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True Love Overcomes Everything
Sarah was clearly emotional as they checked into the hotel. After all, it was the first time she had been here in twenty-two years – every since her dad surprised her by walking her down the aisle. Of course, they had been to Vegas many, many times since then. But they had always avoided this particular hotel. Chuck knew the bittersweet memory that it represented. It was the last time she saw her dad. It especially hit her when they walked past the banquet room where they celebrated. It was the room where she told him that she was expecting Kate. After all, he had never gotten to see any of his grandchildren.
Everyone said that it was the place where her and Chuck had gotten married – and Sarah had grown weary of correcting them - but she knew. They were already married – had been for two months. Okay, maybe not legally, but what did that matter? No, this is not where they were married – it was the place where the world recognized it. And that was still pretty great.
"Okay, Mom," Kate said as soon as they were in the room and had set their bags down. "Care to tell me now why it was so important to you that we get away for the weekend? You've been positively obsessing about it."
Sarah smiled as she recognized the impatience in Kate. She was truly her daughter. "Of course," she said. "After all, that's the whole point, sweetie. You're going to be leaving home in a few weeks – moving out on your own. I just want to have you all to myself for a day where I can be sure that we won't be interrupted. I need to keep a promise that I made to your dad when you were a baby."
There was something about the look on Sarah's face that caused Kate to get emotional as well. "I wish Dad was here," she whispered.
"So do I," Sarah said with a soft smile.
Kate wiped the tears from her eyes. "My dad is in a better place," she finally was able to get out.
Sarah wrapped her arms around Kate as she fought her own emotion. "First off," she said. "I don't really see fishing with Uncle Casey as a better place. You're making it sound like he's dead. And I know that you always go with them – but is it really so hard to spend some time with me? It's only for today. Your dad and Paul are meeting us tonight for dinner. They'll be here for the rest of the time."
Kate buried her face in Sarah's shoulder. "Come on, Mom," she said. "I'm sorry if I'm hurting your feelings. You know it's not like that at all. I love spending time with you. And I know that we've had this planned for months. I really do appreciate you bringing me to Vegas for my graduation present. It's just that this is the first time they've gone fishing without me since I was three. Who's going to keep Uncle Casey from drowning my boyfriend? You know that Paul's scared to death of him."
Sarah smiled as she recognized the classic Bartowski flair for the dramatic. "I think that Uncle Casey will let Paul live," she said as soothingly as she could. "It would be bad for his wife's senate campaign to drown someone. Besides, Paul survived the senior prom incident, didn't he?"
Kate paused for a moment as she thought about that night. Sure, they could laugh about it now – but at the time… "Barely," she said as she grinned at her mother. "Only because he still had his pants on. And only because Aunt Janice set it up in the first place… Oh, and because he's faster than Uncle Casey. Mom, yesterday's poll has Aunt Janice up thirty two points. It's the biggest lead of any senate race in the country. I really don't think that Paul can depend on Uncle Casey fearing bad publicity. She would win by a landslide anyway. What is this about a promise that you made to Dad?"
Sarah led Kate to the sofa. "I'm going to tell you a story," she said. "You've heard most of this story before – but you were just a baby. It's time that you heard it again – now that you're old enough to understand."
Kate groaned. "Mom," she said cautiously. "This isn't a birds and bees type talk is it? I know it's hard to believe – but I'm twenty-one. Dad already tried that when I was fifteen. I still have nightmares about how embarrassed I was. He was actually more embarrassed than me. And if he really thinks that's what sex is – I feel sorry for you. It's a wonder I was even born."
Sarah laughed. "No," she said. "I think that everyone realized a long time ago that being around Aunt Janice would make that kind of talk moot. This is a different type of story. And, sweetie, I'm not going to tell you every detail – but there are still some things in this story that are classified. Even though this is all twenty years old, sharing it would still be a felony. Technically, telling you is a felony. But you deserve to know. You have to promise not to repeat this to anybody – not even to Paul – and especially not to your brothers. I'll tell them when they turn twenty-one. Do you understand?"
Of course Kate's curiosity was now peaked. She nodded quickly.
Sarah got a sly look on her face. "And, Katie," she said with a grin. "The story does have a fair amount of sex. Some of it might actually shock you. Don't worry - I won't gross you out with any details of what your dad might know about the subject… Suffice it to say that you have absolutely no reason to feel sorry for me. When your dad gets here tonight, you won't be feeling sorry for me two – maybe three times."
This time Kate's groan was accompanied by a very red face. "Mom," she said as she hid her eyes for a moment. Then she quickly tried to change the subject. "Does the story have a title?" she asked.
"Why not," Sarah said. "The title would be True Love Overcomes Everything."
"True love," Kate said with a soft smile. "Something tells me this story is all about you and dad."
"Yes, sweetie," Sarah said. "It is. You see, it all started when your dad was still in Stanford."
Kate sat back and tried to get comfortable. This was obviously going to be a long story.
"Your dad had a roommate at Stanford," Sarah said. "Your little brother was actually named in his memory. His name was Bryce Larkin…"
"Excuse me," Kate said. "We didn't order these."
"Compliments of the gentleman at the table over in the corner," the waitress said.
"Man," Kate said as she turned to see the table full of men waiving. "I wish Dad and Paul would hurry up and get here. These guys are going to be hitting on you all weekend, aren't they?"
"Actually," Sarah said with a grin. "I'm pretty sure it's you that is the main target this time. Don't worry. Our table will be ready soon. Your dad and Paul are going to be here any minute. Besides, we can handle ourselves."
Indeed, Sarah was right. Kate Bartowski had grown into an incredibly beautiful woman – almost an exact image of Sarah at that age. Not that Sarah was any slouch herself. Even pushing fifty, she still turned more than her fair share of heads. It was not uncommon at all for men to mistake them for sisters. And honestly Kate was being a little coy. Although this was the first time someone had sent her a drink in a bar – after all, she had just turned twenty-one - men had been hitting on her for a number of years. Her mom had taught her long ago how to handle herself. And that paled in comparison to what her Aunt Janice had taught her.
"That was quite a story," Kate said with a smile. "Please tell me that you didn't blame me for wanting you to have Chuck Junior. Talk about someone who I wouldn't mind Uncle Casey drowning…"
Sarah sighed as she heard Kate talk about her brother. They both always talked like that. Anybody meeting them together for the first time would quickly come to the conclusion that they couldn't stand each other. But they would be dead wrong. Actually, Kate and Chuck Junior were incredibly close – they would both just rather die than admit it. And the idea of Casey drowning him was particularly silly… Casey and Chuck Junior were as close as Janice and Kate – maybe even closer. And the honest truth was that if Paul had suffered any violence because of the Prom fiasco, it would have been at the hands of Chuck Junior far more than Casey. Fortunately, that was in the past. Now they were best friends.
Kate could tell that her mom didn't like it when she talked about her brother like that – so she changed the subject. "So, tell me…," she said. "What is your spy involvement now?"
"Officially, we're still active," Sarah said. "The information in your dad's head is quite old now. But we're both still certified field agents. They make us go once a year for certification testing. Every once in a while they ask him to look at something. But I think that's mainly to give them an excuse to keep us on the payroll. We did something for them about ten years ago – but it was a special case. And it's so sensitive - I can't tell you any details. We haven't gone on any missions in years. I really don't expect that we ever will again."
Kate smiled. "So," she said, more to herself than to Sarah. "That's why there is a full fitness center and shooting range in our basement. Are there any others like Dad?"
Sarah just shook her head. "They cancelled the project," she said. "They quickly realized that it was too dangerous to have anybody with that much power. The doctors were always concerned about your dad – but they didn't know him. There was never anything to worry about. He never did have any of their stupid side effects."
Kate's smile turned into a wicked grin. "Are there any others like you?" she asked.
"Heavens, yes," Sarah said with a laugh. "There are hundreds of agents that are far superior to me. I'm an old woman. I wouldn't stand a chance against them."
Kate's grin turned skeptical. After all, she had seen her mom work out many, many times. According to Aunt Janice, mom was still in the top third of all female agents in testing. And she had seen her mom angry enough times to know – watch out. She was far more then this pretty blonde housewife. "So," Kate said. "Does Dad still have any of his special… abilities?"
"Some," Sarah said with a grin. "Some are truly amazing. Remember when I said that you didn't have any reason to feel sorry for me?"
"Mom," Kate groaned. "I'm begging you."
"I'm sorry," Sarah said as she grabbed Kate's hand. "I'm just teasing you a little. He can still do some other things too. He can play blackjack and be pretty much guaranteed to win. That's actually how we bought the lake house. If we were threatened, he could probably come up with some fighting skills… but that's never happened. I suppose that, if he really concentrated, he could do stuff like speak a foreign language. All in all, I'd say he's pretty normal."
"You're telling me that Aunt Elise and Uncle Joe used to be spies?" Kate asked. "I would never have guessed that. I used to watch their kids. They run a restaurant. I worked there as a waitress one whole summer."
"I know," Sarah said with a smile. "Do you remember being the flower girl at their wedding? You were adorable. I have never seen anybody make the transition to normal life as smoothly as they did."
"Uncle Joe attacked you," Kate said sadly. "How did you and Dad get over that?"
"Please, sweetie," Sarah said. "I seriously thought about leaving that part of the story out. But I promised that I wouldn't hide anything from you. Please don't hold that against him. He still feels horrible about it after twenty years. And it was clearly all a misunderstanding – one that he has more than made up for. He risked his life to save ours. And he has been such a good husband and friend to Aunt Elise. Your dad and I have forgiven him for that a long, long time ago. We love him. Your dad was his best man."
So Kate just changed the subject. "I've really kissed the president," she asked in amazement.
"He kissed you at Casey and Janice's wedding," Sarah said. "I'm not sure if you kissed back. After all, you were only one. We weren't even going to take you to the wedding. But Janice threw an absolute fit. You know what Janice can be like. She said that there weren't all that many people in the world that she loved and she wanted every one of them at her wedding. The President was there and it's some kind of stupid tradition that politicians kiss babies. You were actually on all the cable news channels for most of a day – until an earthquake in Japan made news and knocked you off. Katie, understand something - Washington is a crazy town. You're going to be living there working on Aunt Janice's senate staff, if she wins. Please tell me that will be the last president that you kiss."
"Mom," Kate said incredulously. "If she wins? Hello - thirty-two point lead – one month to go – it's a lock. Aunt Janice is the new junior senator from California. And why would I be kissing any president?"
"I worked on Secret Service duty for a year," Sarah said with a smile. "Trust me. Presidents are men – until Aunt Janice becomes one, of course."
"So Mom," Kate said as she sipped her drink. "I always thought that your making fun of how wild Aunt Janice was when she was younger was just an exaggeration."
"Well, it wasn't an exaggeration," Sarah said with a groan. "I know that you and Aunt Janice have a special bond – you always have. She is more like your second mom."
Kate could see that Sarah was a little jealous – it had always been a sensitive subject. "I love Aunt Janice," she said as she reached out and grabbed Sarah's hand. "I always will – but I only have one mom."
Sarah smiled as she recognized Kate's gesture. "Aunt Janice loves you too," she said. "And she would never, ever do anything to hurt you. But, oh my goodness, she was wild. Uncle Casey has really settled her down. Sweetie, the stories I could tell you…"
"Like the time in Cleveland," Kate asked with her eyes sparkling, "when she talked you into entering a wet t-shirt contest?"
Sarah's face turned red instantly. "California is going to have a new junior senator," she said. "But it's going to be one that the governor appoints - because I am going to kill your Aunt Janice."
"Don't worry, mom," Kate said. "She told me that story a long time ago. I think it was when I was fifteen. She told it to me to make sure that I understood that there are some decisions that you have to live with for the rest of your life - and that was one that she regretted."
"Nice save," Sarah said with a grin. "I'm still going to kill her."
"Look on the bright side," Kate said. "You won didn't you? I bet you still could."
Kate was gently avenged for the teasing over the 'feeling sorry' thing. Now it was Sarah's turn to get a red face. "I regret the Cleveland thing too," she finally said. "I'm embarrassed. Who wants to tell their daughter that they won a wet t-shirt contest? I'm not sure, to this day, why I let Janice talk me into it. In my defense, I will say that we were on a mission - but I will admit – the contest wasn't really completely necessary. It did help with our covers. It certainly kept the marks interested... You know, for a long time I was hoping Janice would lose this senate thing. I'm really going to miss her when she moves to Washington."
"She also showed me the picture of that Bryce guy," Kate said as she exaggerated fanning herself. "And all I can say is – damn. Dad must have really been jealous."
"Some," Sarah said. "It was a big issue for us in the beginning. But Kate, he had absolutely no reason to be. Bryce was good looking, in a way. I can't deny that. But the truth is your dad had it all over Bryce – in every single way that you can imagine. Once I was able to convince him of that, we realized that being jealous was pointless. He has always been great at dealing with all the flirting nonsense that a female spy has to do. Oh, he still gets annoyed sometimes – like when men send me drinks. And, I'll admit… sometimes I think that's cute. But your dad knows that I would die before I would ever hurt him. Being jealous is a waste of time."
"There was one thing about that story that bothered me," Kate said. "Aunt Janice actually tried to seduce dad? After you were married? Why didn't you strangle her?"
Sarah just laughed. "How did I know," she sighed, "which parts of the story would grab your attention? Kate, I had to realize that my being jealous was just as silly. Your dad would never, ever hurt me. I'll not deny that I get annoyed sometimes when I see a woman looking at him. That's been happening a lot more lately. I'll even admit that I've said something to more than one of them – and your dad probably thinks that's cute too. But the Janice incident actually brought us closer together. And it's exactly like the Joe thing - long ago forgiven and forgotten. That's really not the point of the story – at all."
"I know," Kate said with a sly smile. "I know exactly what you are trying to tell me. But Mom, seriously - do you think that you had to drag me to Vegas to tell me that? I've lived with you and Dad for twenty-one years. Do you think I'm blind?"
Sarah just smiled at her daughter. "Okay, Kate," she said. "You sound like you have it all figured out. You tell me. Why did I tell you that story?"
"Come on, Mom," Kate said. "I think that I know enough to understand. You were a beautiful CIA Agent. From what Aunt Janice tells me, the very best. There is a lot that you haven't told me about it – but you clearly lived an exciting life of traveling around the world, first class hotels, handsome men, and dangerous missions. But you were miserable. Your life was empty. Then, when you least expected it, from out of nowhere, you met your true love – and it changed your life. You started seeing your surroundings for the first time. Together you and your soul mate overcame extreme odds and incredible challenges. And your love allowed you to thrive and grow together even in the face of those ridiculous obstacles - obstacles that would have surely defeated you separately many times over. It was never easy - but the strength of your love always got you through. Not only did it make you genuine heroes - for the first time in your whole life, you were truly happy."
Kate then paused to wipe the tears from her eyes. "And," she continued as her lip started to quiver and her voice broke. "The most important thing – my two best friends – who also happen to be my parents - would like that very same experience for me someday soon."
Sarah was simply stunned. So much so, that she didn't recognize Chuck and Paul had walked up until Chuck grabbed her hand. Noticing the tears that were now running down her cheeks, Chuck reached down to kiss her. "Is something wrong?" he asked.
Sarah just shook her head and smiled through her tears. "Not really," she said as she looked at Kate. "It's just that I've missed you. Oh, and I'm very proud. We've raised one hell of a young lady."
Chuck reached over and placed his hand gently on Kate's head. "Tell me something that I don't know," he said with a smile. "Now, can we please eat? Paul's starving."
"Chuck," Sarah scolded. "Don't you dare blame Paul. Everyone knows that you're the one who's starving."
"Okay," Chuck sighed. "Yes, Sarah. You're right. I'm starving. Three days of eating nothing but Casey's cooking…" Then he noticed the untouched drinks on the table. "I see that you have made quite an impression on the male patrons of the place," he said with a half smile. "They must think you're thirsty."
Sarah flashed a knowing smile to Kate.
Chuck turned to Kate. "You really missed a trip," he said. "We didn't catch many fish. But your Uncle Casey fell out of the boat. Chuck Junior tried to catch him and they both went in. Uncle Devon got a picture of it. I think it might have been the best fishing trip yet. I'm going to be able to tease him for the next twenty years."
"I'm sorry that I missed it," Kate said laughing. "But I had fun here with Mom. It was… Well, it was life changing."
"That's nice," Chuck said as he grabbed Sarah's hand and pulled her to her feet. "I know just what you mean. Your mom has that effect. Did you know that she is the center of the known universe?"
In any other situation… from anybody else… that remark would have been corny beyond belief. From a guy in a bar, it would have gotten a well deserved groan. But Sarah knew that it wasn't corny at all. There was not an ounce of anything fake. It was not a line to butter her up. It was her amazing guy telling her, in his unique way, what she already knew – but never tired of hearing - how very much he loved her. Sarah didn't offer a response – none was necessary. Not with words anyway. But her glow was plain for all to see. Even in a place like Vegas – that was famous for its bright lights – nothing lit up the room like Sarah's smile.
The honest truth was – Sarah didn't have a clue how to describe her feelings for him. It had always been an issue for her. Nothing that she could come up with came close to doing it justice. That's why she always made sure to show him in other ways. Okay, sure – so she enjoyed those other ways too. What was wrong with that? They had been together almost every single day now for twenty-four years. And today after being apart for three days – of which they had talked on the phone a dozen times – Sarah could feel the relief at seeing him again wash over her. She could honestly say that she was looking forward to tomorrow… and next week… and next year… and, last but certainly not least, later tonight in their room… just as much as she ever had.
Kate got up and hugged her boyfriend. After all, she hadn't seen Paul in three days either. They had been together for four years now. And while, they couldn't pretend to approach her parent's bond… who could? They were getting there – and, after all, they still had plenty of time. Maybe tonight would be the time to tell her mom and dad that Paul was moving with her to Washington.
Kate smiled as she grabbed Paul's hand and followed Chuck and Sarah to their table. She couldn't help the soft tears that came to her as she watched with pride the unspoken communication between her best friends. When she was growing up, all Kate's friends told her that they were just acting - that nobody was that much in love. Kate never said anything back to her friends - but she knew… Like they think that they could hide that chemistry. "Actually," she said. "I think that I did know that. After dinner, let's hit the casino. What are we going to play first?"
Chuck winked at Sarah. "First," he said with a smirk. "I'm going to teach you how to play blackjack."
Sarah put her head on Chuck's side and snuggled in as he wrapped his arm around her. "That sounds like fun," she said as they continued walking. "But do you think after dinner we could go to the room for a few minutes first? There is something that I need."
"Why?" Chuck asked. "Did you forget something?"
"Something like that," Sarah said with a smile as she winked at her husband. "It's been three days. I just don't think I could enjoy myself all night in the casino knowing that Katie is feeling sorry for me."
Sarah's smile turned into a huge grin as she heard Kate's embarrassed groan.
"Mom, please. You're killing me here."
Well, folks, there it is. Eighteen months, five stories, well over a hundred chapters, and half a million words later. I hope that you had as much fun as I did.
The arc started off with a one shot called The Incentive. It was written just after Santa aired in season two. Negotiation was originally a one shot – but Sarah got pregnant. Imagine that. It was written mostly during the dark days of Beefcake and Cole. Taking One For the Team and Sexy Handler were written in the long off season between seasons 2 and 3. And Dark Intersect was written during the dark days of Shaw – but also when Chuck and Sarah finally got together.
My main goal in writing the arc was to prove (if to no one but myself) that Chuck and Sarah could be a secure, loving couple and still tell exciting stories. It actually looks as if the show now agrees with me. I'm really looking to them telling exciting stories in the mode of Subway and Ring, Part II without the crushing angst that made parts of season 3 approach unwatchablity.
I realize that people get invested in stories – just like I get invested in the show. And sometimes emotions run high. Just like I sometimes dislike Chris Fedak for giving us Shaw, I understand that sometimes people disliked me for having a pregnant Sarah appear to seduce another guy. And many of you said so, lol. Even if it didn't always appear like it, I appreciate it when you have allowed yourself to get invested in something that I wrote. I always felt an obligation to you. So while I could never promise that you'd like the story - I did make some promises that I took seriously. If you allowed yourself to become invested in a BillAtWork story I promised –
I would never abandon the story and leave you hanging.
I would never end a story without a happy C/S resolution (that's just me, lol).
I would warn you if I was about to get close to any lines of sexual content or character deaths.
If I ended a chapter on a cliff or in a particularly angsty place, I tried to post the next chapter in a timely manner.
I am really going to miss my two original characters, Janice and Elise. Some of the most fun that I've had writing was in developing their characters. My favorite chapter in all of my writing is in Sexy Handler when Janice went to seduce Chuck – and he turned the tables on her. Neither character was perfect, far from it. But both were heroes in their own way.
Janice was the most complex. At times, she was written as basically a female version of Casey. I struggled over putting them together. But at other times she was sort of a tragic figure. Not really knowing how to handle herself with other people.
Elise was written as basically a female version of Chuck. She always knew that she wasn't cut out to be a spy. But she was willing to throw herself in front of a bullet. So I wanted her story to end with her where she really belonged. Out of the spy life with someone she loved. Joe was invented for Elise.
And it would be wrong not to thank some very important people.
HappyDayz was tireless. She never allowed me to get too dark or stray away from the characters that I had developed. Many of the plot points in these stories were born from our arguing. If we ever agreed on anything, my stories would probably be much shorter, lol. If you ever want to chat about Chuck, consider joining the forum at ChuckTV where she is the moderator.
Poa never argued with me. She just pointed out that – well maybe what I had written was odd – and that maybe there was a better way.
BrickRoad was probably my first true Chuck friend. She has been there for me every since season 1. I still remember how excited we were waiting for the trailer from ComicCon before season 2. I often tease her about acting like her dad. But the truth is that she is much more often the mature one, lol.
And, of course, you. All of you who kept me going with reviews, PM's and emails. If you took this entire journey with me or just got on at the last stop – I thank you.