Sarah vs. The Substitute
A/N: BDaddyDL sent me this plot and asked if I would write it. It took a while, and a fair amount of chocolate (for research purposes of course), and this is what we've agreed on. The Fates reference is all him, so Frea O'Scanlin, please don't sue. He also beta'd this and filled in the plot holes. Schwartz and Fedak's lawyers can take the day off too, this is their show, not ours.
General Beckman peered over her glasses from her spot at the conference table, fixing the team with her most authoritative glare. It has been a year since Carmichael Industries had taken down Decker and turned down an offer from the CIA to be reinstated, but Beckman apparently made no distinction between being the boss and being the client.
"Is there something you need to tell me, Agent Walker?" She still called them by their former titles, a sign of respect as she'd once put it – off the record, of course. Furthermore she had insisted on using their original cover names. Three Agents Bartowski in the same team proved to be very confusing indeed. She did, however, refuse to address Mr. Grimes as Cobra.
Sarah could feel Chuck's eyes on her, but years of being a spy allowed her not to show her surprise at Beckman's direct question. "Not that I'm aware of, General," she answered coolly.
Beckman raised an eyebrow, causing her glasses to slip a little further down her nose. "Do you think I was born yesterday?"
"No, ma'am." Sarah's eyes shifted slightly from Beckman's gaze, but that was enough.
"I knew it." Beckman turned to the other four members of the team. "Agent Walker is sitting this one out."
Sarah could tell Chuck wanted to say something, but she also realized the position he was in. He would have to choose sides, and back her up as he had promised, though he would rather not. He was saved when his mother spoke up.
"With all due respect, Dianne, that is no longer up to you."
Beckman was taken aback. "I'm surprised you still let her go into the field, Mary, given her condition..."
"What condition?" Morgan piped up, looking over at a stunned Sarah. "Are you okay, Mrs. B?"
"Are you saying..." Mary spoke over Morgan, her eyes darting from Beckman to Sarah, then to Chuck and back to Sarah.
Chuck opened his mouth only to close it again without saying a word. That diverted Mary's attention back to him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Is Sarah sick?" Morgan asked again.
"No, idiot," Casey interjected. He didn't elaborate, but there was a shadow of a smile on his face.
"Chuck, I can't believe you haven't told..." Mary spoke up again, but the rest of her sentence got lost when Morgan raised his voice.
"How can she have a condition and not be sick? We should get Ellie in here. And Awesome," he added as an afterthought and got up to go make good on his suggestion.
Sarah looked at the chaos that had erupted around her and something inside her snapped.
"I'm pregnant, okay!"
The room immediately went quiet, aside from a mumbled "I knew it" from General Beckman.
Morgan, who had frozen, one foot midair, slowly turned his head towards Sarah. "You're gonna have a little superhero?"
Sarah scowled in response. She wasn't ready for everyone to know. She and Chuck had decided to wait until she was into her second trimester so make sure everything was okay before they told the family. They had a disagreement about her being in the field, but she'd promised to be extra careful, assuring him that she would never let anything happen to their baby. Luckily, up to now, the missions weren't all that dangerous.
"She is actually happy about it," Chuck spoke when Sarah didn't, giving her a sheepish grin which caused her mood to deflate. The news was out and there was nothing she could do about it now.
"I am," she confirmed before turning to the rest of the people in the room. "I am also still capable of doing my job."
"Of course you are, sweetheart, but you can't just think about yourself anymore."
"Mom, she's not," Chuck quickly jumped in. "Sarah is quite capable of protecting anything Bartowski and she's got me to protect her."
"And me." Morgan raised his hand. Casey grunted a 'me too'.
"Be that as it may," Beckman brought them to order, "Sarah, I don't want it on my conscience if anything happens to your unborn child. Now I know I'm not the boss, but I am the client and the client is always right."
"How angry are you?" Chuck asked as Sarah helped him to secure his Kevlar vest. She bit her bottom lip. One of the rules of their relationship was to not fight before a mission. If worse came to worse, they didn't want the other person to live with regrets.
Once the last strap was in place, he pulled her closer, leaning his forehead against hers. "I'm sorry about what my mom said."
"It's okay, she's just looking out for her family, same as me. We just do it differently."
"So you're not mad?"
Sarah sighed. "Chuck, I'm more worried than anything else. The last time I had to stay behind and wait for you to return from a mission, you didn't."
"I'll be okay, Sarah. I'm going with Casey and my mom, not some crazy 'let's put the fear of death in the Intersect to make it flash again' spy slash shrink, rest his soul."
She tightened her arms around his waist. "You better come back in one piece. I'm not raising our baby by myself."
"I promise." He moved in for a quick kiss. "We have to get going. I love you." He gave her another kiss before reluctantly releasing her to grab his mission bag.
"I love you too." He was almost out the door when Sarah called him back. "Chuck, if you come home with as much as a scrape, you're sleeping on the couch."
Chuck gulped. "Yes, dear."
Sarah was restless. Chuck wasn't due back for several hours and she had no idea what to do with herself. She'd fanned through some of the pregnancy books they'd bought, but none could hold her interest for long. She placed the latest one back on the coffee table and her eye caught the wine rack in the corner of the room. Something else she had to give up. It had become sort of a ritual to come home after a mission and veg out on the couch with a nice glass of red, which would lead to cuddling and whispered words of affection, and end up in bed. Or on the kitchen counter. Or against the wall in the hallway. And ultimately resulted in the condition she was in now.
She laid her hand over her stomach. "You know," she spoke softly, "you're not even due for another six months and you're already changing everything." Sarah cringed. "I don't mean it in a bad way," she quickly assured, "it's just that I'd almost gotten used to things settling down, knowing what to expect next." She felt kind of silly, speaking to what Devon had once referred to as a walnut with ears, but seeing as she'd started this conversation, she couldn't just let it hang. "But don't worry, if anyone can adapt, it's me, so don't freak out, okay?"
Of course there was no answer. Sarah sighed as she lay back against the couch, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. The silence in the apartment was screaming. It never used to bother her before, but since fate had thrust her smack in the middle of the Bartowski clan, her life had changed. She had changed. She knew just lying there wasn't going to make time go by faster and let out a frustrated groan. She's supposed to be out there, by Chuck's side, retrieving the intel Beckman had wanted. She had faith in Casey and Mary that they wouldn't let anything happen to him, but still, to quote the Captain, this was not awesome.
Eventually Sarah rose and walked across the living room to their extensive DVD collection. Chuck had started a new one for the baby, though he'd watched most of the movies at least twice already. She flipped through the titles and settled on the one Chuck had called 'a compromise' – a mix of reality and science fiction. Sarah highly doubted that such a thing existed, but the cover was cute, so she had agreed to buy it. She popped the disk into the home theatre system and grabbed the remote, but not before her gaze fell longingly on the bottles stacked in the corner. With another sigh, she sank back onto the couch and reached for the glass of apple juice.
"Your daddy is gonna have to work twice as hard tonight to take the edge off." Immediately Sarah clasped her hand over her mouth. "Don't tell him I told you that, you know how he gets," she spoke through her fingers. Looking down at her still flat stomach, she realized she was acting crazy, so instead she nestled into the cushions and started the movie.
An hour later Sarah actually felt worse. Her eyes were puffy and red rimmed, and despite blowing her nose about five times, her sinuses were still blocked. The movie had only added to Sarah's anxiety of not being able to go on the mission. The raging hormones weren't helping either.
"Aunt Sarah, what's the matter?"
Sarah jumped. She'd been so engrossed in the movie, she hadn't heard the front door open or close. Clara was standing beside the couch, her head tilted to the side. "Why are you crying?"
"Sad movie," Sarah sniffled and reached for another tissue.
Clara's eyebrows drew together. "You think Lilo and Stitch is sad? Why?"
"Because Stitch is bad and it's not his fault. Dr. Jumba Jookiba made him that way, and Lilo is trying to show him to be good so she can keep her family together, but Stitch is just not getting it right," the words came tumbling out. Sarah pursed her lips to stop the explanation from going any further. It's not like a four year old would understand that, up until a few years ago, her life was very similar to that of the little blue monster.
"He does in the end," Clara offered and then bit her lower lip in contemplation. She placed her hands on her hips.
"Thanks, sweetie," Sarah caught another tear that escaped, touched at her little niece's concern.
Clara's face suddenly lit up. "I know what will help," she declared and headed for the door. "I'll be right back, so don't go anywhere."
"I won't," Sarah promised with a small smile. Once she was alone, she quickly got up to hide the books she'd forgotten on the coffee table. It was bad enough that Ellie wasn't going to be the first to know and Sarah definitely didn't want her to find out that way. In all likelihood Clara has gone to fetch her mother. With that in mind, Sarah straightened up as much of the living room as she could, keeping her ears open for footsteps. This time she heard them, and quickly took up residence on the couch again.
Clara appeared around the door, a big plastic pumpkin in her hand. She placed it on the one side of the couch and scrambled up beside Sarah. Her little hand disappeared into her Halloween bucket, pulling out a chocolate bar and holding it out to Sarah. "This always makes me feel better."
Sarah eyed Clara suspiciously. "Isn't it too close to dinner time?"
Clara shook her head, her two brown pigtails swinging. "Dinner is not for hours." She dug another candy bar out and peeled off the wrapper, taking a large bite. "Go on," she encouraged Sarah around a mouthful, "try it."
Not really one with a sweet tooth, Sarah decided to humor her niece and followed her example. She braced herself to not grimace at the sticky sweetness she was expecting, but when she started to chew, something unexpected happened. She wasn't sure what it was, but she didn't want the feeling to stop. All of the irritation and anxiety that had built during the day seemed to just melt away. Shifting down the couch, her eyes closed and she let out a satisfied groan.
"It's true, chocolate is almost better than sec…conds," Sarah quickly amended, peeking through one eyelid to see if Clara had picked up on her almost slip. God, she hoped not.
"Seconds of what?" Clara asked innocently.
"Uhm…the first bite is better than the second." Sarah silently thanked her father and CIA trainers for teaching her to think on her feet. Who knew you needed that skill around children too?
Clara shrugged noncommittally. "I suppose, but I like all of them." To prove her point she took another bite before she had barely swallowed the first. Sarah couldn't help but smile.
"See," Clara declared when the credits started to roll, "I told you it had a happy ending."
"That you did," Sarah laughed, reaching over to tickle her but stopped short when she realized that might be a bad idea, given the amount of chocolate they had consumed. She settled for ruffling Clara's fringe. The little girl giggled, but stopped abruptly when they heard Ellie calling from the courtyard.
"Sweetie, does your mom know you're here?"
"No, she was taking a nap and I got bored and I saw your car outside and I figured it's okay…"
"It is," Sarah cut off the string of words, "but your mommy worries if she doesn't know where you are, so why don't you go open the door and tell her to come over from some juice?"
With a nod, Clara practically jumped off the couch. Sarah collected all the candy wrappers and made her way to the kitchen. From the corner of her eye she noticed Clara shifting back and forth on her feet in the doorway as she waited for her mom. Sarah cringed. What if sugar really caused kids to bounce of walls? Surely that would be dangerous? Maybe she should start reading some of those books. Her train of thought was derailed when she heard Ellie ask "Clara, did you have chocolate before dinner?"
"Aunt Sarah said it was okay," she answered innocently when Ellie bent down to wipe the evidence of the side of her daughter's mouth.
Ellie straightened and folded her arms. "Why do I get the feeling it wasn't entirely Aunt Sarah's idea?"
Two big brown eyes turned to Sarah when she re-entered the living room with their drinks. Despite the fact that she'd just realized she had been duped by someone who barely reached her hip, Sarah's heart melted. "It was totally my fault," Sarah covered as she put the tray on the coffee table, "I was feeling a bit down and Clara introduced me to the healing powers of chocolate."
"Healing powers?" Ellie asked, eyeing her daughter and sister-in-law suspiciously. They both nodded enthusiastically.
"Lilo and Stitch made Aunt Sarah cry, but the candy made her feel better," Clara explained proudly.
"It's amazing," Sarah confirmed. "Seriously, what's in that stuff?"
"Chocolate releases endorphins, same as exercise and," Ellie looked down at her daughter and dropped her voice, "intercourse."
"Wow," Sarah replied, sinking down onto the couch. "So all those years Chuck and I didn't…are you telling me a Hershey bar could have saved Frank a lot of pain?"
Ellie took a seat next to her and Clara clambered up onto her lap. "Who's Frank?"
"Punch dummy," Sarah responded absentmindedly, staring off into space without elaborating. "How did I not know that?"
"It's okay, by the sounds of it, you're going to make up for what you've missed out on as a kid." Ellie shot Sarah a knowing look, getting a small smile in return. "Though grownups prefer alcohol to…" Ellie trailed off and then her eyes grew wide. "Oh, my, gosh."
Sarah could practically hear the wheels in Ellie's head turn. This was not going according to plan, she and Chuck were supposed to tell the family together and then the rest of the team. She scrambled for something to say, but Ellie was faster.
"Sarah, when? How? Please don't answer that. How far along are you?"
"How did you know?" Sarah countered. She was still trying to figure out how Beckman pieced it together. She didn't buy Chuck's comment that she was glowing. That was just absurd.
"I can't recall the last time I saw you drink wine, a kid's movie made you emotional and you're not on the mish…at the meeting Chuck mentioned yesterday… oh, my gosh, this is so…awesome!" Sarah braced herself for the inevitable squeal, but instead found herself enveloped in a sisterly hug. She was vaguely aware of Clara squirming out between her and Ellie. Ellie finally let go, keeping her hands firmly on Sarah's shoulders. "So?" she prompted.
"What's awesome?" Clara asked before Sarah could respond.
With two pairs of inquisitive eyes on her, Sarah started to panic. "Uncle Chuck and I are throwing a party, but it's a surprise and if he knew I told you when he wasn't here…" she shot Ellie a pointed look, "he's going to be very disappointed." Technically they were planning on having the family over for dinner when they shared the news, so Sarah didn't feel too bad about deceiving her niece. Ellie on the other hand, seemed to have gotten the message.
"We won't tell, right Clara?"
The little girl shook her head solemnly. "Uncle Chuck will never know."
Sarah let out a relieve breath. "Okay, good." The expression on Ellie's face, however, told Sarah the conversation wasn't quite over. They've been sisters-in-law for a couple of years, and friends for even longer and Sarah could read her almost as well as she could Chuck. "Fine," she relented, "one question."
"How do you feel about it?"
"Excited and scared," Sarah answered truthfully. "Mostly scared."
Ellie smiled. "Welcome to the club, but you know we're here for you. Anything you want to know or need, just ask."
Sarah nodded, but again was cut off by her niece. "Mommy is really awesome at throwing parties."
"Hey, baby," Chuck whispered and Sarah felt his lips ghosting over her cheek. She rolled lazily onto her side and opened her eyes.
"Hey, you're back."
"Yeah, everything went smoothly for a change." He lifted her legs and slid in under them, his hands automatically finding her feet for one of his famous foot massages. "So what did you do today?"
"Nothing much. Watched a movie and took a nap."
"Living it up, huh?" Chuck grinned.
"I was bored out of my mind." Sarah shifted up against the arm rest. "Chuck, I can't do this. I'll go insane."
"I know. Look, I spoke to the guys and Mom and this won't happen again. They were just taken by surprise today and there wasn't really time to discuss it before the mission, but in future we decide who goes on missions and who doesn't, and if Beckman, or any other client has a problem with that, they can take their business elsewhere."
"And you and Mom are happy with that?" Sarah asked skeptically.
"Yeah," Chuck nodded. "But we might get a tad overprotective, so don't say you weren't warned."
Sarah leaned over to give Chuck a kiss. "I suppose I can learn to live with that."
"Good, then it's settled. I guess I better get started on dinner."
"I can do that," Sarah offered. "Or we can call for take out." Truthfully, she wasn't all that hungry, but she figured after a day in the field Chuck must be starving as the mission was outside the Bamboo Dragon's delivery range.
"No take out, you need your veggies."
At that, Sarah rolled her eyes. Not only did she have to give up wine and sushi, but it seemed like pizza and cheese burgers with extra pickles would be a distant memory too. At least with all the calories she'd be saving, she could indulge in her new craving without much guilt. The thought perked her right up.
"Fine," she conceded, "peas and carrots it is, but you're prepping them."
They were as in sync in the kitchen as out on a mission. Chuck peeled and chopped the vegetables while Sarah grilled the fish. He scraped the ingredients into a pan and handed her a wooden spoon, swopping places with her to turn the fillets. Once done, he returned to the chopping board to start cleaning up.
"The garbage disposal is still broken," Sarah reminded him when he turned towards the sink.
"Sorry, I'll look at it tomorrow, if national security allows." Chuck stepped on the paddle to flip open the lid and froze. "Sweetie, where do all these wrappers come from?"
Sarah cringed. "I had a few snacks during the movie." She and Clara got a little carried away earlier, but she couldn't let her niece get into trouble.
Chuck looked up at her with a worried expression. "You haven't read the book, have you?"
"Which one?" They'd bought so many, the baby would probably start school before she finished all of them.
"Waiting for Juliette. You know, the one written by the news anchor, Marion Blake?"
"Chuck, I told you I'm not going to read that. Just because she's a celebrity doesn't make her an expert on something a million people go through on a daily basis. It's a money making scam and I am not a sucker."
"But it's helpful," he argued, placing the chopping board back onto the counter. "She writes about what she went through and how she felt and what…"
"It's still a con, Chuck. I'm not buying it." But her curiosity got the upper hand. "What does she say about chocolate?"
Chuck cleared his throat, suddenly looking uncomfortable.
"What does she say?" Sarah asked again.
"That women who eat chocolate while they're pregnant…" He scratched the back of his neck, his face a shade redder than normal. "Their children grow up to have healthy sex lives."
Sarah burst out laughing.
"It's not funny."
"Honey, that sounds like an old wives' tale."
"What if it's not?"
"Then I guess our kid will thank me one day," Sarah quipped.
Chuck shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. Apparently he had trouble realizing how ridiculous this was.
Taking a step closer, Sarah wrapped her arms around his neck and cocked her head. "Chuck, if this child is anything like either of us, no amount of chocolate is going to make a difference."
"Sarah!" He still failed to see the humor in the situation. "That's not something I want to think about ever."
"But it's the circle of life, Chuck," she argued. "If it makes you feel better, one day when this baby is old enough to know about the facts of life, he or she will realize that we are doing it and be totally disgusted."
"Oh, God," Chuck groaned, "If you don't stop talking now, this will be the only baby we ever have."
Sarah fixed him with an incredulous glare. "You wouldn't last two days."
"Is that a challenge?" Chuck asked with a hint of a smile. "As I recall, you can't keep your hands of me."
"We'll see." She shrugged off his arms and grabbed her car keys from the counter. She was almost at the front door when he caught up.
"Where are you going?"
"The grocery store. Chocolate is not just a substitute for alcohol, you know."
Before she could reach for the knob, Chuck's hand was on her wrist, spinning her around. Sarah barely had time to regain her balance when his mouth was on hers. Even after years of marriage, his kisses still made her knees grow weak. She was distracted from what he was doing with his tongue when he backed her into door, his hand traveling down her side, letting her know exactly where this was headed. Eventually they parted for air.
"I think you lose," she gloated between breaths.
"It's for the baby," he countered, his hands on her hips lifting her so she could wrap her legs around his waist. "I'm taking one for the team, because that's what dad's do."
Sarah giggled as they made their way down the hall. "Whatever you say, Chuck."
A/N: The book really exists, and it makes that claim, but I've changed the title, and the name and occupation of the author. My opinion stands, but I have to play nice with my best friend's sister's best friend. Also, Sarah's answer of being excited and scared, mostly scared, is verbatim what my cousin answered when I asked her the same thing on Saturday. (For my Twitter followers, it's not the same one expecting twins when the oldest is 11 months, I have a feeling she's just freaked out, period.)