Chapter 16 – Civvy Street
The mission had gone very well. The bad guys were on their way to spending their lives behind the bars of a maximum security prison. Others had tried to resist and earned body bags for their trouble. And of course the objective had been achieved. Morgan and Bryce were directing a forensics unit as the evidence recovery process was still going on. Chuck was digging into a computer to see if there was anything they might have missed. Jill was carefully inspecting some chemicals found in a storeroom, while Casey was puffing contentedly on a cigar.
As for Sarah Walker… Another agent motioned for Sarah to join her. When they were out of sight, said agent, none other than Carina, grabbed her baby sister by the ear and dragged her to a quiet corner.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! Carina! Ouch! What the hell are you doing?"
"What the hell am I doing? What I should have done from the moment I was assigned to work with you and your team. Care to explain how not only you ended up in the spy business, but you're referred to as an agent?"
"It's a long story and this is not the time or the place to discuss it."
"You should have told me from the beginning."
"The whole deal was confidential for a reason, you know."
"Chuck and the others, did you meet them after you were recruited?"
"We were sort of recruited together, as a team."
"Save it for later. Right now I need a drink."
"Sarah, if you don't want to get your ass kicked, shut up."
Sarah shut up, not because she was afraid of her sister, she had her Intersect-enhanced martial arts skills to defend herself, but to give Carina some needed space.
"I'm sorry," Carina offered as she was driving Sarah home after the debriefing in Castle.
"I understand, you were pretty shaken to see me on the job. If it's any consolation, it is a temporary arrangement. I'll go back to being a civilian soon."
"Are you a temp or something?"
"All I can say is that it was a part-time job from the beginning."
Carina turned her Lotus into Franklin Street. "I'd like to hear all about it someday."
"You will. Thanks for the ride." She got out of the car and raced to the apartment. The lights were on, which meant that Chuck was already back.
"Hey," he said, looking up from the TV where he, Morgan and Bryce were busy playing CoD online. "How was the talk with Carina?"
"My ear still hurts. I'm lucky she didn't rip my earring out."
"We had no idea…"
"Never mind, Chuck. It's okay now. She's proud of me, that much I could tell, she was only pissed because I didn't tell her anything."
"OK. Dinner's in the kitchen, if you're hungry."
"Frankly, I'm starving. What did you get?"
"Your favorite; medium rare cheeseburger with extra pickles," Chuck replied.
Sarah licked her lips and sprinted to the kitchen. Arranging her dinner on a tray, she sat down to eat it and watch them play. "Aren't you guys going to eat anything?"
"Go ahead and eat, we're good."
A few hours later Bryce left to go home. Morgan stayed to work on something with Chuck. What it was, Sarah didn't know. They told her that she'd find out when the time was right. Their attitude made her realize the truth: They were planning the development of a computer game. By the time they were done it was really late, so Chuck sent his friend to the guest bedroom, which of course was Devon and Ellie's old room. The couple retired to their room following a quick shower while their guest was watching TV, changed into their sleepwear and went to bed.
Sarah woke up in the middle of the night and realized that she was really thirsty. Careful not to disturb Chuck, she got up and padded to the kitchen, yawning all the way. The jug of orange juice was in its usual place, so she quickly downed a couple of glasses. Feeling rejuvenated, she bent over to put it back in its place.
"Hey Chuck," she heard Morgan's sleepy voice.
"It's not Chuck, it's me," she replied, rising to her full height behind the refrigerator door. Too late she remembered something Chuck had told her about Morgan: that he was partial to sleeping 'al buffo', i.e. in the nude. Fortunately, he was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Sarah let out a relieved breath and pulled the jug back out. "Would you like some orange juice?"
Morgan realized, when Sarah stepped from behind the fridge, that she was wearing only a skimpy camisole and panties. "Uh, what? Sorry, I'm not completely awake." He respectfully averted his eyes. He already had a girlfriend and Sarah was Chuck's girl. He'd do nothing to disrespect her. Damn, she's got great jugs, he thought. He was still a man, after all. Chuck, my man, you're one very, very lucky dude.
"Orange juice," she repeated.
"Thanks, but I think I'll just have some water."
"OK. Goodnight Morgan."
Chuck was still asleep and was having a great dream. He saw himself driving home in his top of the line car, when suddenly something dropped from the sky in front of him, He hit the brakes and swerved to a halt, then got out to see what had happened. When the dust cleared, he saw a largish crater in the road and in it a woman. Not just any woman, but Sarah, the love of his life. She rose from a crouching position to her full height, straightening her angel wings and short one-piece dress in the process. She took a good look at him, took her halo off, throwing it to the ground where it shattered into a million pieces and walked over to him. He was still speechless when she pulled him down for a long loving kiss. Finally, they got in the car together and drove off.
When she returned, she noticed his smile. He must be having a really good dream, she thought with a smile before getting in bed again and snuggling up against him.
In the morning Chuck went to the kitchen to find Morgan fussing over the coffee maker.
"Hey little buddy, want some cereal?"
"Uh, sure, thanks. Just let me get this thing working… done!" He looked at his best friend. "You look happy."
"Dude, you have everything going your way, including dating a Leggy Valkyrie who has an aversion to clothing."
"We kinda ran into each other in here last night. Apparently we were both thirsty."
"And were you…?"
"No, I was wearing clothes. So was she, but… hell, you know what I'm talking about."
"Hey guys!" Sarah said cheerfully. "Coffee ready yet?"
"Not yet, but give it a minute or two."
She entered the kitchen and kissed Chuck. "You were dreaming about me last night," she said with conviction.
"How did you know?"
"You had a shit eating grin on your face. I want you to tell me all about it later."
"Would you like a hint?"
"I should really be watching less TV."
"Or not, if it gives you such nice dreams."
"Whatcha got for us today, Casey?" Chuck asked cheerfully as he, Sarah and Morgan entered their secret base.
"Nothing so far," Casey replied. "But it's still early."
The sound of a small explosion from the Castle lab made them all run to see what was wrong. They found Bryce laughing and Jill looking pleased with herself.
"That was fantastic, babe! Do it again!"
"Larkin, Roberts, what the hell are you two doing in here?"
"Oh, I was showing Bryce how to make a small firecracker-like device. It's loud enough to be used for, say, a distraction, but gives off almost no flame."
"Might come in handy on occasion," Casey conceded. "Next time, give us a heads-up first."
Time passed and still no word from their superiors. Chuck dutifully went through the dailies, but the Intersect gave no actionable intel, at least not for them. At least other agents would benefit from the information Chuck supplied. The results were emailed to Graham and Beckman, but the team still had to find something worthwhile to do.
'Something worthwhile' turned out to be a game of cards they decided to kill time with after lunch. Casey was on a roll, and puffed happily at his cigar as his hand once again beat the others', Sarah's in particular.
"Dammit, Casey, if I didn't know you, I'd swear you're cheating," she grumbled.
"You play well, Walker."
"Another hand?" Chuck asked. "I have losses to make up for."
"Dream on, grasshopper."
"Are you chickening out, big guy?"
"In your dreams, Moron. Shuffle and deal."
"Nice to see how our tax dollars are spent," Stephen joked, entering the lounge with Mary, Hartley and Professor Fleming.
"Dad, what are you doing here?"
"We have some news for your bosses, son. You may want to hear it as well."
"I'll set up the comms," Bryce offered.
Soon, a connection was established. "Looks like we have a full house," remarked Graham.
"The news must be big," Beckman agreed.
"Do the honors, Stephen, old chap," Hartley said with a wide smile.
"What is done?" Beckman asked.
"You finished it?" Graham had caught on immediately.
"The new Intersect computer has been completed," Mary confirmed. "We'll send you our bill."
"If the new computer is finished…" Chuck said, awed. He didn't have to finish the sentence.
"Our spy career is over?" Sarah finished for him.
"After only a couple of missions?" Morgan complained. "Damn, I was just getting the hang of it."
"It will be over as soon as the new system is up and running," Graham corrected. "Stephen, I do not wish a repeat of the previous fiasco, so I'd like you to supervise the install."
"When do you want it?"
"As soon as possible, of course."
"The components have already been crated and are ready for transport," Hartley said.
"I'll have an Air Force C-17 placed at your disposal," Beckman offered.
"General, isn't that a little… conspicuous?"
"Don't worry, Colonel. I'll arrange the details with Mr. and Mrs. Bartowski. On paper it will be just another shipment of cargo from a contractor. But I'd like you and your team to accompany it and provide security."
"We'll see you all in DC," Graham said. "Mary, contact me when everything is ready."
"You got it, Lang."
"A trip to DC," Chuck said gleefully when the connection was terminated. "The best part is that all we have to do is keep an eye out until we deliver the computer to its new home. Then we'll be free to do anything we want, like do some sightseeing!"
"I want to visit the Jeffersonian," Sarah said. "Who knows, maybe I'll manage to meet Dr. Temperance Brennan, even get her to sign my copy of her new book."
"We'll definitely put it on our schedule," Chuck agreed.
"Since the cargo is already packed, we leave tonight, after dark," Stephen decreed.
"You heard him," Casey said. "I want you all assembled here, in full tactical gear, by nine thirty."
"I hope you got something extra for me," Mary interjected.
"You're coming along too, Mrs. B?" Sarah asked.
"Of course I am. You're too young and too new in all this to have heard about an agent called Frost, little Valkyrie."
"Oh, sorry. I suppose you flashed on my codename, Chuck."
"Pretty smart, using your maiden name as a codename, Mom."
"Thanks. Besides, Director Graham is a family friend. Did you know he was the best man when your father and I got married?"
"No, you neglected to tell us. But there are lots of things you have not breathed a word about."
The rest of the day passed with the team in a quiet excitement, Chuck being the one most affected. The latest developments meant that his services as the Intersect would soon be no longer required. He and the others would be able to go back to their normal lives. The excitement became more pronounced when they all assembled in Castle in the evening to escort the precious cargo to DC. In order not to attract undue attention, the new Intersect was loaded into an innocuous looking truck. In fact it was fully armored and had various other defensive measures installed. Stephen would be driving, accompanied by his wife and Hartley. Casey along with Bryce would be leading in the Vic. Following at a discreet distance in a van, Sarah, Chuck, Jill and Morgan would be ready to run interference if necessary and also reconnoiter the route using electronic surveillance. The latter would be achieved by having Chuck monitor feeds from traffic cameras as well as the van's own hidden cameras. Early warning could make the difference between success and failure.
"Everyone ready?" Casey asked. Affirmative nods came from everyone. "Okay then, mount up and let's go."
The drive to Edwards Air Force base turned out to be somewhat anticlimactic. In fact, it almost felt like all the security preparations for the trip had been overkill. Still, as it had been repeatedly drummed into the young people of the group throughout their short spy careers, one can never be too careful in this business.
The flight was also okay, save for some turbulence early on, nothing worrying, but annoying nonetheless. And then there was the Air Force loadmaster, who thought it might be a good idea to hit on the girls. The steely glares he got as an answer from both Sarah and Jill, as well as the thoroughly displeased looks from Chuck and Bryce convinced him to go find something else to keep busy. After all, he didn't want to be kicked out of the plane at thirty thousand feet without a parachute.
For convenience, they landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, only three miles from downtown Washington DC. The truck carrying the Intersect components was driven off the C-17 and the rest of the team piled in the vehicles Beckman had arranged to have available for them, the van and the Vic having been left behind at Edwards. A large but inconspicuous escort had also been arranged for the short drive to the DNI building.
"I love what you did with this place," Stephen quipped, seeing the renovated Intersect room.
"Yes, it was rebuilt to the specifications you provided," Graham replied.
"Perfect, it's really perfect. Have your people bring the crates up. We'll start installing the system first thing in the morning."
"Arrangements for your accommodation have been made. You'll be staying in a house owned by the government, where they usually put up people working on federal projects."
"Right now even a barn would sound appealing," Morgan yawned.
"Follow me, please," Graham said. "You can change into street clothes in here." He indicated two rooms, one for the gents and the other for the ladies. "You are also authorized the use of three vehicles from the motor pool for the duration of your stay in DC. The staff there will hand the keys to you. Goodnight, ladies and gentlemen. It was nice seeing you."
"Goodnight sir, ma'am," the others chorused.
It was a short drive to the house where they'd be staying. Graham had made sure to have them stay somewhere close to the DNI building. Finding it was a snap, since the cars had GPS navigation systems and the destination was already programmed in. Once there, Stephen and Mary got one room, Chuck and Sarah another, Bryce and Jill a third, Casey agreed to share the fourth with Hartley, while Morgan claimed the comfortable couch in the living room, which incidentally was situated across from a huge high definition flat screen TV. It seemed weird that the government would furnish what was essentially a guest house so lavishly, until they learned that it had been confiscated from a guy who'd been running a Ponzi scheme.
Chuck was the first to wake up, or so he thought. When he went to the kitchen to get the coffee maker started, he found his Mom and Casey already up and making breakfast for everyone.
"Good morning Bartowski."
"Casey, Mom, good morning."
"Yes, thanks Mom. I was going to make it myself, but you beat me to it."
"Your mother and I are used to getting up early."
"When the situation calls for it, yes. Otherwise, I too like my morning snooze. As a married man you understand, right John?"
"Sure," Casey agreed.
"Chuck, go wake up the others."
Breakfast was a fun affair. Hartley suggested that the install would be completed faster if they all, meaning himself, Stephen and Chuck, worked together on it. Chuck agreed and Bryce also volunteered to assist. Mary offered to take the girls on a shopping trip. As it turned out, there was not much work to be done. Graham and Beckman had brought in the original install crews, so the four men just had to do the supervising. The main terminal was completed first, followed by the hard drives and then the operators' stations and the master console. The final task was to complete the grounding, test the cooling system and run a diagnostics check. A team of technicians loaded the encoded files into the system, a task which took quite a while, and when it was over the new Intersect was ready.
Stephen sat in the master console, while Hartley and Chuck took two operator stations, while Bryce was standing to the side, having nothing to do. Graham and Beckman stood above and behind Stephen in the observation room. The time had come to fire it up.
"Cooling active," Chuck announced.
"No power fluctuations," Hartley added. "Everything looks good so far."
"Three, two, one… loading operating system… the Intersect is online, repeat, the Intersect is online."
Graham and Beckman applauded spontaneously, prompting the four men in the control room to bow theatrically at the two directors.
The following day would be devoted to sightseeing in DC and more shopping and souvenir hunting. While the older people of the team were content to spend their day leisurely, the kids had other ideas. Fortunately, the more serious shopping had been taken care of the previous day, so the guys did not have to suffer following the girls into boutiques and stuff. The highlight of the day was a stop at the Jeffersonian. Sarah's wish came true and had the copy of her book signed by the famous Temperance Brennan. The kids also abused their agent status a little to get a guided tour of the Medico-Legal lab, courtesy of Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan. A fantastic day ended with the entire team out on an evening in town for dinner and a movie.
The next morning a minivan took them to Dulles, where they caught a flight to Burbank. Vivian, Devon and Ellie were there to greet them and drive them home. Only one thing was left for them to do. Back in the Orion building…
"Okay, son, just relax and look at the screen."
"We'll be right outside, Chuck," Sarah told him.
"Just make sure you have aspirin, all right? I don't think I'll need it, but better to be safe than sorry."
"Chuck, I'll be with you all the way." Sarah turned to Stephen. "Can I?"
"Take these." He gave her special protective glasses. "Keep them on until it's over."
"Dad, this will let me keep the skills pack, right?"
"Of course it will. Now, relax and enjoy the ride."
"It's like erasing a rewritable CD," Morgan laughed.
Chuck and Sarah were left alone in the room. Chuck relaxed and looked at his girlfriend. "It sounds weird, but I think I'll miss the spy world."
"Don't worry about it. I think I can keep you busy." She gave them a quick kiss as the countdown on the screen began. When the counter reached zero, images started flashing at an astonishing rate. It was all over a few minutes later.
"I'm right here. And I'll need that aspirin."
Sarah turned towards the observation window. "Can we have the aspirin in here, please?"
"Damn, it's almost as bad as the original upload…"
"Don't try to move." She gripped his shoulders and made him lie back on the recliner as Mary entered and handed her some pills and a bottle of water. "Take these."
"Other than the headache, how are you feeling, son?" Stephen asked.
"I… I feel… lighter, I guess…"
"Well, it worked."
"The Intersect is gone?" Sarah wanted confirmation.
"Yes." For good measure, Stephen showed Chuck a picture.
"You didn't flash. If you still had the Intersect, you'd have definitely flashed."
"He's free, then."
"He is," Mary told Sarah.
"I love you, Chuck." She leaned down and kissed him.
"I hate to break this up, but I need my brother for some tests," Ellie interrupted.
"Can't it wait?" Chuck whined.
"No, it cannot. Come on, little brother."
"Fine. But no needles or probing."
"Bro, it'll only take a few minutes," Devon emphasized.
Just a couple of years later…
"We're done," Sarah sighed.
"It was about time. Who knew the preparations for a medical convention would be so exhausting?"
"You're complaining?" Jill asked. "I'm the one who has to run back and forth to make sure everything will be ready."
"I'm not complaining," Bryce said, deliberately, just to spite Jill. "I'm just the sponsor's rep."
"Remember, Sarah, we are babysitting Clara tonight," Chuck called as he headed for the exit.
"I know," she smiled. Sarah loved Chuck's baby niece. That evening, babysitting would be combined with dinner. Jill, Bryce, Morgan and Alex would all be there. "I'll be home by…" She never finished the sentence. She turned green, then bolted for the utility room behind the stage and threw up in a bucket.
"Sarah?" Chuck ran to her and helped her up. "What's wrong?"
"I've been feeling a bit off lately," she replied.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"It's just a stomach bug, I think."
"You should get it checked out anyway," Jill advised her.
"Maybe I will." Then it came to her. "Unless… No, it can't be." She rummaged through her purse and pulled out an organizer. Finding what she was looking for, she turned even paler. "Chu- Chuck," she stammered. "I… I may be pregnant."
"I didn't get my period this month. And you can set a watch by my period, it's very regular."
"They have home pregnancy tests at the hotel doctor's office," Jill remarked. "I'll go get you one. You should also visit your doctor, soon."
Sarah emerged from a bathroom looking like she was in a trance, the white stick held in front of her.
She just showed Chuck the result.
"Is it positive?"
"Yes, Chuck," Jill confirmed. "It's positive. You are going to be a daddy. Congratulations."
"Thank you," he replied, still dumbstruck.
Bryce clapped him on the back. "Good job, pal."
"Um, thank you?" Chuck said uncertainly.
Sarah had a small panic attack. "Chuck, this can't be happening! I mean, how reliable are those tests?"
"One more reason to go see your doctor soon. Make an appointment, Sarah." He took her in his arms and it helped her relax.
"How can you be so calm?" Sarah asked in a small voice.
"One of us has to keep their cool. It'll be my turn to panic later."
"What's going on here?" Katie asked. She and Jack had come to see if their daughter needed anything extra for the medical convention that would take place in the hotel's largest conference hall.
"Jack, Katie, can I have a word with you in private, please?" Chuck said and gently, but firmly, guided the couple to an adjoining room.
"We are listening."
"I was planning on talking to you about this today. A couple of days ago, I went and took this from the family safety deposit box. It was my grandmother's. I'd like your permission to ask Sarah to marry me."
"Welcome to the family!" Jack said enthusiastically.
Katie smiled and hugged Chuck. "Knowing my little girl, there's no way she'll shoot you down."
"Good, because we found out about something interesting today." They all went to where the others were waiting. Chuck knelt in front of Sarah. "This is not exactly how I'd planned this, but Morgan once told me to scrap the plans and go with my heart when the perfect opportunity presents itself. I still have this ring and your parents' blessing. Sarah Lisa Walker, will you marry me?"
Sarah quickly got over the initial shock and smiled. "Like you had to ask. Of course I'll marry you. Put that ring on my finger."
"You like it?"
"Glad you think so. Now, let's take you to the hospital."
"The hospital?" Katie echoed. "What's wrong?"
"There is a good chance I'm pregnant," Sarah replied. "I took a pregnancy test just a few minutes ago, but I need to be absolutely sure."
"I'm gonna be a grandpa?" Jack said.
"In all probability, yes, you are going to be a grandpa. And Mom's gonna be a grandma. No jokes about being too young for this, Mom."
"How are Stephen and Mary taking it?"
"We just found out. The only people in the know are those present here."
Naturally, it didn't take long for Chuck's parents to find out. They were pleased to see that their son had finally taken the plunge and proposed to Sarah, too. And so, the recently engaged couple, their parents and their friends went to Westside Medical. Ellie and Devon learned the developments there.
"You are pregnant," Ellie confirmed, smiling widely. "Your blood work confirmed it. I'll get an obstetrician and arrange for an ultrasound." And then she hugged her future sister in law.
"There's your baby," the OB-GYN said. "You're not very far along, I can tell."
"Is it…?" Chuck began.
"Who knows? It's too early to see if it's a boy or a girl. But it's healthy."
"That's what counts," Chuck said.
"Doctor, what's wrong with my baby?" Sarah asked, worried.
"Nothing. Look at the screen. There's another fetus."
"You are having twins. Congratulations."
"Thank you, Doctor."
"Chuck, I don't know if I should kiss you or kick your ass."
"Why's that, sweetheart?"
"Because I'm the one who'll be carrying them for the next few months and I'll have to suffer giving birth to them."
"True, but you'll have me for everything else."
"I love you so much, Chuck."
"I love you too, future Mrs. Bartowski."
When the time came, Sarah gave birth to a boy and a girl. The twins were healthy and quickly became the center of attention for the parents' families and friends. Even a certain Colonel John Casey USMC (retired) had a soft spot for them.
"How are you feeling, baby?"
"I'm exhausted. All I want to do is sleep for the rest of the week. And just so you know, I didn't mean any of the threats I made in the delivery room."
"But you're still sleeping on the couch for the rest of the week."
"Whatever you say, dear." Chuck was smiling. He knew that by the time they got back home with the twins it would be Friday already, which would leave him with a maximum of two nights of couch duty, provided Sarah didn't cancel the punishment and demand that he perform his conjugal duties instead.
A/N: That's all folks! Thanks for sticking around for this one. As I wrote many times before, I appreciate all the support and encouragement you gave me. Stay tuned, I'll be back soon!