A/N: Thank you to everyone that read this story. I appreciate it. I will respond to all of the reviews for the last chapter and this one as well. If you have a question or just a comment, I will do my best to answer it.
The black van sat across from the warehouse as it had for the last three days. The workers on the dock were use to it and paid no interest in it as they were busy loading illicit cargo in the middle of the night.
The men had no idea that the two occupants of the van had been watching their every move and the tapes they were making would be evidence in the smuggling trials they would undoubtedly face after the authorities were called in to arrest the entire group.
The occupants of the van were seasoned veterans and had worked together as partners almost uninterrupted for the last five years. Their skill and chemistry had served them well over the years and this was just another in a long line of assignments that was certainly headed toward a successful conclusion.
"Get a shot of those men over there. We need to catalogue every face so that this will hold up in court," the blonde woman said in a low voice.
"Got it, I've counted twenty three of them and I've got all but two documented. Keep an eye on those guys to the right by that end loader," the bigger man said. "If you see them move to the right over there, let me know."
"Roger that." The blonde woman cleared her throat. "Have you got any of the Christmas shopping started?"
Without even missing a beat, the man said while still looking through the video camera, "Not yet, when would I have had time? We spend every waking hour together and I'm pretty sure that's you lying beside me at night."
She ignored his quip. "You know we have to be at Ellie's in three weeks. That doesn't leave us with much time to get gifts for everyone."
"We'll get it done, don't worry. Hey, when have I ever let you down?" he asked.
She smiled at the back of his head as she continued to make notes of the general scene outside the van. "Well, there was that time by the fountain. I'm sure you will disagree but I think breaking up with a girl is considered letting her down."
"Humph, I should have known you would bring that up. You know ever since you regained your memory, it seems like that one incidence comes up in conversation more than necessary."
"More than necessary! I'll argue that point. Besides, you're the one that said when have you ever let me down. I pointed out a time. If you hadn't done that, I would wager we could have saved ourselves a lot of grief. Because I'm pretty sure I was ready to commit."
The man didn't argue, he had wondered that same thing many times over the last two years. He decided that he was going down a losing path. He changed the subject.
"Hey, you've not said what you wanted for Christmas?"
"No, and I'm not going to. Pick something out that you know I'll like. I want it to be from you."
"Oh, Sarah, you know I hate it when you do that. Why can't you just tell me what you want and I'll go get it. Why does it always have to be something special just from me?"
"Because that's a part of protecting me…remember, you said you would always do it?
He shut up. "I remember. Okay, I'll start looking." Chuck knew there was no arguing with her when she used the protect me argument. He didn't even try. Besides, he knew she never used that as an advantage. She always told the truth about that. And because of that, he never argued after she said it. He recalled clearly making her that promise. He went to bed every night thanking God that she let him change her mind. He had come to realize since just how hard it was for her to do.
"So, do you know what we're getting Ellie and Devon?" she asked after a brief pause in the conversation as they became distracted by their tasks.
"Yeah, Devon gave me a list last month." He didn't take his eye away from the camera but she knew by the tone of his voice he was giving her a little dig about her lack of gift lists.
"Devon wants a parachute. I guess he's going to take up skydiving."
"What! Ellie know about that?"
"I don't know. When I asked him the same question, he said that he would take care of Ellie."
"How in the world did he come up with a crazy idea like that?" Sarah said.
"Uh, that may have been my fault. Remember when we parachuted into Brazil six month ago?"
"Yes," she said it as if she knew she wasn't going to like what he said next.
"I sort of mentioned that you and I did some parachuting recently and that it was a riot."
"Ellie's going to kill you, and this is one time when I will not protect you. You've brought all of this on yourself."
The van was silent as the two concentrated on their respective work. Nothing was said by either one that they needed silence, it was just known. When it came to work, they could communicate without words. About ten minutes passed in this quiet state.
"Speaking of getting killed, have you fixed the garbage disposal yet?"
Chuck laughed at her sense of humor. "Sarah, when have I had time to fix the garbage disposal? We've been doing this night surveillance for two weeks and we have briefings at 3:00p.m. I really haven't had the time. Besides, home is in Alabama."
"I'll give you that, but your sister will be coming to our place in March. I want to make sure you have it fixed by then."
That always shut her up. She knew when Chuck promised that he would follow through. He always did. It was part of the pact he made with himself when she finally said yes in the cafeteria almost two years ago. If he promised her, then one way or another, he was going to make sure that he did it.
And he always had.
"I had forgotten that Ellie was coming down in March. You know, Gulf Shores is still reeling from her last visit," Chuck said.
"We can try to slow her down. When she's with us she needs to take things easier. The pace of life in LA and now San Diego can be maddening. That's why I fell in love with our little home. It's peaceful." Sarah continued to concentrate on her notes.
"The one thing about the memory wipe episode is that Ellie found out about us. In a way, I regret that and in a way I'm glad she knows," Chuck said.
"She's always been proud of you Chuck, but now…she just looks at you differently."
"That's nice, it feels good to know she's proud of me but sometimes I see fear in her eyes when she looks at me. It hurts to know she's worrying about me all the time."
Sarah decided to change the subject. "Have you talked to Wendy this week? We have to have her and Mike down before the Wedding in December."
"I talked with her briefly, day before yesterday. They are going to try to make it down for a visit in July. That way Mike can take me up on scuba lessens. "
"You know there's no way he's going scuba diving. He's the most claustrophobic person I know."
"I know, but he wants me to show him how."
"There! The men are in view, see them?"
"Got it. That's all of them. How about you?"
"I'm good. Call it in."
Chuck sat the video camera down and used his phone. "Casey, we're done here. Call in the cavalry," he said.
Two minutes later, the scene exploded with police, military and cars of unknown origins. The effort was coordinated and executed flawlessly.
Chuck videotaped it all and only stopped when a big man wearing black military garb turned to them and gave a thumbs up. At that, Sarah opened the back of the van and climbed out along with Chuck right behind her.
They walked up to the man.
"Good work, we've got em all. This is one shipment of arms that will not find its way into terrorist's hands." John Casey smiled at the two.
Chuck put his arm around Sarah and turning her, he began to walk away. "This is your job, I'm taking my fiancé back home for some much needed and I might add, deserved rest and relaxation."
Casey laughed at the back sides of the two agents. "On your way to Alabama tonight?"
"That's right. And we expect to see you this weekend…remember," Sarah said looking over her shoulder.
"That's this weekend?" Casey said sounding anxious.
Sarah stopped and turned around. "That's right, John. This weekend…you better be there. I've told Karen all about you and she's anxious to meet you." Sarah's voice left no room for argument on the subject.
Casey looked from Sarah to Chuck for some support.
"Don't look at me. You hear that voice. I've learned not to argue when I hear that." Chuck looked to Sarah and then back to Casey. "You better be there…besides, I've got a feeling you're going to thank us for this down the road."
All Casey could do was utter one of his now famous grunts.
"See you this weekend, Casey," Chuck said and turned taking the blonde with him. He turned to her as they walked. "Do you think he'll try to skip out?"
Sarah didn't hesitate. "No, but he'll be a wreck until then," she said laughing.
Chuck looked at her closely and smiled. "You're sure about Casey and Karen?"
She looked up at him and returned his expression. "Yep." She walked with her head down before looking into his eyes. "She's perfect for him. Retired CIA, completely vetted and she's independent enough that his traveling won't bother her at all. She told me once that she likes the strong silent type…who does that remind you of?"
Chuck laughed. "You know he's watching us right now."
"I know," she said and smiled.
Casey watched as the two walked out of his sight, arm in arm. He briefly thought about how perfect they were for one another and how close they were not to ever being. As he watched, his serious expression turned to a smile. He could think of worse fates than finding what they had. Hell, I'll give it a shot, he thought and turned around to make sure that everything went smoothly with the arrest. He took one last look over his shoulder at the now out of sight couple.
"Let's get em loaded up. I've got things to do, Gentlemen."