're just like, 'Oh, well my future self will handle that.' It's just now I'm my future self, and I haven't done anything I ever thought I was gonna do."
"Oh, like being the real Charles Carmichael with the software company?"
"...But you're doing so much more, Chuck. You're putting your life on the line everyday to save the lives of others. And you didn't even ask for this job-"
"Well, the second time around I kind of did-"
"But not the first...You took on this job when you didn't really have to. And even the second time, you didn't have to again, but you did anyway. So maybe you're not the Charles Carmichael with the software company. But you're the Chuck Bartowski with a good heart. And I think your kid self would be proud of you, because everyone else is."
"So does that mean you are?" hesitantly asked Chuck.
"Chuck," said Sarah, her complete attention on his eyes, "How is that even a question?"
His eyes fell, and instantly he was taken back to how they were just a few days ago. All those talks they'd have in the middle of the night about anything: his childhood, her childhood, Andy, how he got the intersect, Bryce, all the missions they'd been on...Just how they were completely open and vulnerable with each other, and it didn't even faze them. Well, it did for Chuck in this moment. He grasped the side of her cheek, intertwined the ends of his fingers in her hair, and kissed her lips. Just as Sarah started to realize what is happening and begin to reciprocate, Chuck pulled away and took a step back.
"I'm sorry," he hurriedly spoke, "I...I thought I was at the acceptance stage, but I guess I jumped back to denial."
The door to the basement opened suddenly, breaking Chuck's and Sarah's eye contact.
"I found a Christmas CD from this guy Frank Sinatra!" exclaimed Andy, holding it up as he approached Chuck and Sarah.
"You don't know who Frank Sinatra is?"
"I don't know everything," justified Andy.
"Well, then we're going to have to change that. I'll put it in."
Chuck took the CD from Andy, and put it in the sound system. As the Christmas music blared through the speakers, the whole scene seemed so idyllic that it was strange: putting up the ornaments, the lights, and then the tree topper, Sarah making hot chocolate because Andy said it was necessary for the occasion. Chuck had only left for a bit to check if they had the movie, "A Christmas Story." To Andy's delight, they did. Andy wanted the perfect family day, and this was it, even though they weren't a family. Even though Sarah and Chuck weren't even a real couple anymore...
Unfortunately, the fun for Chuck had to be interrupted by Casey coming back to relay to Chuck about a meeting with Shaw. Casey claimed he told Shaw about the parameters on how Sarah didn't know about all this until Casey told her, so Sarah wasn't really worried that Chuck had to have a meeting with Shaw. It was just how Shaw had to interrupt their plans on today of all days. They were finally getting back to normal, or something remotely better than the past couple days.
Chuck hesitantly headed downstairs. Though nobody was protesting it, Chuck didn't feel it was right. Sure, he agreed to do this. He even contacted Emma, but he honestly only did it in spite of what happened with Sarah. It seemed so childish now.
As soon as Chuck left for the basement, Casey made his way to the couch, sitting next to Andy watching the movie.
"You like this movie, Casey?" asked Andy.
"Are you kidding? It's a classic." Casey looked around the decked out Christmas room and continued, "So where's the gingerbread house? Way to keep up with the cover."
Andy giggled then repeated, "Yeah, where's the gingerbread house?"
"We'll have to do that with Chuck later," answered Sarah, taking a seat on the armchair beside the couch.
"Chuck won't be here later."
"If all goes well, he won't be back tonight," answered Casey, still fixated on the TV while Andy and Sarah weren't.
"That's what Shaw's talking to him about?"
"What is Chuck doing tonight?" blurted in Andy.
"You did what?!"
"Well, I technically didn't do anything considering Emma thinks you're the one who sext-ed her. But alas, those inappropriate texts were written by me."
"Why did you do that?!"
"Can you stop shouting? I can't find the button to turn the volume down."
Chuck tried calming, but the anger seethed from his teeth, "Why did you do that?"
"Why do you think I did that? I'm being a good case officer. You need to get close with Emma to uncover what's really going on. I gave you the opportunity to do that. You're supposed to be at her apartment in a couple hours."
"I'm not going."
"Oh, playing hard to get? Girls love that."
"No, I'm not going- not tonight, not ever."
"Are you kidding, Agent Bartowski?"
"I thought I could do this. It's just, I'm not this guy. I know I'm supposed to be, but I'm not. Think of a different plan, and then get back to me."
"But we need actual evidence! We barely even have circumstantial!"
In the middle of Shaw's sentence, Chuck boldly got up, and pressed the end button on the keypad by the screen.
"Where's Sarah?" said Chuck as he entered the family room.
"Said she was tired, and went upstairs."
"It's only seven thirty."
Casey did a famous grunt, and turned back at the movie.
"Sarah?" said Chuck as he peeked into the room.
Sarah turned over in the bed, and blankly stared at Chuck. Obviously her eyes were bloodshot. She couldn't hide that. She couldn't hide anything anymore. Sarah should've expected Chuck to rush over to her side of the bed.
He should've turned back around. Sarah definitely knew she deserved that. She didn't deserve Chuck being Chuck. Not right now. Not after what she put him through.
"Nothing. It's fine."
He sat on the side of the bed, and touched her knee. It could seem like old times, except that his eyes looked more inquisitive than concerned, and his posture was tense instead of relaxed. His guard was up. This was not how it used to be.
"Chuck, don't you need to go somewhere?"
"You want me to go somewhere?" asked Chuck, annoyed.
"What?" blurted out Chuck, totally surprised.
"Don't go...I made a mistake."
"What kind of mistake?"
"When I ended things. That was a mistake."
Silence ensued for mere seconds, but it felt like minutes to Sarah. He took his hand off her knee, and subsequently took himself off the bed.
"Why are you saying this?"
"What?" said Sarah, definitely not expecting this turn in their conversation.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because I don't want you to go anywhere."
"You mean by Emma's?"
"Where else would you go?"
"So you're having second thoughts, because you're jealous. That's it."
"Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder."
"Why are you being like this?"
"I don't know...You kind of broke my heart, Sarah. Pretty unexpectedly also. Sorry if I'm a little skeptical."
"So why weren't you skeptical then?" yelled Sarah. She definitely didn't think before she spoke.
"What?" said Chuck, more confused than ever, "Wait..."
While piecing everything together, Sarah pulled the covers back, and got out of the bed.
"You knew..." murmured Chuck, gazing straight at her eyes, "You knew about Emma, you knew what I had to do before I found out. Before you broke up with me...You knew."
"Yes. I knew."
"And you broke up with me, so I'd do the mission out of spite."
"I was riding on that, yes."
"You don't know me at all."
"I'm not...doing it. Shaw wanted me to meet up with her tonight, but I hung up on him."
There were no words. Sarah was half dumbfounded, half excited.
"I couldn't, Sarah. I couldn't be someone I wasn't. I couldn't imagine being with anyone else but you, even if you didn't want me."
"But I want you, Chuck," pleaded Sarah, advancing towards Chuck, gripping his arms, "I want-"
"Everything with me?" said Chuck, with a new sadness in his eyes.
"I lied the other day. I do want everything with you. I lied, okay? Can we just move past this?"
"I thought we were. I mean, I thought we were past putting the mission first. You know, way past putting the task at hand above us."
"I am. It's just, I have a lot to tell you-"
"I've also heard that before. You have something to tell me. It's usually surprising yet heartfelt. Like a pansy, I fall for it. But you know what, Sarah? I've also heard you tell me that you wouldn't let me down anymore. And you have. Big time. I know I've disappointed you too, but at least I've been completely honest with you always."
Still reeling, Chuck walked out the room quickly, unable to deal with it anymore. He couldn't keep his emotions in check right now. For one, he was happy. He still wanted to be with Sarah, more than anything. But he was also mad. On a scale of 1 to 10, his pain level in the past couple of days was probably at a 7 or 8. It's like he was walking down the street on a sunny day, but then got hit by a bus and was paralyzed. In reality, Chuck had been paralyzed. He was numb from feeling. Now after Sarah admitted all of this, everything was coming back to him. He needed to sit down, but he had a few more steps to go on the trek down the stairs.
"I'm pregnant!" yelled Sarah from the top of the banister.
Meanwhile downstairs, Casey chuckled to Andy, "Guess the cat's out of the bag."
"Definitely," said Andy, flashing his baby teeth smile.
Come on...Be in the holiday spirit. Write a review.