Strangers on a Bus
In this story I indulge many a romantic cliché I'm going where many a fanfiction writer has gone before – to Charah land! Only thing is, I'm going there on a bus. Please, enjoy my attempt to please you. I truly do live to please! Now, enough of me saying things I'll regret and on with the story!
Oh, by the way, I have no idea what American luxury buses are like – I'm just going with what the ones here (Zambia) are like.
Random quote: Let go, baby hippo! – Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Sarah Walker stood waiting for her bus on the platform. She had been sent to Stanford to check out her recently ex-partner's dorm out. He had gone rogue and disappeared and she had heard through the Company chatter that he had stolen something. She had asked her superiors about it once they had cleared her of suspicion, but they wouldn't confirm or deny the rumours. All they did say was they were looking for him.
Of course she, being his partner, knew him better than anyone. Therefore she had been sent to search all places where he could have possibly hidden, hidden something, or left a clue. There was nothing on the campus that she found, and she had been redirected to Burbank. The powers above said he may or may not have sent a file that did or did not exist to a person he may or may not have been working with. Nothing like cryptic orders!
She read through her orders again. Apartment 6, Echo Park, Burbank, CA. Extract computer and take to local Company headquarters. -G.
She hopped up the steps of the bus that just pulled up, adjusting her backpack over her shoulder. She always packed light. She walked down the aisle to her seat; she was in the third row on the right by the window in seat 12. She slid her precious backpack under the seat and plopped down. It was going to take roughly five hours to get to Burbank so she might as well get herself comfortable. She pulled her left leg up to her chest and stared out the window. After a little bit a tall, thin man with curly, brown hair in a pair of jeans, a light blue shirt, and a dark blue hoodie stopped next to her and put his bag in the overhead compartment. He was laughing, and saying, "I know, right. When you're this tall what is leg room?" to an equally tall man further down the bus who had been grumbling. "We should start a support group," he continued.
"I would get into that," the grumbly man said in mock seriousness.
"I'll send you a flier for groups in your area," the young man joked. The other man laughed.
Sarah smiled unconsciously at the exchange. She turned back to her window and a couple seconds later she felt him sit down next to her as the bus started to move. Sarah studied him in the reflection of the window. He had a strong profile, not gorgeous, but good looking. He had seemed nice enough. Maybe this bus trip wouldn't be a total bore. She flipped her long sandy blonde hair as she turned to face forward and the driver made some announcements. When he said the time till reaching their destination would be five hours both she and the young man muttered, "Five and a half."
She grinned and turned to face him. He was smiling as well and it was the biggest, most carefree, smile she had ever seen. She was quite disarmed. He was also much better looking than she had thought. He had these kind muddy brown eyes with flecks of gold that made them twinkle, his curly hair was longer than she had thought and it also had strands of lighter browns in it from the sun. She reached over her raised knee, "Hi, I'm Sarah."
"Chuck," he said meeting her hand and shaking it heartily.
"Pleasure to meet you, Chuck," she said.
"Likewise," he said sincerely. Sarah almost shivered at the depth in those words. Like there was something more behind it.
She pulled her hand back, and pushed her hair over her ear nervously.
Chuck, seeming to snap back, cleared his throat, "Um, anyway, you're going to LA. Actress?"
Sarah laughed, she knew with her years as a con artist and a CIA agent – with all her personalities and legends and covers – she could probably be a damn good actress, but still it was funny to think of Jenny Burton being an actress – it sounded so glamorous. Granted, most probably thought espionage was glamorous, but in answer to his question she said, "No, acting takes certain qualities I do not possess."
Chuck shrugged, "Great laugh, a winning smile and a beautiful face are a good place to start."
Sarah paused for a moment eyeing him sceptically. He showed no sign of anything but sincerity. She shrugged, "Thank you, but no."
"Then why are you going?"
"Uh…work," Sarah said, deciding that the closer they stayed to the truth the easier it would be.
"Work? That's informative," Chuck smirked, "What is this work you speak of?"
"I'm going to check on some computers that are supposed to have a product my company is interested in," Sarah made up quickly.
"Oh, you work with computers?" Chuck said his facing lighting up.
Sarah shook her head, "Uh, no, not really. I work with whatever they tell me. I'm kind of their errand girl. They send me to pick stuff up, drop stuff off, check personnel, check security; stuff like that."
"Ah, the joys of being at the bottom of the food chain," Chuck grinned, "but I'm sure your bosses will see your potential soon enough."
"You have no idea if I have potential or not," Sarah said.
"Well, I like to think the best of people. And that Harvard shirt says something. Schools like that tend to try to keep the amount of idiots they let in to a minimum," he said giving her a serious look.
Sarah laughed glancing down at the shirt she was wearing, "You'd be surprised. Anyway, what about you?"
"Hm?" Chuck asked.
"What do you have for you in L.A?"
"Oh," Chuck said, "Well, Burbank to be exact." What a coincidence. Sarah thought. "And my sister's getting married," he finished smiling and his chest puffed out a bit in pride. Sarah thought it was endearing.
"Good guy?" she asked.
"Do you think I'd let her marry him if he wasn't?"
Sarah gave him a look, "Like you could change the mind of a woman in love."
"Oh, I couldn't, but I could have changed his." Sarah raised her eyebrows. "What?" Chuck protested, "I could. I'd give him what for - he'd have all of this to go through. I mean I'd…" he gave a few punches into the air in front of him.
"But seriously, he is an awesome guy," Chuck said, "I mean literally that's his nickname; Captain Awesome." Sarah guffawed. "I'm serious," Chuck scolded, "everything he does is awesome - climbing mountains, jumping out of planes. Flossing." Sarah laughed. "And he could probably clobber me in seconds."
"So, are you in the wedding party?" Sarah asked.
"Yeah, well, kind of; I'm giving her away," Chuck said smiling bit sadly.
"Wow," Sarah said, wondering why the sadness, "quite the role."
"Well, I wanted to be the ring bearer, but they said I wasn't cute enough," Chuck joked rolling his eyes.
"The nerve!" Sarah mocked.
"I know, right!" Chuck exclaimed nodding, "but what are you gonna do?" he shrugged.
"Well, I'm sure you'll be a wonderful giver awayer," Sarah said.
"Thank you, Sarah," Chuck said smiling and glancing up to make eye contact. Gosh, her eyes are beautiful, he thought. He had noticed she was beautiful straight off. She had her messy blonde hair cascading down over her baggy grey Harvard t-shirt and framing her face perfectly. She had strong cheek bones under her lightly tanned skin, perfectly shaped pink lips, and gorgeous blue eyes. They picked up the deep blue of the seats and looked dark and vibrant. And of course there was that smile. He very well could be in love with that smile. It was the biggest, brightest, best smile he had ever seen.
Sarah was caught up in his gaze for a second. She snapped out of it shyly and rooted around in her backpack for something to occupy her newly acquired nervousness. She found a candy bar and pulled it out. She concentrated on unwrapping it for a second. There was something so disarming and so safe and relaxed about Chuck.
She wished for the first time in years that she was just a normal twentysomething going to L.A. to run an errand for her bosses at some company and that she could talk to this guy without walls and that she could see him again and that she could flirt and laugh and act like normal Sam. She knew she already was, but she wished it wasn't dangerous. Ah, who was she kidding? She could have a little fun with a stranger on a bus for a couple hours.
"What was your major?" Chuck asked.
"Cross Cultural Communication," Sarah said as she licked some of the chocolate from her candy bar off her fingers.
"Doesn't that sound nice," Chuck said.
Sarah grinned smugly still chewing some of the chocolate bar.
"What was yours?" she asked once she was able to.
"It was…uh, it was in IT," Chuck answered trying to keep the nerd jargon.
"Really?" Sarah asked, "Well, I know nothing about IT, but it seems like a challenging choice."
"Yeah, I love it though. Computers are my comfort zone," Chuck said, "In fact, in high school I worked at a Buy More in the Nerd Herd department."
Sarah giggled a bit, "Well, with those outfits who wouldn't want to?"
"What, you didn't have any interesting summer jobs?" Chuck asked.
"Oh, I did," Sarah said as she thought back on all the crazy things she had done for her father.
"Like…" Chuck prodded.
"Well, I worked in a nunnery for a little bit and…let's see…" Sarah said pulling her mouth to the side in thought. Chuck thought it was adorable. "Oh, I was in a commercial…I walked Donald Trump's dogs…I worked in a museum…" she glanced over at Chuck and stopped at the look he was giving her.
"Are you serious?" he asked.
"Yeah, I had a habit of drawing the most unorthodox jobs available," Sarah said.
"You lie to me," Chuck said childishly.
Sarah laughed, "I don't, I swear."
"Well, you've had an interesting life then."
Sarah's face almost fell, but she quickly put a smile on, "You have no idea," she said coyly.
"What would it take to get an idea?" Chuck asked with rare bravado.
The look Sarah fixed him with made his heart jump to his throat.
She leaned toward him, "Well, I could tell you, but then…I'd have to kill you," she said in a low voice.
Chuck's eyes widened and he laughed nervously. Sarah sat back and giggled.
"It's OK, we can find other stuff to talk about," he shrugged.
"Smart man," Sarah applauded.
"So, where do you stand on the pirates vs. ninja war?" Chuck asked.
"The what?" Sarah asked creasing her eyebrows.
Chuck looked at her aghast, "Don't tell me you haven't heard of the infamous battle?"
Sarah opened her mouth but then just shrugged and shook her head.
Chuck gasped, "This is no good! Alright, there is a terrible war going on and it's between the stealthy ninja dressed in all black and practicing deadly swift martial arts and using murderous blades, and the pirates; trash talking, ship loving, crooked buccaneers that do and take as they please answering only to the sea. All must choose a side. Which side do you choose?"
"Oh well, I'm definitely going to have to go with ninja," Sarah said.
"Yeah, I've always fancied myself a ninja," Sarah said smiling knowingly.
"Oh ho ho, really?" Chuck asked.
Sarah nodded, "Absolutely."
"Well, then I will watch my back," Chuck laughed.
Sarah bit her lip thoughtfully, "That won't do you any good. If I really am a ninja then you won't see me coming anyway."
"Well, I can always try," Chuck concluded.
"I suppose," Sarah nodded.
They fell silent, but both desperately wanted to keep talking. Chuck for the obvious reason that she was this enchanting, gorgeous, ninja babe. And Sarah because he made her feel, well, like a real girl. How they were both so taken by the other in just half an hour was any one's guess.
"So…" They both said after a moment.
They laughed, Sarah scolded herself. She wasn't some cute teenager with a crush, she was a master seductress. She had made dozens of men bend to and fro to her will, better looking men with more money and more fame. She wasn't allowed to be thrown by some nerd she just met.
"Do you live in Burbank?" Sarah asked.
"Uh, no, no, I actually…Well, Kind of," Chuck stuttered, "I just finished up at Stanford and my professor had me stay another year to help him perfect a couple theories. Now I'm done though, and I don't have a next step. So I'm going to be staying at my sister's during her honeymoon while I get myself sorted out, but between you and me I think it might take a little longer than that."
"Well, what do you want to do?" Sarah asked turning to face him leaning her arm on her knee and her chin on her arm.
"I really don't know. I mean I had this plan where I was going to be a software billionaire by 30, but I just…I don't know. It seems so shallow, I don't think I want that anymore."
They were silent for a moment, "Well, whatever you decide I'm sure you will do great things." Sarah said.
"You have no idea if I have potential or not," Chuck said throwing her words back at her.
"Well, I'm learning to think the best of people," Sarah said with a shy smile. Chuck smiled back.
They began to talk back and forth about nothing and everything. Chuck was in awe of this woman and even more amazed that despite that he could still talk to her so easily. But oh gosh, she really was beautiful.
Sarah was telling herself she was allowed to choose to be a regular girl around him. But she knew that none of that statement was true; she wasn't allowed and she sure as heck wasn't choosing. She had just sort of morphed into this normal woman on a bus talking about normal non-national security related things to a normal non-terrorist guy. And she was loving it!
"And that is why if you do end up in my neck of the woods you shouldn't go to the Buy More," Chuck finished.
Sarah looked at him disbelieving, "That place can't actually exist," she declared.
Chuck shook his head, "No, I'm telling you the truth."
"Then those people can't exist. There can't actually be that many people that strange in one zip code," Sarah insisted.
"Well, maybe on second thought you should stop by the Burbank Buy More just to see it all," Chuck said.
Sarah looked at him, "I almost want to."
They had been on the road for two and a half hours. The bus pulled into a parking lot in front of a MacDonald's, a Burger King, a Taco Bell and a BP.
"Twenty minutes if you want to get something or stretch your legs," the driver said.
Chuck got up and let Sarah go out in front of him. She smiled at his chivalry.
They stepped off the bus and both walked toward the Burger King. Chuck finally got a full look at Sarah; she was tall, maybe 5"9, 5"10. Her baggy t-shirt hung in way that indicated a slender and seemingly curvy body underneath, she had long legs in black skinny jeans and a pair of gray ballet flats. He strode in front of her and held the door open for her and she smiled her fantastic smile again. It was infectious and he smiled back his own megawatt smile.
They walked in and up to the counter. Sarah leaned on it squinting at the choices on the screens above her. Chuck stood next to her with his hands in his pockets waiting his turn.
"Uh, could I have a Whopper with extra pickles, please. Thank you," Sarah said to the teen girl behind the counter. She was surprisingly pleasant and she smiled then looked at Chuck expectantly, "And you sir?"
"Oh, um, I'm not with her," he suddenly felt that sounded offensive to Sarah, "I mean we are together. We just met and we came in together, but we aren't ordering together, like we aren't a couple. We just met, we're just kind of acquaintances, well, nearing friends. We're still getting acquainted…"
Sarah had turned around and was watching him with an amused look on her face.
The girl laughed, "I'm sorry, you just looked like a couple. For what it's worth you'd make a really cute one." She punched in Sarah's order and then asked. "What would you like sir?"
"I'll have a Whopper, but could you make sure there aren't any onions? Thank you."
The girl nodded and walked away. Chuck turned to Sarah she had a mischievous smirk on, "No onions? You planning on something happening?"
"Wha…oh, no, I didn't mean…" Sarah just shook her head and laughed.
The waitress reappeared and Sarah beckoned her over and quietly said, "Could you make sure mine doesn't have any onions either?" she winked and the girl smiled and nodded. Sarah turned back to Chuck who had an uncertain look on his face.
"Sarah, you planning on something happening?" he asked.
Their orders quickly came and they walked back to the bus slowly, enjoying stretching their legs. Chuck carried their drinks. Sarah leaned against the outside of the bus and began to dig into her hamburger. Chuck raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms watching her.
"What?" she asked around a mouthful of food, "It's supposed to be food on the go!"
"So you just strike a model pose against a bus and dig in?" Chuck asked feeling slightly upset about all the stares she was getting.
"Well, I was in this nationwide commercial where I ate this messy hamburger a couple years ago," Sarah said smiling as she gulped down another bite.
Chuck had to admit that would be a burger he would buy. With her standing there and the sun catching her hair and the blue from the outside of the bus picking up the blue in her eyes and the burger in one elegant hand while she chewed happily with some crumbs and a little ketchup messed in the cutest, no not cute, not at all, sexiest way around her mouth. What a mouth…he wonder what those lips would feel like against his. Chuck caught himself suddenly and scolded himself for thinking of her that way and for dreaming up such a stupid idea.
"Well," he finally got out, "I'd bet that got sales up. Anyway, we should really get back on now. Everyone else is…"
Sarah grinned at him wondering what he had been thinking about. He liked her, it was obvious. She smiled giddily at that thought. No, she wasn't giddy! She didn't want or need him liking her. If she was giddy it was only her ego pleased that she had snared another guy. Mostly…
"Want the window?" she offered as they got to their seats.
Chuck shook his head, "No, I like the leg room, thanks." He motioned for her to go in. As she passed him she made sure to brush against him. His eyes widened.
"Suit yourself," she whispered, then proceeded to slide into her seat. Chuck sat down next to her and let out a sigh. He put the drinks at his feet; then got his burger and fries out and placed them on his lap. Sarah crossed her legs and picked up her fries too.
"So, Chuck, you play any sports?" she asked chewing on a fry.
Chuck looked up at her from his food, his eyes quickly drifting to the fry and her mouth then very quickly snapping back to his food in front of him.
"Uh, food, I mean sport, right. Does Wii tennis count?" Chuck replied.
Sarah's lips turned upward yet again as she noticed his glance at her lips.
"I have no idea what that is, so you tell me."
"Tell you what?" Chuck looked back up at her. She put a fry in her mouth and bit off a little bit drawing attention to her mouth. Chuck looked back at his lap.
"Does "we tennis" count?"
"Oh, well, I've gotten real injures from it so, yeah, I'd say it counts. But wait, hold on, you don't know what Wii is?"
She shook her head. When Chuck didn't hear a response he glanced at her again. She shook her head again as she licked the salt off her index finger. Chuck finally caught on – she was teasing him. Wait! She was teasing him! She was teasing him? Holy crap, if it wasn't his worst and best day ever all rolled into one! He quickly decided not to risk the temptation – even though she was teasing him it would turn out badly. She was probably just having fun with a nerd and she would probably destroy him if he acted on her teasing.
"Well, you should, uh, look it up. Or maybe go to your friendly neighbourhood Nerd Herd counter and they'll walk you through it," Chuck said.
Sarah was slightly frustrated at his ignoring her flirting. Of course, it wasn't because she actually wanted him to respond. Her ego just wasn't used to being dismissed by such an easy mark. Why she had made him a mark and begun flirting in the first place she ignored.
Finished with her fries, she leaned down and reached between Chuck's feet and picked up her soda. She pulled it up to her face which was right in front of Chuck's and popped the straw in her mouth. She took a gulp, then popped the straw back out.
"Why would I go do that when I have my very own geek right here?" she asked.
"Nerd," Chuck squeaked, "I prefer nerd."
Sarah gave a deep mocking nod of understanding, "Oh, of course." She sat back and popped the straw back in her mouth.
"It's just a technical thing," Chuck clarified, "nerd is more accurate."
Sarah laughed and hugged her knees to her chest and looked out the window. Chuck gaped and looked at her profile. He shook his head. He did not understand this woman. Women in general granted, but this one…eish!
They rode on in confortable silence. Sarah being well fed, in good, safe company, and with the soothing motion of the bus began to feel the slightest bit drowsy. She held her eyes closed just for a second or so, she thought. Sarah nodded off.
After a little bit her head dropped to Chuck's shoulder and then she curled up against his side. Chuck froze for a second, but then he looked down at her. A strand of silvery blonde hair had fallen into her face and was tickling her judging by the way she was crinkling her nose. Chuck smiled at the childish expression then slowly, cautiously, reached his free arm across and very gently, making sure not to touch her skin, brushed it out of the way.
Half an hour later Sarah woke up. She noticed that her head was on something warm and something slightly soft, no slightly boney…oh, that was it; a person.
Person, person…bus…Chuck! She had fallen asleep and had turned Chuck into a pillow. Whoops. Very unprofessional. Ugh…but she did enjoy that nap. Mm hmm, good nap. Good bus ride, good company. Very good company. And such a gentleman, letting a stranger sleep on his shoulder. Big, strong shoulder. But they weren't strangers, they were acquaintances, friendly acquaintances. No Sarah, not that kind of friendly. Oh, she could go right back to sleep. She could. She should.
"I know you're awake," Chuck said interrupting her sleepy processing.
Sarah smiled, not opening her eyes, "Not quite."
"Well, you look very comfortable," Chuck said.
"I am, ever since I was a baby driving put me to sleep. When I would have a nightmare or something my dad would drive me around till I fell back to sleep, then when I got older I just spent so much time on the road…apparently, it still works," Sarah said finishing with a yawn.
"Why were you on the road so much?" Chuck asked.
Sarah's eyes snapped open. She really needed to put a stop to this comfortable, happy, tell all Sarah; it was bad for business. She sat up slowly. Chuck smiled at her slightly disheveled hair. Sarah swung her legs off the chair and rubbed her eyes.
"Uh, my dad traveled a lot for work and when I got older I liked to go with him," Sarah said.
"Oh, that's cool," Chuck said, "You got to see a lot of the country then I suppose?"
Sarah nodded threaded her fingers through her hair then twirled it into a loose bun.
"Did you spend much time in California?" Chuck asked.
Sarah grimaced inwardly then nodded, "More than I liked to."
"Well, you obviously just didn't visit the right parts," Chuck said.
Sarah grinned, "Obviously."
"I mean, if you were in my neck of the woods you'd have been treated so well you'd never want to leave. When I was a teenager we would have been bowing at the feet of someone like you," Chuck said with a lopsided smile.
Sarah snorted, "Doubt it." She muttered digging her toe into the carpeting.
"Never mind," she said shaking her head.
Chuck was quiet for a moment sensing Sarah's change in mood, "Actually," he said, "you'd still have us bowing at your feet."
Sarah looked up at him shyly and quietly said, "My feet would be honored."
She cringed inwardly. My feet would be honored? Really? That was all she could come up with?
Chuck's face, however, lit up in a smile. That tone, that look, he knew what she meant.
They turned into the bus terminal and Sarah reached down and gathered up her backpack. As they stopped and Chuck got his bag from the over-head compartment, Sarah waited. She wanted to see him again. Very, very much. She literally could not remember the last time she interacted with someone so well and with no ulterior motives what so ever.
Chuck stood aside to let her go out first. She smiled at him. They walked out in silence. Chuck could see Ellie standing by her car – he was sure she was moments away from running to him. He wanted to see where this was going with Sarah though, well, he wanted to see if there was even a "this."
"Bye," Sarah said.
Chuck nodded, that was where it was going, "Bye, I'll look you up on facebook…"
Sarah nodded and began walking away. Chuck followed suit.
"Chuck," Sarah called. Chuck turned around hopefully.
He was still a civilian though. She could never tell him what she did. She'd probably never get to see him. He could be in danger just for meeting her already, "It was nice meeting you," she said swallowing her wants.
Chuck nodded sadly. Of course. This was how thing always happened with him, he never got the girl; always the bridesmaid, never the bride…
"Sarah!" he called turning around again.
Sarah turned, "Yeah?"
Chuck smiled and began walking toward her, "Well, see I have this wedding to go to tomorrow, and I still need a date…"
Sarah couldn't hide the smile.
"So, I was wondering what you would be doing tomorrow around say 10 till 7?"
Sarah thought she would pull a muscle she was smiling so big, "Actually, nothing."
"Well, then why don't you stop by the First Baptist church," Chuck suggested.
Sarah nodded reluctantly, "I'll be there."
Chuck's smile now matched hers as he walked away, "Oh, and Sarah."
Sarah turned around, "Yeah?"
"Wear something pretty."
Sarah's mouth popped open in shock as he walked away. What had she gotten herself into?
Chuck endured Ellie's questions about "that girl he was talking to" with a smile. When he got home he had a beer with Devon and ended the night playing some CoD with Morgan. He checked his email and then, well – he supposed he slept well since he had fallen asleep in his clothes and had awakened on the floor. He didn't remember falling out of bed or falling asleep but, oh well. He did have a nasty headache though. He got up, showered, then tried to help manage Ellie's frantic perfectionist paranoia about the wedding.
Sarah was up at six getting ready. She got in the black Porsche she had been given to drive for her time in L.A. and drove to the Company offices. Nothing had changed; she would proceed with her mission tonight as planned. She made a stop off at the inventory and called in a favour to see if they any nice dresses she could wear. She made the excuse to herself that she was a spy and for cover's sake she must always look the part no matter what the part was. Besides, she couldn't have him remembering her in some old t-shirt every time he thought of her. If he thought of her.
They had a beautiful aqua blue strapless summer dress that flared just the right amount at the waist and a pair of beige strappy heels and a tan clutch to go with it. She gave a happy little skip out of the inventory room and headed off to her car. It was only 9:15, but since she didn't know where she was going it would take a little while to figure it out, and there was all that infamous traffic to get through.
Chuck stood at the church doors in his tuxedo. He checked his watch, 10:20. The very last few people were straggling in and he was pretty sure he was being stood up. What had he been thinking? Wear something pretty? He was such an idiot, he saw how reluctant she was to say yes, she didn't actually want to come, she just too nice to say no to his face. Which was actually a really mean thing to do, she was probably just having some fun pulling a nerd's chain. He was just turning in behind Mrs. Srahelsik when he heard the gravel crunching under some fast moving tires.
He turned around and saw her. She looked breathtaking as she slammed the door angrily making her hair fly into her face, then even moreso when she turned and saw him, giving him that amazing smile that could light up the dark side of the moon. He tried not to be a complete Neanderthal and keep his eyes on her face and not the low cut of her dress or the way the skirt had flared up when she had turned to look at him. She had definitely worn something pretty.
Sarah was so glad Chuck was still waiting for her. She noticed him checking her out and it gave her a small jolt of glee. She was a tiny bit nervous, to be honest. She carefully walked toward him.
"Sorry I'm late," she said as they walked toward the church.
"I really don't mind," Chuck said, thinking that now that she really was here he couldn't care less that it was a couple minutes off target.
Sarah beamed. He got her seated then he went off to find the bride.
The rest of the wedding party was just getting ready to go in when Chuck stuck his head around the door. There was a great sigh of the relief heard from the whole room when he did.
"Chuck, thank God!" Ellie cried.
Chuck was more or less dragged in by the bridesmaids, "What? What's the panic?"
Ellie walked up to him, "It's just, Mrs. Very Awesome is here and she is overbearing to say the least."
Chuck turned around to see Mrs. Awesome in the corner rearranging a flower arrangement, "Hi, Honey," he said with a plastered on smile. Honey just pulled the flowers out with more venom, "OK, looks good," Chuck straightened his tie uncomfortably.
"She even suggested that I have Mr. Very Awesome walk me down the aisle," Ellie continued, "And then there's Devon's frat brothers; two of them disappeared with two of my bridesmaids. And Jeffster!"
"Jeffster?" Chuck asked.
"Yes, Jeffster," Ellie hissed, "Chuck, I know they're you friends but if they plan on using that dammed accordion…
"It's actually…" Chuck interrupted.
"I don't care what it is! If they even hum along to the wedding march I am going to implode!"
"Well, imploding would be bad. I'll talk to them though, it'll be fine," Chuck assured her.
Ellie sighed in relief. "OK, thank you, Chuck. It's just…" she was cut off by an excited Morgan and the missing bridesmaids and frat boys at the door.
"OK, OK, that's nice, you tall perfect people," he was saying, "now go back to your sides. OK, bye, bye now. Good," he said as he pulled the couples apart and ushered the girls into the room.
"Chuck!" he cried walking over to Chuck and Ellie, "Who was that I saw with you?" he asked gesturing toward the main hall, "Can you say Vicky Vale?"
Chuck began to reply.
Ellie looked from Chuck to Morgan then back at Chuck, "A girl? You're here with a girl?"
"Well…" Chuck began.
Morgan clicked his tongue and laughed, "Oh, Ellie, this was not a girl, this was a goddess."
Chuck tried to say something again only to be cut off by Ellie asking him, "Is she the one I saw last night?"
"Last night?" Morgan asked.
"Yeah, they were on the bus together," Ellie said.
"Actually…" Chuck tried.
"You brought her here from Stanford?" Morgan asked, "You've been holding out on us!" he slapped Chuck's arm.
"No, I…" Chuck protested.
"Well, at least I think it's the same one," Ellie said, "Tall, good posture, beautiful hair."
"Well, I wasn't exactly looking at her hair…" Morgan said.
"Oh grow up, Morgan," Ellie scolded, "Is it the same girl?"
Chuck had just given up trying to set the record straight so it took him a second to realize they were waiting for him to reply, "Yes," he nodded sheepishly, "but there isn't anything going on, we just happened to sit next to each other on the bus. I don't even know her last name."
"Well, is she nice?" Ellie asked.
"No, she kicks puppies and thinks that we should do away with old people because they pull down modernization," Chuck deadpanned, "She's lovely."
"Well, that's good," Ellie said.
The hammering on the door was finally heard through the excited chatter filling the room and they made their way out to the main hall. The service was relatively short, but beautiful. Sarah enjoyed, just for a moment, being just another person in the audience with no mission to carry out and no ulterior motives – she was just someone's date.
The reception was soon underway, the Very Awesomes part-owned one of the more prestigious hotels in the area and they pulled out all the stops.
Chuck was talking to Morgan about how he should go about mourning the loss of the love of his life, Ellie, to the Captain of Awesome when Sarah walked in. She stood at the door for a second unsure of whether she should go in or not. She searched the crowd and they caught each other's eyes. They both felt it was like something out of a cheesy rom-com. He stopped talking to Morgan when he saw her and she smiled brightly. They walked through the crowd like they were the only people in the world. They met in-between and just grinned.
"Hi," Sarah said, looking up into his eyes. Her voice cracked on the single syllable.
"Hi," Chuck smiled, "you look beautiful."
Sarah felt like she might blush, "Very dapper."
"Would you like to dance?" Chuck asked.
"Uh, yes. Very much," Sarah replied.
He took her hand gently in his. She looked at it and smiled lightly; then looked back up at his face. It was the first time they had actually consciously touched. The song was pretty slow and they didn't dance so much as just rock back and forth. Chuck, with uncharacteristic boldness, pulled their entwined hands to his chest. Then, placing his other hand on the small of her back, he pulled her against him.
Sarah was a little surprised that he did, considering they had just met and they'd probably never meet again, and they were at his sister's wedding and she was watching, but she decided propriety be damned, she liked him holding her. She laid her head on his chest and heard his heartbeat. They stayed like that, just swaying back and forth peacefully enjoying the brief shared moment in their otherwise separate lives.
Ellie stood over on the edge of the floor laughing with her maid of honor. She glanced out over the room and her eyes zeroed in on Chuck and the stunning blonde in his arms, tight in his arms. Morgan was just walking past her with a glass of punch. She grabbed his tail coats and pulled him to her. He back peddled trying not to spill his drink or fall.
"Is that her?" Ellie hissed.
Morgan looked around confused; then seeing Chuck caught up, "Oh, yeah, that's the one. She is smo…" he caught Ellie's glare, "smart and kind and genteel I'm sure."
"Did he tell you anything more about her?" Ellie asked biting her manicured thumb nail.
"Uh, nope, he just said she didn't have anything to do so he invited her," Morgan said.
"Yeah, last night he just said they just talked a little on the way down," Ellie added.
"Well, that must have been some fast talking," Morgan said still watching them.
Devon came up behind them, "What's going on wife? Bro in-law's best friend?" He looked out in the direction they were staring, "Wow, go Chuckster. That is some woman."
Ellie shook her head, "He just met her on a bus. He doesn't even know her last name!"
"Well, it doesn't look like it's holding them back too much," Devon said. Morgan nodded.
"I know, they look like they've been together for years," Ellie said.
"Maybe it's a sign of things to come…" Devon suggested.
"Yeah, El, you know Chuck. He doesn't mess around," Morgan said.
"After Jill though," Ellie sighed, "he can't afford another let down."
Devon chuckled, "Babe, does she look like she's thinking about letting him down?"
Ellie looked at the girl; she looked so peaceful and happy. She had a blissful smile and she leaned against him contently with her eyes closed. She looked like she needed to be held more than Chuck needed someone to hold.
Ellie sighed in defeat.
The song changed and Chuck and Sarah's peaceful revere was slowly broken. Sarah took a step back and looked up at him. He smiled.
"Wanna take a load off?" Chuck said awkwardly all of the sudden.
Sarah's quirked her eyebrows, "Uh, sure."
They walked over to one of the tables that had been decorated to the brim in the wedding colours of emerald and sea green. Chuck pulled out Sarah's chair for her and again she was thrilled by his chivalry.
"So…" they both said. They laughed.
"Ladies first," Chuck said.
"You were a marvelous giver awayer," Sarah said pulling her hair over one shoulder.
"Thank you, it felt good, the energy was high," Chuck said.
Sarah giggled, "So, who is everyone?"
"Ah," Chuck exclaimed, "an excellent topic. This could keep us busy for a very long time."
"You see why I chose it," Sarah said.
"Well, the bride of course, is my sister, Ellie."
"I see the resemblance," Sarah commented, "she's beautiful."
"Thank you, and then the groom, Devon aka Captain Awesome."
Sarah gave an appreciative nod as she eyed Devon.
"Then let's see, oh, the Very Awesomes, Captain Awesome's parents. Honey and Woody."
Sarah laughed at the couple sitting at their table with Honey fussing over something spilt on Woody's shirt and telling off a small bearded man who was holding an empty glass and looking apologetic.
"And next to them is their arch nemesis, Morgan," Chuck continued, "proving why he's their arch nemesis."
"The Morgan?" Sarah asked.
Chuck nodded, crossing his arms, "One and the same. There are more Buy Morons here. See over by the punch bowl, that's Jeff and Lester. I don't recommend drinking anymore punch today. Then there's Big Mike and his date Morgan's mom Bolongia."
"Yeah, not exactly a pleasant story, least of all for Morgan. Anyway, that's pretty much every one of interest unless you want to go through the random doctor people, which is pretty much everyone you see."
"No, I'm good," Sarah said.
Chuck nodded, "Wise choice, mostly because I have no idea who they are."
Sarah glanced at her watch, "I really should go."
Chuck's face fell and he didn't try to hide it, "Well, let me walk you to your car."
"Thank you," Sarah said, glad for an excuse to prolong his company.
"I had a great time, it was a beautiful wedding," Sarah said as they walked across the grassy area between the pavilion where the reception was and the parking lot.
"I'm glad you could come," Chuck said.
"Yeah, me too."
"So, how long will you be in town?" Chuck asked as they reached her car.
"I should be leaving tomorrow afternoon," Sarah said.
"Yeah, well, it's on the company's time," Sarah looked at her feet as they fell silent.
"Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Sarah," Chuck said offering his hand.
Sarah took it, "The pleasure was all mine, Chuck."
Chuck unclasped her hand and stood awkwardly as Sarah opened her door. As she was stepping in she stopped and turned around to kiss him. It was fleeting and, in retrospect, stupid, but in that moment it was perfection.
"Goodbye," Sarah said. She quickly got in and drove off while she could. Chuck waved after her; dazed. She had kissed him, albeit briefly and then she had driven off into the sunset and he'd never see her again, but she had still kissed him. He went back to the wedding party with a skip in his stride and a smile on his face.
Sarah pulled over into an empty parking lot and shimmied out of her dress and kicked off her heels, she smiled at them for a moment and wondered if she could keep them for memories sake. No, memories were bad, no attachment; she was a spy. She proceeded to don her "ninja" outfit. She put her com in her ear and checked in with the base one last time. Everything was normal, the house was empty; everyone was out at a family function and wasn't supposed to be there until eight.
Sarah pulled up as close as possible to the complex and snuck into the courtyard. It was a pleasant enough place, it had an earthy yet urban feel with a little fountain in the middle babbling happily, the only sound breaking the silence. Sarah spotted the apartment that was her target; one of the windows was open.
She walked over to it and peeked in cautiously. It appeared empty and she couldn't hear any movement. She carefully stepped into the room and looked around. It looked like a geek's room, no, a nerd's room, they liked to be called nerds – Chuck said. She smiled for a moment and wondered what his room looked like. Wouldn't she like to know a flirty voice in the back of her head said. She had no need to hide her blush.
She spotted the computer that she needed in the corner and walked over to grab it. She lifted the computer and turned to look at the window, no way it was going to fit.
She headed toward the front door down a hallway and then found herself walking past a kitchen and into a dining room. She froze halfway to the door. Said door clicked as a key turned. She then heard voices outside. The door opened and Sarah, don't freak out..
Sarah almost dropped the CPU she was holding. Chuck and his little bearded friend Morgan had just walked in the door. Chuck! Her Chuck, well, not really her Chuck, but that was beside the dang point! Why was Chuck here? How had her mission been Chuck? Had he been playing her? Had she compromised herself? There were a million questions running through her mind.
"Please, not the computer," Chuck was saying.
Sarah put her package up on a shelf and prepared for a fight. The "fight" ended up being one of the strangest things Sarah had experienced in her lifetime, which was saying something. The end result was her package destroyed, Chuck and Morgan in a less than pleasant position, and Sarah bolting for her car.
She slammed her door and shoved her key in the ignition. She pulled her mask off, "Damn it!"
She hurried back to company headquarters, and reported the failure. She was patched straight through to Director Graham, which shocked her, and even more surprisingly, General Beckman, NSA.
"Agent Walker," Beckman was saying, "we can assure you your cover is intact, lucky for us." She smirked slyly.
"Yes, ma'am," Sarah said.
Graham cleared his throat, "Agent Walker, how would you feel about a change of pace?"
"Since you have already established contact with the mark how would you feel about becoming his handler?"
"His handler, sir?"
Graham looked at Beckman, she pursed her lips, "Agent Walker," he continued, "we have good reason to believe Charles Bartowski, or Chuck, as he is more commonly known, is the Intersect."
There was a silence.
"The Intersect?" Sarah asked disbelievingly, "That's what Bryce stole? And he sent it to Chuck…from Stanford…his best friend." Sarah began to piece everything together.
"We believe that Mr. Bartowski has uploaded the Intersect into his brain," Graham said.
"A human Intersect?" Sarah gasped.
"You understand why he would need active observation and protection," Beckman said.
"I do ma'am," Sarah said.
"Do you accept your mission Agent Walker? You would be working with the NSA, probably through Major Casey." Sarah cringed. "The span of this assignment would be indefinite. You would, however, get to participate in actual missions on the side, often with the use of the Intersect. You would pose as his girlfriend and maybe more, but for now we'll play it by ear." Graham continued to list pros and cons but Sarah was having trouble paying attention.
Chuck, that wonderful charming man who had made her feel so wonderful and comfortable and like a real girl, she could work with him. It would most definitely cancel out any option of pursuing a relationship, but she would have never been able to do that anyway. At least this way she would get to be around him. Maybe in time after he got over the agent and cover and lying and Intersect thing (something told her he wouldn't exactly take that calmly) he would let them be friends. She'd have to watch herself very carefully as to not compromise herself emotionally, at least not make the fact she was compromised visible. She really wanted to do it, it was the first thing in years she actually wanted to do.
"I accept, sir," Sarah said.
"Outstanding. We'll establish contact with him immediately."
In an hour Sarah was set up to go to out with Chuck.
She arrived on his door step in a black printed blouse, black jeggings, and black leather boots. All carefully concealing her stash of knives. She had her hair up in a bun held by two poison tipped pins.
She knocked on the door nervously. It opened briefly and Chuck appeared slightly disheveled in what had been his tux.
"Hi," she said brightly.
"Sarah?" Chuck looked confused, "What are you doing here? How did you know where I lived?"
"Oh, your sister was listed. I wanted to ask you, if you were doing anything tonight? Gosh, I sound like such a freak," Sarah rubbed her forehead, "I got a job in town and I wanted to celebrate and I was wondering if you'd want to come with?"
"Like a date?" Chuck asked.
Sarah pursed her lips, "Yeah."
Chuck gaped at her for a moment, "OK, yeah, give me two seconds." He motioned for her to wait. He spun around and hurried off to get cleaned up, he looked back at her making sure she was there and walked into a wall. Sarah giggled as he recovered and disappeared down the hallway.
Chuck took Sarah to a nice restaurant and they fell back into the comfortable conversation that they had become accustomed to over the past two days.
"What is your big secret, by the way? 'Cause I'm sitting here, trying to figure out what's wrong with you…" Chuck said.
Sarah laughed, "Oh, plenty. Believe me."
"Hm, I'm thinking, maybe you're a cannibal. I am hoping you're a cannibal 'cause I've never met one before," Chuck joked.
Sarah smiled ruefully, "Uh, not a cannibal. But I just did come out of a long relationship so I may come with baggage."
Chuck shook his head not believing why any guy would hurt her. Also, knowing that after his recent break up with Jill he had no room to judge, "Well, I could be your very own baggage handler." Chuck wanted to take the words back the minute they left his mouth, but she had the hint of a smile so maybe all was not lost, "So, the ex, the guy, the ex is the reason you moved here from..." he tried to revive the conversation and also realized he really had hardly learnt anything about her yet.
"Yeah," Sarah continued, "After I realized that all of my friends were his friends and that everything about Washington reminds me of Bryce, I needed a change. A big one."
"What a coincidence, my best friend at Sanford's name was Bryce," Chuck laughed.
Sarah decided to make her move, "Chuck, let's get out of here."
"Oh, OK," Chuck paid the bill and they walked out into the night air and stopped beside a large fountain. Chuck was wondering why Sarah had suddenly gotten so quiet. She sat down on the edge of the fountain and he sat next to her.
"Chuck," she began, "How well do you know Bryce Larkin?"
"Wh - how - how do you know Bryce?"
Sarah bit her lip then said, "We worked together at the CIA."
"The what?" Chuck burst, "The CIA? Bryce was a spy? Bryce Larkin from Connecticut was a spy?"
"A rogue spy," Sarah hissed, "Has he tried to contact you?"
"Oh gosh, I haven't heard from Bryce in the - wait, wait. He - he sent - he sent me an email. Uh, last night."
"Did you open it?" Sarah asked.
"Yeah," Chuck nodded, "I did. I totally spaced. It was - it was, uh, a line from Zork—"
Chuck cringed, "Zork. It's, uh, it's a video game that we used to play. There was a riddle and I solved it and, uh, pictures. Lots and lots of pictures."
Sarah needed to be sure, "You saw them?" Chuck nodded. "Your computer - did you back it up? Is there an external drive?" Sarah asked.
"No, actually earlier today, you're not going to believe this…" he looked up at Sarah's no nonsense face, "Uh, it crashed." All of the sudden reality dawned on Chuck, "Wait, wait. Wasn't I supposed to look at those pictures?"
Sarah put her hand over his to calm him, "Chuck, those pictures that you saw were encoded with secrets. Government secrets. If you saw them, then you know them."
Chuck gaped, "There were thousands of them." He stared off into the distance.
Sarah tried to explain, "Chuck, you're now incredibly important in the spy world. You need to be protected, and if possible you need to learn how to harness the Intersect so that you can help us. We're prepared to protect you; I'm prepared to protect you. I'm prepared to do anything I need to get you through this." Chuck got up and started pacing throwing his hands behind his head. "I understand this is a lot to swallow, but I need you to tell me you can handle this," Sarah pleaded.
Chuck exhaled and continued to pace, "I don't believe this. This – this is nuts. These things don't really happen. Or, at least they don't happen to me! I'm just some computer nerd. As of yesterday I had absolutely no goals and no possible ideas for a future and now I'm a freaking government chamber of secrets and the CIA wants me to work with them?" he ranted.
"I know this is a lot to handle, Chuck," Sarah tried.
"Look, I know this is important, but I really I need to clear my head. I just need some space."
Sarah nodded, "OK."
"Thank you," Chuck said and walked off.
Sarah followed him through the night and down to a beach. She waited in her car from a distance until morning; then carefully made her way to where he had been sitting and plopped down next to him.
"How long have you been here?" Chuck asked.
Chuck sighed, "There's nowhere I can run, is there?"
Sarah shook her head, "Not from us."
Chuck still just stared out at the waves.
"Talk to me, Chuck," Sarah pleaded. She wanted to help him. She wanted to get him to trust her again.
"You know, I spent a lot of my life fixing computers. Now I have one in my brain, and I can't figure out why Bryce did this, why he chose me," he flicked at a bit of sand, "What are you gonna do with me? What happens now?"
"For now, you go back to your old life. We'll protect you, and you'll work with us," Sarah said.
"And my sister? My friends? Are they in danger?" Chuck asked.
"Tell them nothing to keep them safe," Sarah said.
They were silent for a bit longer. Sarah studied Chuck's profile.
"Chuck, I need you to do one more thing for me," she said.
"Yeah?" Chuck asked turning to look at her. That beautiful enchanting woman he had become so taken with. A woman that he had no doubt would effectively change his life forever.
"Trust me," Sarah said.
Chuck nodded in resignation. Sarah's lips quirked up into a small smile and Chuck gave a small uncertain grin back. Sarah playfully bumped his shoulders.
"That's asking a lot, I mean, technically you're just some stranger I met on a bus…" Chuck noticed her narrowing her eyes. He sighed in not so mock fatigue, "Well, OK."
Sarah's smile went into full bloom, and despite everything, so did Chuck's.
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