Act I: That a woman conceived me, I thank her.
"El! Do you know where that box is, with all the old family papers and stuff? I need my social security card and I can't find it anywhere!" Chuck called out to his sister as he riffled through the stacks of old boxes and things in the rarely opened hall closet.
"Have you looked under Devon's scuba gear?" she called back from the kitchen.
Chuck shoved the box he was holding on top of a tower of boxes he had made in the hallway and tried to lift the heavy tank.
"Are you sure?" he called, choking on some dust. "It looks like this thing hasn't been used in ages."
"Pretty sure," she called back. "Look for a black plastic file box."
Chuck managed to move the tank and regulator out into the hallway, revealing an old vodka box that he didn't remember ever seeing before. He dragged the box out into the hallway and reached in his pocked for his Swiss army knife keychain. The yellowing tape cut easily under the small blade.
Chuck was just pulling back the flaps on the box when Ellie came walking down the hallway. "What did you find?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," Chuck answered. "Hey! It's my baby blanket!" Chuck pulled out a rumpled blue flannel blanket.
Ellie fingered the fabric and giggled. "Smurfs, you loved that show."
"I remember rubbing this satin trim across my cheek at night." He held the blanket up to his face. "It helped me fall asleep." He quickly put the blanket down. "Ew, it stinks."
"I'm not surprised. I don't think I've opened that box since I moved out here to go to UCLA." Ellie fixed her eyes on a little piece of checkered fabric. She reached down into the box. "Look, Strawberry Shortcake."
"And Stretch Armstrong!" Chuck said excitedly. He picked up the plastic man and pulled his arms enthusiastically. One snapped off, sending crystallized goo across the floor. "I guess he's a little too old to 'stretch fun further than ever before'."
Ellie laughed. "Since I passed thirty, I can relate." She crouched beside the box and pulled out a padded plastic binder. "Look, Chuck, your baby book."
"Hey! I haven't seen this in forever!" He opened the book and started to leaf through the yellowing pages.
"Too bad we didn't know about acid paper back then. Look how the pictures are discoloring."
"Yeah, but look at that little handsome devil," Chuck said, pointing to a baby picture.
Ellie smiled, "You were an adorable baby. What happened?"
Chuck looked up at his sister's serious face, and then she broke into a grin. "Very funny."
"Don't worry, I like you much better with hair," Ellie said reaching out to ruffle his curls.
"I don't know, Sis. I was considering the Lex Luthor look."
"Another evil plot to take over the universe?"
"You know, one of these days I'm going to succeed," Chuck answered, playing along.
"Maybe you should just start with getting a job."
Chuck could tell that she regretted the words as soon as she said them. He didn't want to fight with her about this. "Don't worry, El," he said seriously. "I've got plans. It'll work out. You'll see."
Ellie smiled at him, a familiar wise twinkle in her eye. "I know it will." Ellie turned the page on the book.
Chuck put his finger on a picture. "There's mom. Look how young she is."
"You know, I've never thought about it until now, but mom would have been younger than me when you were born."
"Now you're starting to freak me out, El."
"No, seriously, she would have been in her late twenties."
"Weird. You know, you look like her. Well, except for the hair. I'm not sure how we both ended up brunettes when she was a blond."
"Brown hair is dominant, I think," Ellie answered.
"Then why didn't you get dad's brown eyes. They're dominant too."
"Just luck of the draw, little brother."
Chuck closed the baby book, put it aside and continued rifling through the box. "What's this?" He pulled out a manila folder and opened it.
"My birth certificate." Ellie reached down and took the paper. "It's always good to have an extra copy."
"And here's mine," Chuck said as he continued leafing through the file and pulled out another certificate. "Lisa Katherine Bartowski? Who's that?" He lifted the paper close to his eyes so he could get a better look. "She has my same birthday, same year and day and in Hartford and everything." He pulled out his own birth certificate to compare them. "Look, the serial numbers are just one digit apart. Mine ends in 204 and this one in 205."
Ellie's hand flew up to her mouth. "Oh, my god, Chuck. I totally forgot."
"Dad never told you, did he?"
"Told me what?"
"It's not really my place to say."
"Ellie," Chuck said with a slight edge to his voice.
"Okay, okay." She took a deep breath. "When mom got pregnant with you, it wasn't just with…you." Ellie's eyes widened and she looked at him as if willing him to understand.
Chuck furrowed his eyebrows. "With me? What are you talking about?"
Ellie waved her hand in front of herself nervously. "She was pregnant with twins. You…and another baby…a girl."
"Twins. No. No way. I would have known."
"No really. I was only four but I remember dad coming home from the hospital and telling me that I wasn't going to get the sister I had wanted, only a brother."
Chuck was speechless.
Ellie rushed ahead, trying to fill the strained silence. "I started to cry and then dad told me not to cry because it would make mom sad. You and mom came home and we never talked about it again." Ellie got a far away look in her eye. "It's like a dream now. Until I saw this birth certificate I couldn't have even told you for sure if that really happened or not. But here's the proof."
"It appears so," Chuck said, as he stared at the paper in his hand. "I had another sister? My twin?" It was unbelievable. It was amazing. Suddenly he felt sad for all that he had lost, even though he had never known it.
Ellie must have been thinking the same thing. "Yeah, that would have been pretty great, wouldn't it? It wouldn't have been just you and me."
"Yeah," Chuck agreed sadly.
Ellie put her arm around him. "Hey, these things happen. Mortality rates for multiple births is four times that of single births," she said in her doctor voice.
"Yeah, El, I get that. I just don't get why dad never told me."
"You know how he never talked about mom after she left. It must have been too hard for him."
"Yeah, I suppose."
* * *
At six o'clock that evening Chuck was knocking on Sarah's door, a single red rose in hand.
He heard her working the locks and then the door opened. "Hey," she said. She looked beautiful in her black evening dress.
"Hey yourself," he answered leaning in for a quick kiss and handing her the rose.
Sarah held it to her nose and breathed in the fragrance. "Mmm," she murmured. "Thanks." She let him into the room and once the door closed she pulled him into a more proper kiss for new lovers.
"I could get used to this," Chuck said between kisses.
"I think you'll have too," Sarah answered, moving her hand behind his neck and pulling him in again.
When he was starting to feel breathless and a little dizzy she pulled back. "Do you know what today is?" she asked.
"Yes. What else?"
"Um…a new moon?" he asks with pretended innocence.
"Oh, I know. Buy More poker night."
She playfully hit him on the shoulder. "Chuck!"
"Not poker night. Hum… Could it be…some sort of anniversary?"
"You know very well that it is."
"Do I?" You might have to remind me." He leaned in and began kissing her neck, tightening his hold around her waist.
"I'll give you a hint." From the huskiness of Sarah's voice he could tell she was more than a little distracted. "Four weeks ago today was your sister's rehearsal dinner."
"Really?" Chuck asked, not stopping what he was doing. "So we're going out to dinner to celebrate my sister's wedding rehearsal?"
"No. we're celebration what happened after Ellie's rehearsal dinner. You remember that don't you," she said.
"Ah, yes, it's all coming back to me now."
"I should hope so."
Chuck kissed her again and Sarah eagerly responded.
"How could I forget the best night of my life?" he breathed when their lips were parted.
As they continue their exploration of one another Chuck moved his hands slowly up her back until his hand found the zipper to her dress.
"Chuck," she warned. But as intent as he was on what he was doing, and where his mind was going, he didn't respond. He didn't want to stop. He had started unzipping the dress when he felt Sarah gently push him away.
"Oh no, I know where this is going. We haven't made it out of this hotel room in over a week. I'm not missing dinner out again.
"Come on Sarah." He moved his eyebrows up and down and put on his best Carmichael voice. "I'm sure I can make it worth your while."
Sarah smiled. "I'm sure you can. In fact I know you can. But I'd like to have a nice romantic dinner first."
"But what better way to celebrate that special night by having a repeat performance of what we're celebrating?" Chuck said as he began to tug the zipper again.
"Chuck," her voice had changed tones now. "I'm serious." This wasn't the Sarah the new girlfriend voice, this was the Sarah, I can kill you in ten different ways before you even know your dead voice.
It was enough to snap Chuck out of his lustful fog. "Sorry," he said sheepishly as he fixed the zipper and dropped his hands.
"Don't worry." Her voice was soft again. "First a nice dinner out, then we'll come back here for that repeat performance you were talking about. Maybe even…a double feature?" she said suggestively.
Memories of their time together filled his mind, totally distracting him when Sarah said, "I'm not finished getting ready. Give me five minutes?" She turned and disappeared into the bathroom.
"You already looked perfect to me," he called out to her. "You could wear a paper bag and you'd look great to me."
A few minutes later Sarah came out of the bathroom with a string of pearls in her hand. "Will you help me with these?" she asked, handing him the necklace. She turned around and pulled up her hair, while Chuck placed the pearls around her neck.
While he was working the latch he couldn't help but plant a kiss at her hairline. As he pulled away he saw a small birthmark, about the size of a dime and reminiscent of the shape of Africa. He started to feel nauseous and his eyes started to flutter.
In his mental eye the Intersect flashed. Embedded in the images, he saw a series of passports, driver's licenses and school ID's all with Sarah's picture but with different names: Jenny Burton, Kate O'Connell, Rebecca Franco. Then a Connecticut birth certificate flashed in his mind. The name on the certificate he didn't recognize but the dates he certainly did, September 24, 1980, Hartford, Connecticut, and the serial number ended in 205.
Chuck shook the flash off. "Oh!...Oh!..." he said nervously.
"What is it?" Sarah asked
"Oh…nothing…nothing." His voice had risen in pitch. "Just, uh…pinched my finger in the clip. That's all."
"Are you finished?" she asked, a little impatiently.
"Uh…yeah." He finished clasping the necklace and stepped back. "It was tricky, but I got it."
"My hero," she teased. "Come on, or we'll miss our reservation."
"Reservations…right. We should get going." Chuck walked to the door a little too quickly and yanked it open for Sarah.
Before she walked through the doorway she stopped and put her hand on his arm. "Are you sure you're okay? You're acting a little strange."
He didn't meet her eye. "Am I? Sorry. I'm just excited…about tonight. You know, dinner…out."
Sarah smiled but he could tell that she wasn't buying it.
"Okay, let's go then," she said and walked out the door.
She had let him off the hook for now, but Chuck new this was far from over. Oh boy.
* * *
If Sarah could have read the thoughts in Chuck's mind all night, she would have heard the mantra: 'Sarah is not my twin sister', repeated over and over. But since telepathy was not one of her powers, she was left to decipher the crazy mixed messages Chuck had been sending her and she was having a hard time of it.
When he had first arrived to pick her up, things had seemed fine between them. Better than fine. Their relationship had been like a dream these past few weeks. But after she had put off his advances and insisted on keeping their dinner reservations, he had started to act differently towards her. He didn't take her arm as they walked in from the parking lot. All through dinner he stuttered and stumbled over their conversation, that is, when he said anything at all. He refused a bite of her strawberry cheesecake at desert and while he consented to holding her hand back to the car, he turned his cheek when she leaned in for a kiss.
In a way it was like their first date all over again. But at least then he had been witty and charming in addition to his nervousness. Tonight he just seemed nervous and strangely distant. But that couldn't be right. Why would he have any reason to be nervous around her?
Was he angry with her? Was he frustrated about being turned down earlier? If so, that would be out of character for the Chuck she knew. He had always been patient and wonderful it came to their intimate relationship.
Or maybe he was starting to feel uncertain about their relationship. She hadn't been able to be as open with him as she knew he would like. He said he was willing to be patient with her, but for how long? Did he doubt her feelings?
Crap. She stunk at relationships.
No matter what was bothering him, she reassured herself, when she got him back to her hotel room she would get him to tell her what was on his mind and then they would put it behind them. She had plans, and shyness, nervousness or even frustration had no place to play in them.
She pushed a little harder on the gas peddle and the precision sports car responded accordingly. At the same time she placed her hand on his thigh and slowly moved it upward.
"Hey, what's your hurry?" Chuck asked when she got close to her mark.
"Just anxious to get us home," she answered. "It's a special night and there are a few new things I'd like us to try."
"Oh?" The word came out high, like a little girl's. Chuck cleared his throat and repeated, "Oh?," this time in a very manly baritone.
She felt him squirm under her touch so she pulled her hand away. Only a few more minutes until they reached her room she could get to the bottom of this. Whatever this was.
Chuck walked Sarah to her door. "Well, Goodnight," he said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
"Goodnight? We haven't even gotten started." She unlocked the door.
He turned to face her. "I'm just not feeling well." He put his hand on his stomach. "Yeah, that sizzling shrimp just isn't sitting right." He started backing away. "I better just…"
"Oh, no you don't!" Sarah grabbed his arm and pulled him into the room. "I don't know what's gotten into you tonight, but I've known you long enough to know when something's on your mind."
"On my mind? Nothing…nothing's on my mind. I'm just happy about our anniversary." He put on a smile that Sarah saw right through.
"Chuck?" She asked with question in her eyes. "Remember who you're talking to here." She gave him a long hard look, at first he looked away, but then he glanced up and she captured his gaze.
"I guess it would be rude of me if I didn't stay for a little while," he relented.
Sarah took a deep breath. "You don't have to stay if you don't want to, but I would like it if you did," she said. She leaned in and kissed him. His lips were unyielding beneath hers. She pulled back and opened her eyes to see his staring back at her.
Unsettled she stepped back. "Would you mind getting the wine?" she asked, suddenly feeling very selfconcious. She indicated a bottle that she had put on ice earlier. "I'll go put on a little music."
She retreated to the vanity area of her bathroom and took a second to regroup. Chuck was definitely acting oddly. Should she push him to talk about it? Or should she just try to push past his insecurities, whatever they were? Was it time to be totally honest with him about her feelings and say those words she hadn't yet dared say? Or was this something else entirely? For the thousandth time that evening, she wished she didn't suck at relationships.
Resolving to do her best to be emotionally open, after all, that had worked for her in the past, she reached in her purse for her iPod. This morning she had made a music mix. It wasn't what she normally would have done, but she knew Chuck would like it. She slid her iPod in the port and pushed play.
The music started and she stepped out to see Chuck fumbling awkwardly with the wine cork.
"Do you recognize this song?" she asked.
They're playing our song
They're playing our song
Can you see the lights
Can you hear the hum
He looked up to her with a confused look on his face. "Um…"
"It's Blind Pilot. You know, the song that was playing at Ellie's reception when we danced?"
Before Chuck could respond the cork pulled free and he juggled the bottle a few times between his hands before he was able to stabilize his hold.
"You know," Sarah continued, not addressing his acrobatics, "there was something I was planning on telling you that night. But I never had the chance."
"Mmm?" Chuck wasn't looking at her but was trying to pour the wine. Sarah couldn't help but notice that his hands were shaking. Was he nervous to hear what she had to say? She was sure he returned her feelings; at least she thought she was sure.
"Do you remember that night, what I was saying before we were interrupted?"
"Yeah, um…that was a nice night wasn't it? Casey did a really good job with the decorations."
Sarah was surprised by the change of subject. "Yeah, he did," she reluctantly agreed.
"And Morgan, boy his trip to Hawaii! Wow, that was a shocker…."
Sarah tried not to let the worry show on her face. Usually Chuck jumped at the chance to talk about feelings, however awkward and uncomfortable it felt to her. She'd gone out of her way this last month to try to open up more and she thought she was doing a good job at it, until tonight, when suddenly, he seemed to want to talk about anything but their relationship. He even seemed to want to look anywhere but at her.
It was hard enough to talk about how her feelings as it was, but if he was too distracted to hear them then…well…a good agent always had a backup plan. It was time for plan 'B'. If talking wasn't going to work, then Sarah would have to resort to what she knew best - action. Whatever was wrong with him, whatever was making him keep his distance tonight, this would fix it. She was sure of it.
As Chuck babbled on about Morgan and Anna, Sarah reached up behind her back and pulled down the zipper on her evening dress. She shrugged out of the bodice and the dress fell in soft ruffles around her, revealing a lacy black slip.
Chuck had taken the wine glasses in his hands and when he looked up to hand the glass to her his eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"Let's go to bed, Chuck," she said in seductive tones. "We can have a nice long talk – after."
But rather than being entranced, like she had hoped, his eyes grew to be the size of saucers making him look like a raccoon in the headlights. She took one step towards him and he took one step back. She took another step, and he stepped back again. As he did, he bumped into the dresser and wine sloshed down his shirt.
"Crap," he said, putting down the glasses and reaching out for a napkin.
Chuck was wiping furiously when Sarah approached him and placed her hands on his. "Chuck, it's okay. Calm down. We're just going to take this off anyway."
Sarah started to work the buttons on Chuck's shirt while backing him towards the bed. His knees buckled and they fell together onto the bedspread. Sarah finished the buttons and moved her hands up and under his undershirt.
"Sarah," Chuck said weekly.
"Umm?" she murmured, moving her hands across his bare chest.
"Ah…Sarah," he said a little louder.
She decided to ignore him, turning her attention to unbuckling his belt.
"Sarah!" He grabbed her hands.
Sarah sighed and rolled off of him. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. You can't imagine how sorry I am. But I…I've got to go!"
Chuck stood from the bed and started to re-button his shirt. "It's not you." He paused. The look in his eyes as he took in her partially nude form was full of longing. "Definitely not you. It's me." He winced as if he knew how lame that must have sounded. "I'm sorry," he mumbled again as he backed towards the door.
He turned and sprinted out of the room and all Sarah heard was the soft click of the closing door.
So this was our song
This was our song
I still see the lights
I can see them
Sarah got up and stared at the door blankly. What the hell just happened?
Many thanks to SharpasaMarble who continues to be the best beta a gal could ask for.
Story Note: The song Sarah plays is 3 Rounds and a Sound by Blind Pilot. While Chuck's place of birth is in conflict in cannon, in a flash Chuck had in Chuck vs the Alma Mater it shows paperwork that lists Hartford, Connecticut as Chuck's birthplace, so that's what I chose for this story
Authors Note: This story is in three acts and the next act will be coming shortly. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Give not this rotten orange to your friend." Okay so maybe not in those exact words. Did you hate it? Review anyway.