I'd started out writing this from Ellie's POV. And, while she may have some faults, eavesdropping isn't one of them, so I didn't include a final conversation between Sarah and Chuck before closing the curtain. But, as many reviewers quite rightly pointed out, it didn't make much of an ending. So, I figured I could shift to Chuck's POV and re-end the story with something that's, hopefully, a more satisfying end.
Chuck let out a sigh as he plopped the book down on the nightstand. The tenth minute spent staring at the same paragraph had finally clued him in that his interest was elsewhere. He could still here some low chatter from outside his room. He thought about getting up and seeing what was going on. Ellie would get mad at him, but he couldn't see how her conversation with Sarah was going to help anything. She only saw the surface of Chuck and Sarah, a surface that was shiny and pretty, and totally fake. Only he knew the truth, that his life was either most of a Michael Bay movie, the cubic zirconium rings sold by the Santa Monica pier, or one of those pin-ups that used to be discreetly left in the Buy More break room.
He was about to get up, when the bedroom door opened. She looked calm and steadier on her feet than when he'd last seen her, though she seemed quite tired. "Hey," she said.
Sarah nodded. "Being able to drink heavily and sober up quickly is actually a valued skill at the CIA."
"Plus they give us these pills that counteract the effect of alcohol in seconds. I took one when I was in the bathroom."
"You should leave some of those to Jeff and Lester."
Sarah smiled briefly, but otherwise stood there quietly. Finally she said, "So it looks like Morgan and Anna made up."
"Huh." Chuck was constantly amazed at how quickly Morgan could make Anna change her mind about something. If he could figure out how to influence other people like that, and become a bit more goal-driven and a bit less honest, he might have a career in politics. "So what did Ellie say to you?"
"She wants us to works things out. I think she threatened me with bodily harm if we didn't, actually."
"That's my sis. Thanks for humoring her with her meddling, by the way. I know it's not really part of the mission."
"She's worried about you. And me too, I guess." There was a moment of silence again, after this.
Chuck was used to Sarah bottling up her feelings, so he spoke guardedly, ready for her to shut down. "So you seemed to be angry at me."
"I'm not…" Sarah started. "It's just…" Finally, she sighed and sat down on the bed next to Chuck.
"I think I get why you're upset," Chuck finally said after it became clear that she wasn't going to say anything further. "You're worried that I'm becoming reckless and am going to do something stupid because of the new Intersect."
Sarah studied him, but didn't say anything.
"You know, ever since I uploaded this thing," Chuck pointed to his head, "people have looked at me different. I mean, yeah, I can't get it to work half the time, but then sometimes I find myself doing things I've never done before."
"Today, I dunked a basketball. It's stupid, I know, but it's something I never did before. Hell, I don't even like basketball that much. But it made me remember back in school when I was the next-to-last person picked in gym."
Sarah watched Chuck speak, but didn't interrupt.
"I know it's not me doing any of this stuff, but just to be able to feel like I am, it's, well, kind of amazing." He shrugged. "And it's not just the Intersect, either. It's the new cover too. It makes me feel like I'm finally standing on my feet, with my own company, even if it is a front and can't actually make any money."
"Actually, it is," Sarah spoke up. "Beckman told me that this is the first front they've set up that's actually turning a profit. It might make up for all the money lost with the other ones: the Orange Orange, the Weinerlicious, Captain Jack's Fish and Chips, Radio Hut, …"
"Thanks for saying that, but you know it's not really me."
"It's a computer business, Chuck. Of course it's really you."
Chuck shrugged, though he appreciated what she was saying. "And then there's Casey."
"Yeah, what about Casey? You two seem awfully chummy."
"It's not some NSA ploy," Chuck quickly interjected.
"I know," Sarah responded. "If it was, I would know what's going on. But I really don't."
"It's nothing really. It's kind of stupid, actually."
"Just tell me."
"Well, I guess ever since I uploaded the new intersect, it's like Casey's been looking at me differently. It's almost like me might actually respect me now."
"That's not stupid, Chuck. Casey saw that you chose to upload the new Intersect, even though you could have had a normal life. Casey respects that kind of a sacrifice."
Chuck thought he detected a hint of iron in her voice just then and said, "I haven't been avoiding you, Sarah. It's just, I guess I've got caught up in things. And I guess you're the one person that knows all of this is just fake."
"It's not fake. Like it or not, that Intersect is part of you now."
Chuck noticed the hard edge creep back into her voice. "You didn't want me to upload it, did you?"
"At first, I thought you were doing it because you didn't want…" She shook her head. "I realized finally that you did it because of who you are. Casey's right about respecting you for that."
Chuck looked over at Sarah seated next to him. She seemed to be letting down her guard, at least for a moment. "Earlier, you said that I need you. You're right. I've never doubted that. I need you for a lot of reasons. You've been my protector, you've helped me believe in myself, and… well, a lot of other reasons. But after everything, I have to ask, do you need me?"
For a while Sarah didn't say anything, and Chuck found himself regretting that he hadn't asked the question earlier, crowded dinner table or no. Sober Sarah was still a lot more cautious than drunk Sarah.
At first he hadn't realized she'd spoken. He finally turned to look at her. She wasn't looking at him, but was staring at her hands folded in her lap.
"I've spent so much of my life undercover, being different people, that I've lost sight of who I am. Before I met you, I could barely remember who I was. But now, I feel like I know Sarah Walker better than I know… the person with the name I was born with." She finally looked at him. "I need you, Chuck, because you make me real."
"I guess this would be a bad time to make a 'Pinocchio' joke, huh?"
Sarah gave him a less-than-CIA-strength punch on the shoulder. "Now how do you expect me to talk about myself if you just turn around and make fun of me?" Despite her words, Sarah smiled, and put her hand on his.
They sat there quietly like this for a moment. Chuck looked up at the lamp standing across the room. Casey had told him that he hardly ever monitored surveillance when Sarah was there, but he wasn't sure whether to believe him or not.
"So now what?"
"Now?" Sarah smiled briefly.
"Now that we…need each other. What happens?"
Sarah turned her head on the pillow to look at him. "We go on being what each other needs. Whatever that may be."
Chuck nodded briefly. "Actually, I was thinking more about what happens tonight?"
Sarah gave him a sly smile, and leaned closer to him. She whispered, "Tonight? We sleep."
Chuck's disappointment was quickly covered by a yawn. He lay back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. He hated to admit it, but he was feeling tired.
"There's one other thing I should tell you."
"Yeah?" Chuck could hear the sleepiness in Sarah's voice, but her willingness to talk about herself was something he couldn't pass up.
"Your sister asked me Casey is in love with you."
He turned to her in surprise, and saw the amused look in her eye. "What did you tell her?"
"I said I didn't know."
"Oh." Chuck's thought about this for a few moments, his own exhaustion starting to slow him down. "Good."
"Yeah. We might be able to take advantage of that." Chuck turned to Sarah and grinned.
"That's not going to make him happy. I thought you liked being his friend."
"I'd do something to screw it up sooner or later anyway, and, you said I was spending too much time with him anyway. At least this way we can have some fun with him."
A couple of hours later, Chuck woke up to feel a heavy weight on arm. He looked over to see Sarah's head on his shoulder. He briefly pushed her hair out of her face, careful not to wake her.
It's the closest they had been for months. Chuck decided he would have to tell Ellie that they needed more family dinners.
End (this time I mean it)