A/N: So, Beckman is a human being. Surprise!
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck. /Boilerplate.
Epilogue I: Ft. Meade 0100 EST
Beckman and Deputy Director Myers were looking over the current applicant pool. Ft. Meade was always running, around the clock, just like CIA headquarters in Langley, but it was an odd time of day for two such highly placed intelligence officers to be up and about, much less hiding in what amounted to a broom closet.
Still, there was work to be done, and as conspicuous as their secret meetings would be if their security details knew about them, both spies had been exceedingly mindful of operational security. It had taken Beckman longer to ditch her security than Myers, but then the man had only just graduated to big boy pants from fieldwork. Only two people knew the true nature of this project, and though the number would eventually grow, Beckman was confident that Walker and Bartowski could be trusted. She mentally berated herself. The Bartowskis—Beckman shook her head, she was never going to get used to that—would bring the grand total of people in this special access group with knowledge of the full scope of the operation.
"What about this one?" Myers said, sliding the folder around on the card table. "Two years marine force recon, aced most of the aptitude tests."
"Most?" Beckman said. "What about Fleming's tests? Image retention?"
"Low eighties." Myers pointed out the relevant scores.
She grunted. "Put him on the maybe pile. My only concern here is that we don't fry our subjects brains like Fulcrum did at Meadow Branch. How close are Manoosh and his team to completion?"
"Still a few months. But that should give my newest instructors time to prepare the volunteers for upload." Myers sighed. "This is pointless, Diane."
"How do you mean?"
"This test of Fleming's we're using. Its designed for two purposes, and he's not in any condition to explain what an 83 means versus the 98 Chuck scored eight years ago at Stanford." Myers shook his head. "We need numbers you and I can understand, quantifiable benchmarks."
"I can see the logic, Bill. But if Bartowski's our baseline, we should probably get him under lock and key before we start thinking about new test procedures so that—"
"Oh no you don't Diane." The Deputy Director for Operations said. "No more bunkers. That was the deal. I'm just surprised either one of them is willing to speak to you after this debacle."
"I did what had to be done." Beckman protested. "Keeping that information safe is my highest priority."
Myers grin didn't reach his eyes. "That information happens to be in the head of an American citizen, and not just that, the husband of one of my best agents. You might have convinced Graham that what the Select Intelligence Committee doesn't know won't hurt them, but I for one would like to stay out of Federal prison."
"You're being ridiculous." Beckman said. "Worst case we would be fired and put in bunkers ourselves."
"I'm being prudent." Myers said. "Did you learn anything at all from waking up with Sarah Bartowski holding a gun to your head?"
"Let's get back to work." She grated. Of course she had learned, and next time, she would just have to throw Sarah in the bunker with him. Objectively, protective custody was still the best option if they couldn't replicate what Orion had done in removing the Intersect. It wasn't her fault if no one else could see past their emotions. She wasn't heartless. Chuck had done too much for his country for her to even contemplate a termination order anymore. And Diane had felt like shit having to lock him away, even briefly. She'd barely been able to get the lie about the deaths out when it had become necessary.
Chuck and Sarah and that beautiful baby girl really did deserve to just be left alone, but the security of the entire country was at stake. Why was she the only one who could see that anymore? Beyond the new physical capabilities of the Intersect 2.0, Chuck still had hundreds of terabytes of priceless defense secrets and clandestine intelligence stuffed up in his head. If their enemies got their hands on those files, General Beckman shuddered to think of the potential cost in lives. How could she have put potentially millions of lives at risk for the freedom of one man, and ever looked at herself in the mirror again? If no one else had the stomach to do what was necessary the next time, well, Diane Beckman wasn't going anywhere. God she hoped there wasn't a next time. "We need to finish going through these files. And this next Marine of yours is too old. Too big of a chance he's already come into contact with someone in the Ring."
"What?" Myers said. "He's barely three years out of OCS. Do you want to start recruiting them out of highschool?"
"Graham did just that with your fair haired girl." Beckman mused. "We could certainly slip this new test you have in mind into the SATs without much problem. Cast a wider net. You're the one always saying we need to look to the future."
Myers thought about it. "Do you know anyone over at the College Board?" He said at last. "Our agent there just retired last spring."
Epilogue II: Casa Woodcomb 2300 PST
"So, Morgan's cell number still the same?"
Ellie rolled her eyes. "Yes." She said. "You really want to do this over the phone?"
"Actually I was going to text him."
"Oh no you don't." Ellie said. "I'm the one who's had to deal with his 'where's chuck,' 'why doesn't chuck call,' 'waa, Chuck's probably dead in a ditch somewhere,' whining for the last year. You at least need to drive down to the Buymore and talk to him in person. I don't want to deal with the sappy emotional reunion on my front stoop."
"Oh god. Sarah? You want to come for moral support?"
"No way." She said from the sofa, stretching to massage her feet. I just want to curl up and go to sleep. "Do you mind Ellie?"
"That's fine Sarah. We have a guest room set up."
"Ok." She paused for a moment. "Hey, Chuck. No staying out all night with Morgan. That was okay when we were dating, but you have a wife to come home to. Make sure he knows it too. In fact." She stood, holding Lisa out to him. "Take your daughter. She'll need to be fed again in two or three hours, which will give you an ironclad excuse to leave."
"You sure?" Chuck asked. "You were pretty super overprotective when I wanted to take diaper duty at the restaurant."
"I know." She shrugged. "And I realize now how irrational I was being."
Chuck cradled their daughter carefully in his arms. She looked like she was fading fast. "If you're sure. I don't want to turn around and see you invading the Buymore all decked out in tactical gear to rescue her or something."
"Go have fun." Sarah said as Chuck was putting Lisa into her car seat. "And only tell him about my CIA status, he doesn't need to know about..." She glanced at Ellie, who didn't appear to be listening. "Anything else. Like we talked about, remember."
"I know, Sarah." Chuck whispered and kissed her briefly on the forehead.
"That's it?" She said. "I've come to expect better from you Mr. Bartowski."
Chuck waggled his eyebrows at her. "I'm on a timetable here, Mrs. Bartowski. But I promise I'll make it up to you later."
She leaned into him, breathing in the scent of his neck before putting a kiss on his collarbone. "You'd better."
"I love you." Sarah rolled her eyes and pushed him gently toward the door.
"Don't let Morgan feed my daughter any grape soda."
"A second ago she was my daughter." Chuck said over his shoulder. Sarah pinched his butt and shoved him toward the door more forcefully. "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
"Yes. Time for girl talk with Ellie. Devon's on call in the morning, so it's just the two of us. That and I'm going to actually drink wine again for the first time in a year."
"I thought you were breastfeeding exclusively."
"I'm not going to get drunk. I'm just going to have a glass or two. The alcohol will be out of my system by the time you get home. Go talk to the bearded gnome."
The drive to the Buymore from Echo Park was familiar, but seemed oddly unreal, like it was a part of his life that was always present but he just never thought about it, or never saw the connecting streets, the freeway on ramps and interchanges that he took day after dreary day. When he pulled into the mostly empty parking lot, Chuck was struck by an odd sense of nostalgia. This wasn't his life anymore, but part of him missed it, and not just going on missions with Sarah and Casey. God help him, he actually missed dealing with Jeff and Lester's insanity. And there they were, heading over to Bennigan's to get wasted. Nothing ever changed. Well, he amended, glancing at the car seat in the back and its precious cargo and smiling.
He sat in the parking lot, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and staring at the front of the Buymore. He felt exposed, jumpy, but he had done two sweeps as he came in, and found nothing suspicious. Chuck put the rental car in gear and pulled around out front of the store, and there he was. The beard was a little longer, though neatly trimmed, and the hair was a little—weird to say—more professional, but it was still the same Morgan Grimes. Chuck lowered the passenger window.
"Morg. Get in."
"Chuck?" Morgan breathed, peering in. "It is you! What the hell man?"
"Get in the car, we need to talk."
Morgan shrugged and yanked the door open. "Yeah, yeah of course. Just let me just throw my stuff in the back and—"
Chuck grabbed Morgan's wrist. "No throwing anything in the back. Sarah'd kill me if anything happened to Lisa. Also, I'd probably do something permanently drastic to you if you clocked my daughter in the head with your bag."
"Daughter?" Morgan said as he sat down, swiveling to look in the back seat. "My god. What did you do...? What did you do! You knocked up Sarah!"
Chuck brandished his wedding ring. "No, not technically."
"Is that— I can't... d'you... My heart. I think I'm having a heart attack."
"I'm glad you're taking it this well." Chuck grumbled. "Bodes real well for the rest of the conversation."
"Rest of the conversation!" Morgan said. "Like why you frakking disappeared for a year?"
He sighed. "Exactly like that. Look, Morgan." Chuck started. "I understan—"
"No you look." Morgan shouted. "I don't know what could have been so important that you couldn't take ten minutes out of your busy schedule of disappearing god knows where, getting married and starting a family to tell your best friend what was going on!"
Lisa screamed and flailed her arms and legs. "Nice work Morgan." Chuck growled, pulling over. He unbuckled and turned around and scooped Lisa out of her car seat. "It's okay baby girl. Uncle Morgan's just being a jerk. You'll get used to it." He glared at his friend. "Keep your voice down." Morgan nodded and cringed inwardly.
"Sorry, Chuck. I just... what the hell, man?"
"I know." Chuck said. "I can't tell you everything, Sarah would... well, she wouldn't kill me. She's kind of attached to me, but still." Chuck blew out a sigh, his jiggling of Lisa finally quieting her. "Okay. Here goes. Sarah's CIA."
"CIA!" Morgan said in a harsh whisper. "No way."
"She was the CIA liason for an interagency counter-terrorism task force, based here in Burbank, but a rogue intelligence operative put out a hit on her. That's why we had to run, to keep everybody else out of the line of fire." All of that was technically true, just not the whole story, and maybe a smidge out of sequence.
Morgan took that part in stride. "How long have you known she was CIA?"
This was the hard part, but he'd lied to Morgan so much in the last few years, that this version of the last three years barely seemed like a lie at all. "Pretty much the whole time. Some goons tried to kill her on our first date, and it all kind of came out."
"What about—" Morgan paused. "Hang on, why was she working at the Weinerlicious and the Orange Orange."
"Actually, she felt guilty for putting me in danger so she wanted to stay close." Chuck said. "And good thing she did. Terrorists and mobsters seem to be drawn to the Buymore like flies to honey." "So, wait." Morgan said. "That's why things were always 'complicated' with Sarah?"
"Yeah, we weren't really dating at first, she just felt this duty to protect me because she'd made me a target in the first place. Then look, you know how Sarah and I were kind of on the outs before we left?"
"Yeah. Dude, that was painful to watch."
"Well, that was Sarah trying to push me away because she knew this guy was out there looking for her. Most of our breakups were like that, one of us trying to protect the other from something."
"And not because of the Sandwich girl?" Morgan said, dubious. "I said it once before. Mindcheater!" He even poked his fingers at him like he had three years ago.
"Okay, actually the sandwich girl is a bad example." Chuck shrugged. "Sarah was falling for the Bartowski charm by then, but she just didn't want to tell me, and I didn't want to keep lying to myself that she wanted me. We kind of got our signals crossed on that one. Don't mention that to Sarah. Or Jill! Don't ever mention Jill! It's kind of a touchy subject. She doesn't carry a gun anymore, but she's still got throwing knives and I've seen her kill a man from thirty feet with those things."
"What? Kill!" Morgan said. "You're not serious?"
"There were a lot of bad people chasing her—us. And now there aren't. That's why we can come back like this. It's not difficult to do the math on that one, is it?"
"And you're okay with that? You're not freaking out?" Morgan stammered. "She's killed people."
"Not good people" Chuck said. "Bad people, very bad people. And I had time to adjust to the idea. Years, in point of fact. Give it a couple months before you start worrying about the freakout going on too long."
"I was never very good at being patient." Morgan took a steadying breath. "How many people has she killed?"
"Morg, just leave it alone. I don't want to think about it right now."
"How many people have you killed?" Morgan said, with a kind of sickly grin on his face, like he was hoping for one answer but expecting another.
"Too many." Chuck said slowly, trying to be honest."Less than Sarah."
"Look, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about." Chuck shrugged. "This whole thing has really changed us both. I helped Sarah figure out who was chasing us, and so she pulled some strings and got me a job as an analyst."
"Whoa, whoa." Morgan said. "You're going to work for the CIA? Can you tell me that?"
"Yes. We're moving to Langley, Virginia, in a couple weeks."
"You're going to be a spy?"
"What, no. Nooo. I'm... it's an entry level position Morgan, I'm barely going to be making more than I did at the Buymore. I don't even get top secret clearance. Decent health care though, full dental. We're going to need it. Sarah's not fully vested in her pension."
"Pension? She quit?"
"Early retirement. Her choice." He bounced Lisa on his lap a little and she giggled. "Sarah took one look at this one and said. 'I would like more of those please.'" Chuck shrugged. "Kind of hard to have kids when you're off fighting terrorists in Jakarta all the time."
"Yeah, I can see that." Morgan said slowly. "But, I can come visit you guys right?"
"I'll have to check. We're going to be unlisted, so... I just— I don't know. I'm going to have to get new screen names and everything, but I'll get you my new Gamertag. I promise."
"Cool." Morgan sat back, glancing around the interior of Chuck's rental car. "So what happened to the Porsche?"
"You're kidding right?" Chuck said. "We had to ditch that first thing. I think it's in a CIA impound lot somewhere."
"Well, at least you finally locked down Sarah." Morgan said.
"Locked down?" Chuck asked. "What are you talking about?"
"Dude, no offense. But she was always way too hot for you. Now, as long as you don't do something crazy like try to do her up the butt, you're set for life man."
Chuck coughed and blushed furiously and clapped his hands over Lisa's ears. "Morgan, I really don't think that kind of talk is appropriate in front of my daughter."
"What? Oh, right, right." Morgan said, but then he glanced at the expression on Chuck's face. "Hang on. I know that look. That's the I'm super guilty about something look and why would you be super guilty about anything now that you've come clean to your best friend abo— Oh. My. God."
"Morgan, that's not what I'm—" Damn it, he couldn't explain that he was still feeling guilty about lying to his friend, and not... other things. Probably better not to correct him and have to come up with some alternate plausible explanation, but if Sarah got wind he was letting Morgan think that, she would— well, Chuck didn't know exactly what she would do, but it would definitely be unpleasant and it would probably involve knives in some way. Okay, but Morgan was smart enough not to bring up something like that with Sarah. Right? Chuck glanced at his friend, thoughts blazing by at warp speed. He weighed the risks. "Shut up. New topic."
"No. Freaking. Way. So Sarah's a bit of a freak, huh?" Morgan continued in an unexpected British accent. "Oi always suspected." Chuck supposed it was his try at James Bond.
"Morgan." Chuck demanded. "New. Topic. Now."
"So... Yeah. Uh. You ever get to finish Mass Effect 2?"
Chuck let out a sigh of relief. "Yes. Yes I did."
They went back to Morgan's apartment without further incident. Sarah peeked out of Ellie and Devon's window and waved at him. Chuck frowned, confused at how she'd known he was there, and Sarah tapped her watch and waved her iPhone. He rolled his eyes and followed Morgan over to Casa Grimes. "So are you and Sarah staying here tonight or what?"
Chuck arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"You and the—god its weird to say it— the wife. You and the wife and baby Bartowski can shack up in your old room, it's just the way you left it, dude." Morgan explained.
"Wait, seriously?" Chuck said. "I can't-- why didn't you get a new roommate. How could you afford to keep the place without somebody else to help with the rent?"
Morgan smiled and tossed Chuck his nametag. Morgan Grimes: Manager. It proclaimed. "Big Mike moved up to a job at corporate, and bequeathed the store to me. I've got this place covered."
"I was only gone a year, right?" Chuck breathed. "How did I wake up in the twilight zone? You're in charge of the Buymore?"
Morgan shrugged. "Well its not like Big Mike was ever really the hands-on manager guy. I just get paid more to do nothing like always, and my Assistant Manager does the real work. I don't know what I was always so worried about."
"Crazy." Chuck said, still staring down at the proof of Morgan's adulthood. "But I think Ellie and Awesome want us to stay in their guest room." He shrugged. "I'll have to ask Sarah."
Morgan laughed. "Whipped."
"Yeah, well can you blame me?" Chuck thought a moment. "But I am going to have to take the Tron poster with me when we go, no matter what Sarah says."
"That's the Chuck Bartowski I know. Don't let her change you."
Morgan put in Call of Duty. "Man, how long has it been since we wrecked some fools at Call of Duty, Chuckmeister?"
"I don't know." Chuck said, then grinned. "Few weeks? Would have been right before Lisa was born."
Morgan stared at him like he'd grown antlers. "What are you talking about?"
Chuck just grinned wider and grabbed a controller. "Hang on, let me retrieve my new gamertag. Didn't I mention? Sarah got put on bed rest the last couple months of her pregnancy, and she may have gotten hooked. She's already on her third prestige."
"Hang on, I recognize that name." Morgan breathed. "You're that jerk who kept sniping me from across the damn map?"
Chuck barked a laugh. "Actually that was Sarah. She gets a little mean when she's in the zone, and you did blow her up that one time when she was about to hit her killstreak." Chuck said.
"Dude." Morgan said. "I've said it before, but you are without a doubt the luckiest man alive. Not only did you bag a mega hottie CIA superspy, she's a gamer? Lucky! Why couldn't I have been in the nerd herd desk that day? I knew how to fix that cell phone too."
"You know..." Chuck cut himself off. Morgan didn't need to know Sarah had been picking him up as part of her job. He still wasn't sure how to feel about their first meeting himself. "Yeah, I'm sure it was just the Nerd Herd uniform working its ineffable magic. Explains Jeff's luck with women. Oh wait, no it doesn't. Let it go and lets smoke some fools, Bartowski/Grimes style."
They played Call of Duty for an hour or two, and it felt almost like old times, except they couldn't blast the volume like they used to for fear of waking the baby, and right when they were getting their teamwork back in the swing of things, Chuck's watch started beeping.
"Dude what's that?"
"Baby alarm." Chuck explained. "I now have five minutes to get Lisa back to Sarah for her feeding, or I will have one highly cranky Bartowski baby on my case, which will, as always lead to one homicidally cranky Bartowski super spy on my case. I'll be right back."
"Okay, but you totally gotta stop by the store tomorrow and prove to everybody you're not a figment of my imagination."
"Done. But no CIA talk in front of the crazies."
"Come on." Morgan scoffed. "I'm like the chamber of secrets up in here."
"Okay." Chuck said doubtfully.
"Hey, Chuck wait!" Morgan said. Chuck turned in the doorway. "What do I tell everyone? I assume I'm not supposed to talk about Sarah being CIA, or you? Where do I say you went this whole time?"
Chuck grunted. "Sorry. I forgot. You tell them I have a new government job I can't talk about, which is true. The rest though, keep the lies simple. Sarah's dad got sick, I ran after her, one thing led to another, and then wham. Wedding, baby... the whole deal. I couldn't call because my phone broke before I left, and after that... well. I was distracted. Newlyweds, right?"
"Yeah. I'll bet. She's a freak isn't she? C'mon bro, details. You can trust me."
"Let it go, Morg. And you are never ever getting details if I want to keep my skin whole and without stab-marks." Chuck said, and strolled across the courtyard to Ellie and Devon's apartment with Lisa cradled carefully in his arms. Sarah had ears like a cat, and if Morgan was going to keep up that line of questioning Chuck was going to have to put a very large buffer between the two of them. Leaving for DC was seeming like a better idea by the minute. Three thousand miles might seem excessive to some people, but Chuck had learned recently to take nothing for granted.
A/N 2: The end of this particular adventure, but not the end of this AU.
I'm working on both a prequel and a sequel at present. I will probably start posting the prequel, Chuck & Sarah Vs. Themselves before too much longer, but time between updates will be longer while I try to get my thesis ready for my defense. The sequel is in much more fragmented form and currently lacks a title or, you know, plot and stuff, so: don't hold your breath.
Thanks for all the reviews, especially those of you who had constructive criticisms and concerns, like Just Chuck. I live off people telling me where I messed up in my writing like most people live off water. (Or chili-dogs in this country, but who am I to judge, right? Mmm. Chili-dogs.) /End random tangent.
Somehow this story got up past 50,000 words in a hurry.
Chuck & Sarah Vs. The bunker has to this point, garnered almost 13000 hits, more than 5000 visitors, and 94 reviews. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, awesome.