A/N: This is all. Finito. I'm done.
Sarah drove the embassy SUV as far as she could until police barricades halted her. The embassy vehicle was no free pass nor was her CIA ID. She was directed to an alleyway where Italian police were checking ID's against a master embassy listing.
The tall policeman examined her embassy credentials and those of her husband noting the filthy clothing each wore and how it contrasted with the obvious cleanliness of their faces and hands. He was right to be suspicious. This had been a day of betrayal. Finally, seeing her husband's lacerated face and hands and listening to Sarah's impassioned pleas to be allowed back onto the embassy grounds they were released.
"Chuck, Chuck!" He slept so soundly in vehicles. It seemed a shame to wake him but he had things to do. She'd drop him off and then pick him up when he called.
"Awake. I'm awake. Quit yelling. Jeez, Sarah, I don't remember you being this loud. We're going to have to work out your volume issues. I'll get out here and call you when I need picked up. Meet me here, OK? And if you're too tired I can get Rivera or someone to bring me home." A quick kiss and he was gone. Was this what it would be like in L.A.? Remembering Casey's lecture about letting him wander about unescorted she snorted to herself and followed him around to the back of the embassy.
He flashed some magic ID at the Marine on guard, nodded to his NSA team member and walked into the embassy kitchen. "Yo, Rivera! What's for dinner?" He loved kidding the human glutton about food.
"Boss, you be nice or you won't be invited to dinner, comprende?"
"I take it the rest of the team is buddied up with Marines?"
"Yes, sir. Colonel Casey gave us to some LT and said 'do what he says' so we are mini-Marines for the duration."
He laughed and made his way down to the CIA section in the basement and commandeered a cell phone and called Beckman. He had no idea where his was. Probably out in the rubble somewhere. He'd have to remember to kill the service in case a civilian found it.
"Beckman, secure. What's the situation like there, Agent Bartowski?"
"Not certain. Just arrived from the 'country manor' the ambassador's hiding out in. You know, she and her husband were insider traders during the meltdown. You might want to look at them and see just how dirty they are. Never hurts to have an ambassador in your debt. I already told her you were going to investigate her trades and donations. Mess with her mind, General, and we'll have free rein in Italy."
"Consider it done. Not playing very nice with the politicians, I see. Good. We'll make them sweat. How are plans coming for the return? I see no good reason to delay, Chuck. Go on vacation. Casey will be relieved of babysitting and bring the team back on your FedEx bird. You know the Air Force has filed a complaint."
"Tough. They were detailed to support our mission and wouldn't. Screw them. My team can fly back commercial and let the Airedales handle the bird. I don't care anymore."
"When you get to DC for your physical and update, set aside a day for meetings and discussion on future operations. Station chiefs have more Admin than fieldwork. Has Sarah agreed to the job offer?"
"Working on it. She has no idea how we operate. Thinks I'm going to sit in an office all damn day and let others have the fun. Nope. She'd be wasted holding my hand while I just sat in an office. I lead from the front and I want her on my left back 2 steps. Worked in Somalia and it'll work in L.A. She's my AMEX card, General, and I don't leave home without her. So I'll see you in 3 weeks. Behave yourself, General. Remember the exhumation orders."
He hung up and turned to find his wife looking at him in the strangest way.
"AMEX card, Chuck?" She was trying not to smile and losing. This was a very devious and complex man she'd married. A dangerous one, too. He'd changed a lot in those 11 months and she planned on finding out just how much while lying on the beach in Majorca or in bed in their hotel suite.
"Well, yeah. You got a problem with that arrangement? Want to sit outside my office and intercept visitors all day or stand beside me on missions? Either way I win. Decide. Right now. No delays. I have staffing issues to consider. I'm management now. And I'm so excited I could just defecate in place."
"Yeah, I'll watch your ass for you, big boy. It's mine and don't you forget it."
"Not very likely. So, we're going on vacation as soon as I get the teams organized and scheduled. Casey will probably want to fly the FedEx bird home so I'll leave that in his hands. Delegation is the mark of a true manager."
She punched him lightly on the arm. "We're scheduled out on Alitalia tomorrow morning and by this time tomorrow, we'll be on the beach in Majorca, soaking up the sun and booze. A delayed honeymoon, Chuck, but worth the delay." She tried but failed to pull off the Bartowski eyebrow dance. It made no difference.
"Let's finish up here and then head home – I'll teach you the eyebrow dance and maybe something older…something we both can do?"
2 days later
It was sunny and hot. Perfect beach weather. But they had not left the small seaside villa Sarah had booked for them. They had not left the master bedroom. They had not left the bed – except for quick raids on the refrigerator and showers and long soaks in the hot tub on the covered balcony overlooking the harbor during the cool evenings.
"You know this can't last forever, husband. We're eventually going to have to leave this bed and foray out amongst the tourists. Maybe go dancing, stroll along the beach in the moonlight, something other than working our way through the Bartowski edition of the Kama Sutra. Although I really think we should go back to page 43 and try that one again. You were so…"
"Fine. I guess it was too good to be true. The honeymoon is over. The newness has worn off. Fine. Let's get dressed and go down to the harbor and eat and then…"
"Page 43 again, Chuck, then, if you're still capable, we'll get up and dress." She sighed. She could definitely get used to this lifestyle. Who needed clothes?
"Page 43 was where you're upside down on the headboard and I'm…"
"Idiot. That's page 41. No, page 43 is where you do all the work and I reap all the benefits."
"Putz. That was page 40. Let's just start over again and take notes, pictures, make diagrams…"
Whatever else was said was muffled when Sarah hit him with the pillow and then jumped on him and had her way with him just like page 28 or was it 29?
Enjoying the post-sex interlude, Sarah asked Chuck what Ellie had said when he'd called her. She hadn't wanted to bring her up but she felt she needed to know.
"Oh, crap. I never called her. We were all so busy with the mission and then the truck bombing…she probably thinks we're dead. I have to call her."
"Chuck, the 'we're dead' was you and Carrie. How are you going to explain 'us', Chuck? She's going to hate me, I know it and won't blame her but she's really going to lose it when you try to explain the Carrie deal without being able to go into detail."
"You're right. Any suggestions?"
"Casey's back in L.A. Get him to let her use his secure phone and call you."
The call to Casey was easy.
"Casey, secure." He thought he'd be talking to Sarah but was surprised to hear Chuck's voice but then realized his cell was probably MIA in the rubble of the embassy in Rome.
"Bartowski, secure. Hey, when you get half a minute, how about letting Ellie call us on the secure phone. I totally forgot about calling her. I think…"
"Chuck, I'll take the cell over to their apartment as soon as we're through. But, yeah, you definitely need to talk to her. I covered the very basic elements about Somalia, and yeah – before you ask – she 'knows' about Pole Dancer and Sarah. It took her a while to understand what had happened and, well, you definitely need to talk to her."
"And you'd better be prepared to listen to a long list of grievances, too. Starting with why you never told her you were married when you could still remember. She's really pissed about missing the wedding."
"John, have they…have they…found her yet?"
"Yeah, Chuck. It took a while to sort out and identify the bodies. She's gone and Beckman assured me it was 'quick' and probably painless. Small comfort for your loss but still, some comfort."
"Casey…John…I - I have to call you back." The first sob caught in his throat and he hurried into the bathroom and shut the door. Sarah knew immediately what was wrong and followed him in to the bathroom, took him by the hand and led him back to bed and held him.
"It's OK to cry for her, Chuck. You loved her. I'm not upset with you, go ahead and grieve. I'm here and if you need to talk or just want to hang on to something, it's OK. Don't keep it all bottled up, baby, let it go. I'm not mad, Chuck, honest."
She wrapped herself around him and let him cry for the lost lover and the woman she'd sent him as her unconscious 'replacement'. The irony was not lost to her.
He fell asleep and she watched his face as he segued between sleep, dreams and sleep again. It was the longest 2 hours of her life.
Ellie's phone call was a welcome interruption for Sarah. She'd held her husband as he cried for another woman he'd loved and then slipped into a restless sleep. So much had happened in the last year. Some of it was bad, very bad but some, such as her 'reawakening' in Bosala, was bittersweet. She'd found him in the desert then realized she'd lost him to his Pole Dancer, then almost lost him forever to the Judas Syndrome and finally found him again, her husband, when he'd released the memory blocks.
He'd changed, aged, matured, become a different man but at his core, he was still her beloved "Chuck" who could make her laugh with a word and make her heart soar with a smile and aggravate the crap out of her with his stubbornness.
So when her musings were interrupted by Ellie's call, she was almost grateful.
"Bartowski, secure." She thought it was Casey.
"Sarah? This – um – this is Ellie Bar…I mean Woodcomb, Sarah, is Chuck there? Can I speak with him, please?"
"Yeah, wait one. I'll wake him. He's – well – the news about finding Carrie's body shook him up and he sorta fell apart for a bit and I finally got him to sleep. Just a…"
"No! If he's sleeping, let him. It's probably for the best considering everything that's happened in the past 2 weeks. My God, you two were married and he never told a soul, Sarah, not even me. I'm really pissed that I missed the wedding but I'm so glad I got my BFF and sis back. I can't imagine how hard it's been for the both of you…"
"Oh, Ellie…" and Sarah Walker Bartowski, Queen of Spies and Assassin Extraordinaire broke down and bawled like a baby, the events of the past year coupled with Ellie's forgiveness proved to be too much for her.
Sarah's sobs woke Chuck and he saw the cell phone in her hand and leaped to the wrong conclusion. He grabbed the phone but didn't speak when he heard his sister.
"Sarah, oh, please, don't cry. I'll be here with Major Casey for a while longer. Please call me back or have Chuck call. I'm sorry I said something to upset you." She knew she wouldn't get much out of the crying Sarah.
"Ellie, it's me. She's…what did you say to her, Ellie? I've never seen her this upset, not even with me in Somalia. What did you say?" He was trying not to sound angry but it was evident to Ellie that he was.
"I just told her how wonderful it was to have my best friend and sister back and not to wake you, Chuck. I'm so sorry I wasn't more supportive of you and Sarah but little brother, you never gave me the slightest hint that you guys were more than a dating couple. And then you brought Carrie by and…oh, Chuck, it must have been so hard for you…"
"Yeah. It was and it still is. Thanks for being so forgiving of Sarah. She was terrified you'd hate her for the past year. She didn't remember, Ellie, and neither did I and they programmed Carrie and I and they made Sarah pick her replacement when she left me."
"Chuck, what kind of heartless people do you work for? Didn't Casey know something? Did he break trust and tell someone about you?"
"Casey didn't know, didn't have a clue. No. I think it was Sarah herself when she changed beneficiaries on her property, her will and her life insurance. No one suspected the tendrils of the NSA would go that deep or worry about stuff that…innocuous, but they do, apparently."
"And now what? Are you back together? Are you coming home, Chuck?"
He could hear the longing in her voice.
"She's my wife, Ellie, and I love her very much and yes, we're coming home, but to L.A., not Burbank. I have a new job in…management and Sarah's going to work with me, be with me. I never want to be apart from her, Ellie. We've been through too much, done too much, all to get back together."
They talked for a few more minutes and then hung up. Talking to her was nice, but not telling her things made the conversation…stilted and strained. He'd have to figure out someway of letting her in.
Sarah was in the bathroom so he dressed and went in to check on her. He knew she'd never want him to see her just lose it. She had too much 'professional pride' for that. But she was his wife and needed to know he was there for her.
He knocked on the door and heard her mumble 'Go away, Chuck. I don't want you to see me like this." That was all it took. He opened the door and walked in and pulled her off the bench seat and hugged her to him.
"You're my wife and I'll damned well see you anytime I want, Mrs. Bartowski. Now, wash your face, sweetheart, and let's go out to dinner. We both need to get out and walk around in the sun and fresh air."
They walked through the town, enjoying the ambiance of a place centuries old and yet modern, an interesting contradiction. Sarah bought a ring for Ellie, a ridiculous hat to protect her Nordic skin from crisping when they finally did leave the bedroom for the beach, and a t-shirt for Devon with the word 'Awesome' in many languages covering the front and back.
Sarah's stomach was growling and so they asked about a good place to eat and were directed to a small pension, the Majorcan equivalent of a bed and breakfast that included a small restaurant that served Sarah's favorite seafood paella.
The sun was setting when the couple finally walked up the hill to their villa.
"Chuck, we're going to have to find a way to clue Ellie in on all of this. Maybe offer her a position on the approved physicians listing as an opening for her classification check. Use you newfound power over Beckman to help us for a change. It would make being her 'BFF' a lot easier on me and you could be open with someone not 'in the business'. Give it some thought, sweetie."
"I have. Didn't think of the physicians' listing. Good idea. Now, what page were we on…"
"I forgot, my love." She sighed in resignation. "I guess we'll have to start all over with page one." She giggled and all the worry lines and stress seemed to fade away, leaving a younger Sarah than he'd ever seen before. He planned on making her laugh as much as possible in the years to come.