Hey everyone! Well, this story is definitely taking the prize for strangest place written. I wrote about a third of this one on my cell phone while standing in line for Toy Story Mania at Disney World. No idea why that seemed to inspire me, but I'll take it!
This one is set the summer after Chuck & Sarah's fourth anniversary. As always, Chuck isn't mine, and please review!
There were many things Jack Burton was good at. Being a father wasn't one of them. He had popped into town shortly after his daughter had gotten married, the curiosity of seeing what she had looked like in her wedding dress finally getting to him. He had paid for the ceremony, after all. He had the right to see pictures. She reminisced while showing him her wedding album, and he had popped out of Burbank just as quickly and unexpectedly as he had popped in. Now, it had been a few years since he had seen his not-so-little-anymore angel. Truth was…she did better without him.
Jack found himself back in Burbank on a hot summer Friday. He walked into the courtyard of the apartment complex where his daughter lived and started snooping around her place. He didn't expect her to be home at this hour. He didn't want her to be home. Last time he strolled into town, he had conned their small, bearded friend into telling him about the hidden entrance to their place, the so-called "Morgan Door." Jack was planning on using this Morgan Door to his advantage. Sneak around, check out what kind of life the Schnook was giving her, and show up at their door, properly, around dinner time as if he had just gotten into town – that was his plan.
He figured out which room was the one he was looking for and pressed on the window. Locked. It was when he was looking for an outdoor latch, any other way to get in, when he noticed the changed décor inside the room. Gone was the Tron poster, the Comic-Con memorabilia, and the music paraphernalia, and unless his son-in-law had allowed his daughter to decorate their room all in pink…unless his daughter had suddenly grown a fondness for glitter, canopy beds, and Disney Princesses, this was no longer their room.
"Excuse me," a voice said behind him. "What do you think you're doing?"
Jack turned around. It was the man his son-in-law liked to refer to as Colonel Awesome or Captain Fantastic or something like that. Recognition fluttered across Devon's face.
"Mr. Burton?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to see my daughter," Jack said as if that were obvious.
"Chuck and Sarah moved a long time ago," Devon said. "You didn't know?"
"I'm not exactly great at keeping up with current events," he admitted. "She's still in California, right?"
"Oh yeah," Devon said. "They didn't move that far away. They just upgraded."
Jack briefly wondered what that meant before asking, "Got an address?"
"Yeah…but that's not really up to me to give," Devon said, wondering what other current events he was in the dark about.
"Right. Of course. How about some coffee, huh?" Jack asked. "It's been a long trip."
"Sure, bro," Devon said. "Come on in."
While Devon made the coffee and gushed about his soon-to-arrive second baby, Jack slyly poked around the living room of the elder Bartowski sibling. He had only met Chuck's sister briefly, but she had struck him as the type to keep an address book lying around. He found what he was looking for in no time and quickly jotted down the address for Chuck and Sarah Bartowski. He quietly groaned to himself when he concluded that she must have actually taken the Schnook's name. Something to talk about over dinner, he thought.
Jack didn't know what was going on as he plugged the address into his car's GPS system and began making his way through a rather well-to-do residential area. That nerd his daughter had married made twelve bucks an hour at that stupid electronics store. Pride swelled in his heart when he realized his daughter must have conned a really big kahuna for her to be living in a swanky place like this. He pulled up outside of their home and whistled.
"Proud of you, darling," he mumbled. "I knew you had it in you."
The location was different, but the ritual was the same. Poke around, gather information, show up later. He almost thought he had gotten the wrong house again as he peered through the windows. Jack recognized some things from their old apartment – the posters, the video games, the action figures, some of the furniture, but things were different. There was a high chair in the kitchen, a playpen in the living room, and a bouncy chair in the office. He saw bottles and tiny silverware in the kitchen, stuffed animals on the couch, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVDs on the shelves. Jack was just about to double check the address when he noticed the pictures around their living room.
The usual suspects were there. He saw their wedding photo, the picture on the beach from Devon's wedding, the picture from the cover of their wedding books, and the photo Sarah had claimed as her favorite, but new ones rested among them. There was a professionally taken shot of his daughter and her husband and a tiny little girl in a tiny green dress hanging above the fireplace. He spotted a candid shot of Chuck making a goofy face as he held that same little girl above him in his outstretched arms. Jack's eyes finally zeroed in on a framed photo on their fireplace mantel. This shot featured his daughter standing with her side facing the camera, proudly showing off her pregnant belly and laughing while Chuck, who was on his knees in front of her, had his mouth open and teeth bearing in a pretend attempt to eat her stomach.
"Oh," Jack groaned. "She had a baby with the Schnook."
Jack was just about to see if he could find a way inside when he heard the unmistakable click of a gun and felt the hard metal press into his back.
"Freeze," his daughter said in a hard voice. "Put your hands where I can see them and turn around slowly."
"Whoa, darling, it's just me!" Jack said.
He put his hands up and not-so-slowly whipped around to face her. Where was the camera when he needed it? There she stood, dripping wet from the chest down in a teal, one-piece bathing suit with a v-neck and ruched sides, with her gun in one hand and her baby in the other. The little girl was dressed in a purple swimsuit with small ruffles around the waist and a white bucket hat to protect her delicate face from the sun. Little wisps of light blonde hair peeked out from underneath the hat. Sarah replaced the safety on the gun and lowered it when she discovered the identity of her intruder.
"Dad?" she asked. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I came to see you, angel," he said. "I didn't think you were home."
"Kenny and I were just out back enjoying a swim," she said, pulling the baby closer to her and looking at her face with a smile. "Follow me."
She started leading him around the back of the house, and he followed her through the gate. They had a spacious backyard, complete with a sizable patio, a hot tub and a full-sized pool with a small waterfall in the middle.
"Kenny?" he asked as she placed her gun on the patio table and wandered over to the lounge chairs by the pool.
"Kenley, actually," Sarah said. She grabbed two towels and headed back to the patio. She placed the large one over the chair and sat down on top of it, wrapping the smaller towel around the little girl in her lap.
"That's different," Jack said. "How'd you come up with that?"
"Chuck wanted Kendall, and I wanted Carly, so we split the difference," Sarah said. "We've mostly been calling her Kenny, though."
Jack leaned forward and held out his hand. "Well, Kenny, it's nice to meet you."
Little Kenny was clutching to Sarah, her blue eyes wide as she stared at the strange man sitting across from them. She started to get a little bit fussy and Sarah cradled her to her shoulder.
"Hey, sweetie, it's okay," Sarah said softly. "I know you don't know him, but it's just Grandpa. That's my daddy."
Jack slumped back in his chair upon hearing that and groaned, "Oh, god…"
Sarah laughed. "Did you just realize that me having a daughter means you have a granddaughter?"
"You sure know how to make a guy feel old, darling," Jack sighed.
"Sorry, Dad," Sarah smiled, leaning her head gently against Kenley's.
"How long have I had a granddaughter, exactly?" he asked.
"Since January 23rd. She'll be seven months next week," Sarah said proudly. She laughed and added, "She was two and a half weeks early."
"Already defying authority," Jack said with a hint of pride.
"She's definitely my daughter," Sarah said.
Jack was silent for a moment as he did a bit of mental math. "You got married in May, right?" he asked.
Sarah smiled, let out a nervous giggle, and nodded. "Anniversary baby," she said. "We had planned on waiting another year or two, but…well…you know…first year, paper. Second year, cotton. Third year, baby."
Jack grinned. "I didn't think the Schnook had it in him." Sarah laughed again and tried to cover her face in embarrassment. "You'd never know you had a baby seven months ago. You look good."
"Well, I might not be going out on missions right now, but I still have the workout regime of a spy," she said.
"Still in the spy game, huh?" Jack asked.
"Different kind of game, but yes," Sarah nodded.
They hadn't told him about their newly-acquired millions and business the last time he had popped into town. Carmichael Industries was still so new, she hadn't wanted to jinx anything. Now their business was thriving, but truth be told, she was still a little worried about how her con artist father would react to hearing just how much money she and Chuck had to their names.
"I thought you'd retire those guns when a little one like that came into your life," Jack said, gesturing to both the large gun on the table and the cherished baby in her arms.
"Are you kidding? I went out and upgraded my gun the week after I found out I was pregnant," Sarah said. "I had precious cargo to protect. Besides, you didn't give up the cons when a little one came into your life, did you?"
"Speaking of…" he said. "Who'd you con to get this place? I haven't seen the inside yet, but if it's anything like the outside…" Jack let out another whistle. The noise scared Kenley, and she jumped in Sarah's arms.
Sarah smiled. "I didn't con anyone."
Jack shot her a look of disbelief. "Darling…"
"I didn't," Sarah said.
"You think I'm a sucker?" Jack asked.
"Never," Sarah said.
"Well, your husband works at a Buy More, and the government doesn't pay this well, so you conned someone," Jack said. "Come on! I'm actually quite proud. Share your secrets with your old man!"
"Oh, where to begin…" Sarah laughed. "Chuck owns the Buy More now, and, uh…no more government. We're freelance."
"Still working with Cop Face?" Jack asked.
"Of course," Sarah said.
"So who'd you con to get all the startup money for that operation?" Jack asked.
Sarah shot him a look. "No cons! I promise. A little bit of deceit, but no cons," she said. "Chuck and I came into some money. The Buy More and our underground base was our first purchase. You're sitting in the backyard of anniversary number two's present."
Jack thought about the story she was feeding him and leaned forward. "Seriously, darling, do you think I'm a sucker?"
Sarah sighed. "Fine. Don't believe me."
"You really did turn out to be this upstanding citizen, didn't you?" he asked.
"God knows how that happened," Sarah teased. "Are you still proud?"
Kenley began babbling in Sarah's arms and reaching for her mother's short blonde hair. Sarah giggled and hitched the baby up on her torso, allowing Kenny to grasp her hair. She played with it a bit as Sarah laughed and Jack smiled.
"You're happy?" he asked.
Kenny squealed and grabbed her mother's finger as Sarah waved them in front of her. Sarah laughed again and looked up at her father.
"Very," Sarah said.
"Then I'm proud," he said. "Though let's talk about this whole Sarah Bartowski thing."
"Oh, you don't like that, do you?" she asked, slightly amused.
"I don't want you or Schnook thinking that you're just his little trophy wife that's going to sit back and stay home with the kids while he gets to go out and get all the glory," Jack said.
Sarah frowned. "I'm not sure how I feel about you continually calling Chuck that in front of his daughter."
"Oh, please, she doesn't know what I'm saying," Jack said. "But you, angel, are more than that."
"I know, Dad," Sarah said. "If it makes you feel any better, Kenny's middle name is Walker, and Chuck would probably tell you that all the glory is deservedly mine."
"Walker, huh?" he asked.
"Chuck wanted her middle name to be after me," Sarah said with a slight roll of her eyes.
"And that surprised you?" Jack asked. "I made a ten million dollar bet that he loved you, remember? And that was before you dropped that cover crap."
"I remember," Sarah said. "You knew it before we did."
"Oh no, kiddo, you knew it," Jack said. "You just chose not to see it. You're stubborn…like your father. Now let's go inside and get you some ice cream. You've got ice cream here, right?"
Chuck returned home a few hours later and found his wife napping on their couch in pajama pants and a tank top. He leaned down and woke her with a kiss.
"Hey," she sleepily said, playing with the tie that hung from his neck as he hovered over her. "How'd it go?"
"Mission accomplished," Chuck grinned. She tugged on his tie and rewarded him with another kiss. "So, hey, awkward question, but where's the baby?"
"Oh, she's fine," Sarah said. "Didn't you notice the car out front?"
She pushed herself off the couch and grabbed Chuck's hand, leading him up the stairs. They arrived in Kenny's room and found her sitting in one of her bouncy seats, listening intently as Jack taught her the ball game that Sarah used to practice on her stuffed animals. She squealed and threw her arms out when she saw her parents walk into the room.
"What is going on in here?" Chuck asked, leaning down to ruffle his daughter's hair and give her a kiss.
"Hey…Schnook!" Jack said, holding out his hand. Chuck shook it in a hello.
"Seriously, what are you doing?" Chuck asked.
"Just teaching my granddaughter everything I know," Jack said.
Chuck turned to Sarah. "Sarah, I don't want our daughter learning cons!"
"Well, you don't want her to be a sucker, do you?" Sarah asked seriously.
"I'm completely outnumbered here, aren't I?" Chuck asked. Sarah smiled at him. "Yeah, I'll just go make dinner now."
Chuck headed back downstairs and Sarah sat on her floor next to her father to join them in playtime. Jack pulled the ball out of his pocket, and looked at Sarah.
"Is this okay?" Jack asked.
"Of course," Sarah said.
"This isn't going to lead to a fight between you two, is it?" he asked.
Sarah shrugged. "It might, but I don't particularly like it when he and Uncle Morgan play violent video games in front of my six-month-old, so I'll just throw that in his face."
Jack raised the ball towards her with a wink and turned back to his granddaughter. He grabbed the toys he was using for his demonstration and said, "Why don't we show Mommy what we've learned, huh?"
Kenley's eyes focused on the ball, and she broke out into a smile. Sarah returned the grin and leaned back against Kenley's dresser, ready for the show.
That night, Jack stood in the doorway as he watched Sarah put Kenny down for the night. She softly kissed Kenny's chubby cheeks, whispered words of love to her daughter, and began walking around the room, soothingly rocking her to sleep. When she was almost asleep, Sarah laid her in her crib and repeated the loving words before flipping the baby monitor on and the lights off. She grabbed her piece of the baby monitor and followed Jack out of the room.
"She's beautiful," Jack said. "And you're good with her."
"You sound surprised," Sarah said.
"Well, no offense, darling, but I never imagined motherhood would look so good on you," he said. "You've done good, kid," Jack said.
"Well, I'm glad you approve," Sarah said. She pulled her father into a hug and asked, "Are you going to be here when I wake up?"
She had fixed up one of the spare rooms for him, even though both of them knew he likely wouldn't use it. They shared a knowing look, and she nodded slowly.
"We'll see," Jack said honestly.
"Maybe you can come around a little more often?" Sarah proposed. "Now that you know about…you know, for Kenny."
"So now I have two reasons to come to Burbank," Jack said. Sarah kissed his cheek and bid him goodnight, slipping into her room across the hall.
Jack hung around for a couple more hours, wandering through the house as the other occupants slept. He checked out the photos in every room and thumbed through a few albums, catching up on the last four years of his daughter's life. He even found two scrapbooks that Aunt Ellie had made for little Kenny, one depicting all the important moments from Sarah's pregnancy, the other containing all the important moments of the first six months of his granddaughter's life. Once he was satisfied with what he had seen and fully convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that his little girl was happy here with Chuck and their family, he decided to call it a day and slip out the front door. All he had really wanted was to know she was okay.
What Jack hadn't planned on was running into his daughter on the way out. It had been a long time since he had been around a baby, and he forgot that they tended to wake their parents up at all hours of the night. He passed Kenley's room and found Sarah half-asleep in the rocking chair, wrapped in a blanket and holding the baby close to her chest as the little girl enjoyed her late-night snack. Sarah sat up a little as Jack passed, meeting his eyes as he stopped in the doorway.
Neither of them said anything. She knew he was on his way out, and he knew she didn't need an explanation. Jack shot her a grin and winked, letting her know that if she was happy, he was happy. Sarah smiled back, thinking of the family photo she had slipped into his wallet when he wasn't looking for him to find once he'd left. She nodded and gestured towards the front of the house with her head, letting him know she wouldn't hold it against him for leaving so soon.
"See you later, alligator," he said softly.
Sarah did the little salute she had done so often as a child and replied, "In a while, crocodile."
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