A Common Spy Problem
A/N: So I've cheated a bit with my rotation, but I don't think anyone minded that much. Yesterday inspiration struck for this one and I finally managed to finish the chapter. I was flailing a bit at the end, given the late hour, but my awesome beta, Nervert, understands me so well, so thanks for stating so eloquently what I really meant. You rock!
I've lost count of the number of reviews, but if I'm not mistaken it's nearing the 500 mark, which just makes me all giddy and fuzzy inside – it really means a lot that you guys are still sticking around for this story, and supporting the show, even when it's been off air for nearly three months. At least we will always have our memories, and the DVDs, of course. I guess the countdown has started in the US for the release of season 5, but as it hasn't aired here yet, we'll have to wait a while longer.
A random shout-out goes to Aerox - I hope you enjoy the juvenile joke.
I don't own Chuck.
Sarah glanced up at the clock and did a double take. The bell over the door usually rang at exactly four minutes past one every day for the last six weeks, but it was already nearly fifteen minutes past and still no sign of Chuck. She dropped the rag she'd been wiping the counter with next to the yogurt machine before turning to the cash register. She punched in the code for the Buy More surveillance and started to systematically work her way through the store. Behind the Nerd Herd desk Jeff was reclined on one of the chairs, his feet resting on the counter. He appeared to be snoring, oblivious to the customer in front of him, repeatedly ringing the bell. The cage was empty as usual. In the break room Skip and Anna were sharing a Subway sandwich. Morgan and Lester were sitting at an adjacent table, taking turns sending jealous glances their way when the other wasn't looking. Sarah shook her head and finally found Chuck on the shop floor in front of the television display, shock and horror written clearly across his face. She quickly scanned the rest of the floor, but didn't spot anything obviously suspicious. Neither did she see her partner.
"Casey," she spoke into her watch, "where are you?"
It took a second for him to respond. "I'm on my break."
"Who's watching Chuck?"
"He's supposed to be with you," he grunted over his com.
Sarah heard a noise in the background which sounded like a newspaper crinkling. It didn't take a genius to put two and two together. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Ewww, Casey! Why did you answer me?"
"It would be rude not to," he grumbled. "Why are you continuing the conversation?"
Sarah shuddered and disconnected the link without bothering to reply. Someone had to cut that short. She grabbed the shop keys and loosened her apron on the way to the door, tossing it on the nearest table. After flipping the closed sign, she locked up and jogged across the parking lot. At the entrance of the electronic store she slowed down, calmly crossed the threshold and pretended to scan for Chuck. Of course she found him quickly and made her way towards him.
With his back to her he hadn't seen her approach, robbing her of the pleasure of watching his eyes light up and a big grin spread across his face. Even though their relationship under the cover had been real for a couple of months now, Chuck still made her feel like she was the only person he noticed whenever she entered a room.
"Are you okay, Chuck?" she tried to draw his attention. He turned slowly, wearing the same facial expression she'd seen on the monitors.
"Oh, uh, no." He gestured to the wall behind him. "Not since Emmett started playing romantic comedies twenty four seven. He must love 'Must Love Dogs', 'cause that's always been showing."
"Ah." Relieved that he wasn't in any actual danger, she dropped the agent persona and took half a step closer. "So," she said as she toyed with his tie, "did the movie put you off lunch?"
"Oh, I uh…" he started shifting his weight from one foot to the other, "time slipped away from me, I guess. Can I make it up to you tomorrow? Lunch and dinner."
Sarah raised a surprised eyebrow. "Do you have other plans for tonight?"
"Well, I was hoping to finally make good on my promise to Morgan for game night…" he trailed off. She could tell the exact moment realization dawned. "You wanted to go out for Valentine's Day." He winced. "I'm sorry, Sarah, I should've told you earlier."
"Told me what?" she asked, doing her best to hide her disappointment. By the sound of it, Chuck hadn't planned anything special. It was their first Valentine's Day as a couple and the last thing she expected was that he would be so blasé about it.
"I'm not really into the whole Valentine's Day. I mean I was single for a long time and I promised myself that if I ever…that I wouldn't make a big deal of it. You know, in honor of all the singletons out there." He raised his shoulder a fraction. "Who needs a special day anyway? Every day should be special. And discreet, of course, in honor of…"
"I get it," she cut in. She straightened his tie, concentrating on the task to avoid eye contact.
"So it's okay with you if we take the night off?" Chuck asked.
"Sure," she replied lightly. Despite the twist in her chest, she managed to fake a smile. "I have a bunch of paperwork to catch up on anyway."
"Great," he replied, looking relieved.
"Great," Sarah echoed. They stared at each other for a beat and she wondered if she should tell him that she actually thought it sucked, but she didn't get the chance.
"Hey, hey, hey, you two," Morgan interrupted. "Any hot plans for tonight?"
Chuck looked from her to Morgan and back. "Absolutely…there is…," he responded to Sarah's surprise. "My house at eight o'clock, right?" he asked her directly.
"I can hardly wait." She smiled sweetly at Morgan before jerking her head in the direction of the door. "Do you mind walking me out, sweetie?" Chuck looked like he was searching for an excuse not to, but she grabbed his hand and practically dragged him behind her. "What gives, Chuck?" she asked the minute they were out of earshot.
"Morgan and Anna got back together. I guess I forgot." He couldn't quite look her in the eye. She dropped his hand and folded her arms across her chest.
Chuck laughed nervously. "Maybe the you-know-what is taking up more space than we initially thought," he tried to joke. When she didn't fall for that, he glanced down at his watch. "I should probably get back inside." He leaned in for a quick peck on the lips. "I'll see you tonight, okay? I'll get some takeout and we can watch DVDs, your pick."
"A discreet evening," Sarah deadpanned.
"Exactly," he grinned.
Sarah zipped up her hoody to thwart off the slight chill in the air. She lifted her hand to knock, but let it drop again and took a deep breath. She'd contemplated cancelling on Chuck, but he'd know that she was expecting more and was disappointed that he hadn't planned anything special. She still couldn't believe that he was just going to let the day pass like any other. This was officially the worst Valentine's Day ever.
Schooling her features, she finally knocked.
"It's open!" he called from inside.
Sarah rolled her eyes. She risked life and limb every day to keep him safe and he couldn't even lock the door behind him. Determined to let him know just that, she pushed down the handle.
"Chuck…" she started, but the rest of the words caught in her throat. She blinked to make sure she wasn't dreaming. "What's all this?" she asked when she got her voice back.
"You didn't really think I was serious earlier, did you?" he spoke as the lit the last candle. He slipped the matchbook into his pocket and crossed the room. Reaching past her, he flipped the light switch. "Romantic enough?" he grinned down at her.
"I thought you weren't into Valentine's Day," was all she could think to say.
He bounced his eyebrows once. "Gotcha."
"Yeah, you did," she conceded, pulling him down by the front of his shirt for a kiss. "So what do you have planned, Mr. Bartowski?" she asked in a husky voice once she'd released him.
"Well," he started, sweeping his arm across the room, "we have candlelight, obviously." He grabbed her hand and led her to the couch. "Chocolate covered strawberries and champagne." The mentioned items were arranged on the coffee table. Sarah took a seat and reached for a strawberry, only to have her hand swatted away. "I'll feed you in a minute," Chuck scolded her playfully.
"Sorry," Sarah mumbled and stuck her tongue out at him.
"Keep that up and I won't tell you the best part of tonight."
She held her hands up, surrendering. "It won't happen again," she promised solemnly. "So what's the best part?" She watched in anticipation as Chuck deliberated with himself whether or not to tell her. Then he picked up a DVD case from the side table.
"The English Patient," he announced.
Sarah's jaw dropped. "You cannot be serious. Do you actually want to watch that tonight?"
Chuck looked at the picture on the case and frowned. "Not really. Do you?"
"Honestly? No." The last time Ellie made them watch it they'd both agreed that it was the most boring thing ever. Or at least the parts they'd seen when they weren't busy distracting each other.
"Good." He plopped down next to her with his arm on the back of the couch, grabbed the remote with his free hand and turned on the movie.
Sarah's eyes darted from the screen to Chuck and when she spotted his grin, everything clicked. "You were hoping for a marathon make-out session, weren't you?" It was a rhetorical question, but he had the sometimes annoying habit of answering those.
"You think? It's the most romantic night of the year, we have the most boring movie ever made…" He trailed off and shifted closer while his fingers played with the loose strands of hair at the back of her neck. "I have the most beautiful girlfriend in the world." He shrugged a shoulder and inched even closer. "I'm only human."
And sweet, caring, cute and a little corny, Sarah added in her mind, but didn't say it. She wanted tonight to be special for him too. Her eyes drifted shut, but instead of getting the kiss she was expecting, she sensed him pull back.
"I forgot something," he explained.
"I love you."
Sarah quirked an eyebrow. "You forgot you love me?"
"I always thought the Intersect was too big for your brain," Casey grunted behind them. They both whipped around, fixing the Major with equally menacing glares.
"Casey," Chuck spoke first, "ever heard of a thing called knocking? It's not that hard. If a door is blocking your way, you just make a fist like this…" Chuck demonstrated, only to have Sarah pull down his arm and send him a warning look before turning to her partner.
"This better be good," she half-growled, "and it better not be a mission." Casey's smirk told her she was out of luck.
Chuck groaned and dropped his head face first into the couch. "What's it this time?" he grumbled. "Thai street racing gang? Ukrainian prostitution ring?"
"Just your average garden variety terrorist," Casey replied. "With the emphasis on gardening."
"A bonsai bomber?" Chuck mumbled back.
"No, numbnuts." Casey pulled a face when Sarah gave him a warning look. "You two kids are going to the suburbs."
Chuck's head snapped up. "Does that mean Sarah and I are moving in together?" Sarah's gaze cut from Casey to Chuck. She couldn't tell if he was happy or freaked out by the prospect. Not that she could blame him, she had no idea how she felt about it either.
"Yeah." Casey was still smirking as he held up two rings. "Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael. And good luck as a married couple."
"This is the last one," Chuck groaned as he hauled a box into the living room of the quaint little house in the middle of the Meadow Branch estate. "Of all the options I'd considered for Valentine's Day, this definitely wasn't one." He put the box down next to the others and straightened, rubbing his back. "I thought the CIA had people who took care of this sort of thing?"
"They do," Sarah replied distractedly. She took a step back and tilted her head to gauge if the photos she'd just hung were even. Satisfied with her handiwork she turned to Chuck, crossing her arms over her chest. "But someone," her eyes glanced over to Casey who was sitting on one of the sofas enjoying a scotch, "lost the paperwork."
"It happens," Casey grunted, not taking his eyes of the TV. He'd insisted that Chuck set up the entertainment system first so he could continue with his own plans for the evening. Sarah's suggestion that, if he was not going to help, he might as well go home and enjoy his documentary in the comfort of his own compound, had been met with a "I am helping. If I leave you two to it, you will be catching up on the honeymoon instead of unpacking."
"It would go a lot faster if we had help," Chuck pointed out. "At this rate, we're gonna be at it all night."
"Stop complaining, Bartowski, it's not as if you were planning on getting sleep tonight anyway. Now would you please pipe down? This is the best part."
Chuck sent a petulant sneer in Casey's direction then hunched down to cut the tape holding the box flaps together. "Where did all this stuff come from, anyway?"
"Castle," Sarah informed him. She bent down and peered into the box. "Furniture aside, we have everything we need to set up house." She pulled out a couple of books and handed them to Chuck.
"Because every house needs The Complete Works of Shakespeare," he deadpanned as the crossed the room and arranged them on the shelves. Sarah smiled inwardly when Casey had to crane his neck to see past Chuck. Casey was entitled to his revenge, but it didn't mean they had to make it easy for him.
Leaving Chuck to sort out the living room, Sarah made her way to the kitchen. She made short work of the food and cleaning supplies, but the huge serving bowls and platters they'd need to entertain the neighbors posed a problem. She had to rearrange the cupboards three times to make everything fit. When she'd finally managed to get the last door to close, she pushed to her feet. The world suddenly reeled and she grabbed the counter to steady herself.
"I'm done in there," Chuck spoke as he entered the kitchen, "so if you want to…" He stopped himself and frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, it's just a dizzy spell."
A look of concern crossed his face and he reached her in two long strides. "Maybe you should sit down for a bit." He pulled out one of the stools and kept a hand on her arm until she was settled. "Can I get you anything? Water? Or a sandwich? You haven't eaten anything yet."
"I feel better already," she assured him, leaning into the hand that was now rubbing comforting circles over the small of her back.
"Are you sure?" he asked again. "If you're not feeling well, I'm sure Beckman can find two other agents…"
"Chuck," she cut him off, "I don't get sick. I just stood up too fast. What do we still need to do?" she asked in an effort to distract him from hovering. "The bedrooms?"
"Just ours. There were some boxes with stuff we don't really need, so I stacked them on the bed in the spare room and locked the door. That way we won't have to entertain house guests." Chuck sent a meaningful glance in the direction of the explosion noises from the front of the house. "This is payback for the tranqing thing, isn't it?"
"I think so," Sarah replied, running a hand down Chuck's chest. "I'm sorry your plans got ruined."
"Our plans," he amended. His eyes travelled around the room before settling back on hers. "Though I'm sure this Valentine's is not one we're gonna forget soon." She made an agreeable sound in the back of her throat when Chuck dove in for a quick kiss. "Tell you what," Chuck continued and glanced down at his watch, "if you see our guest out, I'll make us some grilled cheese, we can catch a few hours of sleep and unpack the bedroom before work."
"Or," Sarah drawled, "you can walk Casey out, I'll take care of a very late dinner and in the morning I'll sort out of the bedroom stuff in between setting up surveillance and making the world's largest bowl of potato salad."
Chuck thought it over for a second. "Let's leave Casey where he is, I'll feed you, like I was planning, and tomorrow after work…" He stopped and did a double take. "What's the potato salad for? Is it some secret spy code?"
Sarah chuckled, giving him a playful slap. "No, actual potatoes and mayo. We're having the neighbors over, so I hope your grilling skills are up to par." The mere thought of mayonnaise made her stomach churn and she grimaced.
"I'm sure I'll manage," Chuck answered, sounding a little distracted. "Sarah, are you sure you're alright? You look a little pale."
"It's been a long day and I'm starving." The last part was a lie, but it seemed to set his mind at ease and he gave her a one-arm hug before crossing the room to raid the fridge for ingredients.
A/N: See you back here soon for the next chapter of It's a Wonderful Cover Life. Ciao