A/N: Well, hello again! I was planning on updating this yesterday, but it was my birthday and I was kind of busy all day. I'm sorry for the delay, once again. I really hope you enjoy this chapter.
Thanks to Aerox who beta'ed this and made cool comments that made me laugh. He still can't believe how us women can take so long to get ready. :P
Last time I checked, I still didn't own Chuck.
Stephen Bartowski kept quiet as he leaned down to untie his son. The son whom he hadn't seen in almost ten years. He wasn't really surprised by the coldness in Chuck's tone when he finally realized who he was, but it still hurt. There was so much that he wanted to tell him, but he didn't know where to start. And he didn't have that much time either. When one was hiding from the government, you couldn't really stay in any place for a long period of time. He just wished Chuck could understand that one day, and maybe even forgive him, although he wasn't feeling too optimistic right now.
Once he was done, he took a step back and sat down in the nearest chair. He watched intently as Chuck rubbed his wrists. His frown and pursed lips gave away the anger he was feeling at the moment. Again, it hurt him–mostly because he knew he kind of deserved it.
Chuck's growl brought him out of his musings. "Can you at least turn off that damn lamp? Just open a window or something…"
Silently, he did as his son asked. Apparently, tranq darts still had that horrible hangover effect.
"Do you want an aspirin?" he asked, trying to sound sympathetic.
Chuck narrowed his eyes. "No, thanks. I'd love it if you gave me some answers, though."
"Look, Charles, I know this is probably not the reunion you had imagined but…"
Chuck snapped. "'Not the reunion I had imagined?' You gotta be kidding me right now! I come back to my apartment only to be tranqued by my dad–the same guy who abandoned me and my sister ten years ago–and then I wake up and he's tied me to a damn chair. My head is throbbing, I can't feel my wrists and for all that I know, you're working for the enemy. So you're totally right, dad, this is not what I had imagined. This is not what I had imagined at all."
Stephen sighed. This was going to be so much harder than he had originally thought. "Charles, I understand that you're mad, and you have every right to be. But, as I told you before, I'm not working for the enemy and I came here to help you. Please, give me a chance to explain."
"Explain how you and mom worked for the government and never told Ellie and me a thing, why you both abandoned us or why you broke into my apartment and assaulted me?"
"I… I don't have much time, but I guess I can try to explain everything." He waited for Chuck to say anything, but when he only glared at him, he continued. "As you already know, your mom and I worked for the CIA. That's actually how we met. I was a scientist, and came up with the stupid idea of the Intersect in the first place. Some of my colleagues warned me that it was a dangerous project, but I didn't listen. I introduced the schematics to the CIA Director and he was thrilled at the idea that we could directly upload information in somebody's brain and made me the head of the project. The project that ultimately consumed all my time and cost me everything I loved." His gaze dropped to the floor, and Chuck realized he really meant it. Before he could say anything though, Stephen started speaking again. "I know that you know that your mother was a field agent. One of the best, actually." His eyes lit up with pride when he talked about his wife. "We rarely got the chance to work together, and I stayed at home after Ellie was born anyway. We decided it was for the best, that if anything happened to her, at least I would be there for you."
"Well, we all know how that worked out," Chuck bitterly muttered. As soon as the words left his mouth and he saw the guilty expression on his dad's face, he regretted it. Not enough to take the words back, but Chuck did feel guilty about it.
"Yes, we do. As I was saying, I kept working on the Intersect at home and your mom kept going on missions every once in a while. It wasn't ideal but we managed, and you and Ellie were happy. But then, I had a breakthrough and decided that I was ready to try the Intersect upload in a human subject. And you may not remember this, but you played a huge part in that decision."
Chuck looked puzzled. "Me?"
Stephen smiled sadly. "Yes. You were nine and your mom was on a mission. Ellie was at a friend's house and you were hungry. You came down to the basement and I wasn't there, but my computers were." He smiled again, and this time it was genuine. "You were always such a curious, intelligent kid. And you always loved computers like your old man. You ran the program. And you survived."
Chuck's eyes widened, just as a memory started to shape in his mind. "I uploaded the Intersect when I was a kid?"
"Yeah. I was worried sick and then I saw you were ok and I couldn't believe it. When I told your mom, though, she wasn't so happy. She didn't speak to me for like two days." He snickered at the memory. "She was a great spy, but an even better mother," he sounded choked up for some reason.
Chuck smiled and then realized something. "Wait. Was? What happened to her?"
"I told the Director I was ready to upload the Intersect and we selected a candidate. We ran the program and… things didn't work out as we expected. This man was a CIA agent, a true patriot, and he experienced a complete change of character. He became… evil. He went off the grid and your mother and her partner were assigned to his search. The Intersect Project was officially shut down, but the Director asked me to keep working on it off the record. For a few years, your mother sent me updates on her mission, but then, she suddenly stopped. That was when I knew she had been taken. And it was only a matter of time for them to come after me, and the only way to keep you and your sister safe was to leave, so they wouldn't connect me to you."
Chuck ran a hand over his face. This was just too much information to take in. His first guess hadn't been so far off. His father did leave them to protect them. Even if it still hurt and he was still angry at him, he could understand that. "So… did you ever get to see her again? Is she…?" he couldn't say it. "Did you find her?"
Stephen swallowed and cleared his throat. This wasn't going to be easy. "I… I did. About two years after the letters stopped, I found out she was undercover working for the agent who had the Intersect. We… we used to call him 'Agent X.' Anyway, her mission was to destroy his company–which had grown enormously in the following years of the upload–from the inside, and after years of work, she finally found the information the CIA needed. They ordered an air strike. She was supposed to be out of the building, but Hart… Agent X fell in love with her and asked her to join him in the gardens for a walk that night. She couldn't get out in time." A lump formed in Chuck's throat as he saw tears in his dad's eyes. "When they found her, she was still breathing, but she never woke up." Stephen was openly crying now. "I… I got to see her one last time. I got to tell her how sorry I was, how I wished things were different and how I hoped she could forgive me sometime. She… passed away three days later."
Chuck didn't know what to do or say. He had spent fifteen years angry at his parents for leaving him and now that he finally knew the truth, he didn't know how to feel. His mom was dead and, if his impression was correct, his father was running away from the CIA. And he still hadn't told him why he had come to see him. "I…" he cleared his throat and forced himself to swallow the lump on it. "Can I see her? I mean," he quickly amended, "I'd like to know where she is… I'd like to say goodbye."
Stephen looked at his son and silently nodded. "Of course. She was buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery."
"Ok," Chuck breathed. "Ok," he repeated, more to his own reaffirmation than anything. He closed his eyes for a moment. The pain he was feeling right now didn't have anything to do with the tranq dart from before. He had never lost anyone close to him and he didn't know how to deal with it. He needed to think about something else. He remembered something. "So you said you were here to help me?" he asked, hoping that the change of subject would calm the ache, at least momentarily.
"Yes." Stephen stood up and started pacing around. "You need to watch your back, Charles. Working for the CIA is not safe. You can't trust anybody, not even your partners."
"What are you …?"
"You are the Intersect, Charles. You are the most valuable intelligence asset the Agency's ever had and they are not going to simply let you go when you get tired of this life. Once you're in, there's no way out, unless you're willing to do what I did, and trust me, that is not the life you'd want to lead." He stopped his pacing and turned to face him. "Before I left, I was working on a way to get the Intersect out of the human brain, and I think I finally figured it out."
Chuck frowned. "But that wasn't in your notes… I went over them a thousand times and I never saw anything that indicated the possibility of taking it out."
Chuck was surprised when his dad shot him an offended look. "You don't think I was stupid enough to leave all my notes behind, do you?"
"I… I just thought… I mean you did leave clues as to how to build the Intersect."
"Notes that nobody understood until they made you look at them," he pointed out with pride.
Uncomfortable with the sudden praise, Chuck blushed. "Well, I mean… it wasn't that hard. Anybody could've done it."
Stephen smiled. "And that's where you're wrong. You think nobody tried before you?" He took a step closer. "You're special, son. And you're smarter than any CIA scientist. It's in your genes." He winked at Chuck. "Anyway, as I was saying, the safest option right now is to get the Intersect out of your head. That way, you're not a threat and you can go back to your normal life."
Chuck frowned. "Wait, wait a second. You want me to stop being an agent?"
"But what if I don't want to? What if I actually like it?" he asked.
Stephen reassumed his pacing. "Charles… it's too dangerous. I don't want my son to have the life that I had. It may seem exciting now, but I'm telling you, it will only bring you unhappiness. I should know."
"But dad, you don't understand. I'm finally doing something that counts. I can help people! I can actually make a difference. How many people can say that? And I do trust my partners. They are brave, loyal people who would never betray their country," Chuck said.
"Exactly!" said Stephen, suddenly turning to face him again. "What if one day someone tells them you're a threat to national security and orders them to kill you?"
"Oh, come on, they would never…"
"You just said they would never betray their country. Going against a direct order is treason and you know it. Do you really think Major Casey would commit treason just to save your life? Do you honestly think agent Sarah Walker, Graham's wild card enforcer is going to disobey her savior's order?"
"I… I don't know." He thought about it for a moment. Both Sarah and Casey were good people, loyal to their country, but also loyal to their partners. He knew them, and he had seen how Sarah had reacted when Graham had mentioned the new Intersect. "Look, I know you said I shouldn't trust them but I consider them my friends. Besides, Graham already told me that I could still work for the CIA and I'm not planning on quitting any time soon, so I'm safe. And if I ever do… then I'll give you a call."
"He… he offered you a job?" Stephen asked, shocked. "But the CIA is building a new Intersect…"
"Yes, he did. And if you must know, my partners were worried about what might happen to me, but the Director said he was pleased with my performance in the field, so I could stay, even if the Intersect wasn't supposed to go in my head in the first place." Stephen looked genuinely surprised and somewhat pleased. Suddenly, Chuck realized something. "Wait… how do you know the CIA's building a new one?"
"The same way I know FULCRUM has stolen the cipher because they have built their own Intersect and they need that final piece to upload it in their agents."
Chuck couldn't believe it. Maybe his dad had lost it after all. "What are you talking about, dad?"
"I'm talking about FULCRUM's plan to create an army and taking down the government. And don't look at me like that, I'm telling you the truth."
Chuck eyed him suspiciously. "What do you mean? What do you know?"
Stephen sighed. "They have Ted Roark working with them."
"Ted Roark? The software genius?" Chuck asked incredulously.
"Yes. And he's not a genius, trust me on that. He stole most of my designs and then patented them."
That's it, he's definitely lost it, Chuck thought. "Your designs? You know this man?"
"Of course I know him, we went to college together. But that's not the point," Stephen replied dismissively. "Once they get the cipher Roark is going to get his army and they are going to win. There's nothing we can do about it, and it's not our fight. Please, just let me get the Intersect out of your head, son."
"Dad, if anything you're saying right now is remotely true, which I doubt, I need to know so I can do something about it."
"Charles, please, listen to me…"
Chuck cut him off. "Dad, look. I appreciate that you're worried about my safety, but if you really want to help, you need to tell me everything you know about FULCRUM's plans."
"I'm not going to convince you, am I?" Stephen asked dejectedly.
Chuck shook his head. "No, you're not."
Stephen let out a sigh and plopped onto the nearest chair. "You're just as stubborn as your mother," he mumbled.
Chuck smiled. "I'll take that as a compliment."
The comment elicited a chuckle from his dad. "Ok, then. Here's what I know: Roark's been communicating with FULCRUM agents for the past six months. I hacked into Roark's servers a couple of months ago when I found out that someone had been searching for Orion." He gave Chuck a significant look as he continued. "Although I quickly discovered he wasn't the one that had triggered the alert I couldn't resist the temptation of snooping a little and I accessed this series of coded messages and money transfers. When I dug deeper, I learned that Roark had recently acquired a large building and had it remodeled in record time, and then sent a message to a FULCRUM letting them know 'everything was set'."
Chuck had listened carefully to every word, but he was still skeptic. "Dad, that doesn't prove they have an Intersect…"
"Think about it, Charles, why else would they be in contact?"
"Oh, I don't know… maybe because Roark is the world's largest software provider," he said sarcastically. "Look, I'm not saying he's not doing anything illegal, clearly, if he's related to FULCRUM we should look into his business, but we can't assume he's actually helping them to create an Intersect."
Stephen sighed. "Ok. I'll prove it to you."
Chuck's frown intensified. "How? Dad, you're a fugitive, if FULCRUM or the CIA find out you've been digging into their stuff, they are going to be pissed."
"Oh, please, Charles. I've been doing this since before you were born. And if anything, this is your fault. I wouldn't have learned anything of this if you hadn't started that search."
"Wha…? Oh." Everything made sense to Chuck now. "Of course. It was you who deleted the files from the CIA data base."
Stephen shrugged. "I couldn't risk being found."
Chuck smiled. "Well, the CIA related the search program I wrote with the erasing of the files and blamed it all on me. That's how they found me in the first place. And that's how they had access to the Intersect's schematics."
"So everything's my fault," Stephen said guiltily.
Chuck looked at his father. He seemed so tired and miserable that it was impossible for Chuck to stay mad at him. "Hey," he said as he reached out and put a comforting hand on his dad's shoulder. "If you must know, you kind of saved me. I was having a bad time and even if the circumstances of me joining the Agency were far from ideal, it was a big change for me. A good one."
"You have to believe, this is not what I wanted for you, Charles. I'm really sorry about everything."
"I know, dad. I know. But I'm happy now. I have a real, important job and I'm finally back on my feet. Hey, I even reconnected with an old high school friend!"
Stephen smirked. "Oh, yes. Little Jenny Burton, right?"
Chuck's eyes widened. "How do you…? So you know Sarah's…? How?"
"It's what I do, Chuck. Plus, just because I wasn't there doesn't mean I didn't know what was going on with you and your sister."
"Wow. That's really considerate, and so very creepy. Please, tell me you're not still spying on us…"
Stephen chuckled. "No, I'm not. Don't worry. It's just, when I learned you had the Intersect, I wanted to know who you were going to be partnered with. So I did an extensive background check on both Agent Walker and Major Casey. One of the many aliases of con-man daughter Sarah Walker was Jennifer Burton, who lived in Burbank for a few months about eight years ago. Then I pulled out your high school records and found out you had been classmates."
Chuck couldn't decide whether to be impressed or just freaked out. "Seriously, dad, so, so creepy."
Stephen ignored his comment and grinned. "Anyway, what are you going to get her?"
"What?" Chuck asked, confused.
"Oh, I see you don't know. It's her birthday tomorrow. Her real birthday."
"Really?" Chuck couldn't believe how lucky he was to get that information, as bizarre as the circumstances were, for he wouldn't have forgiven himself if he had found out it had been her birthday and he hadn't given his girlfriend the special day she deserved.
Stephen shrugged. "That's what her file said."
"And you just happen to remember that?"
Stephen just shrugged. "Thanks, dad. I didn't know," Chuck said, grinning. He was already planning everything in his mind.
Stephen smiled too when he noticed his enthusiasm. "I'm glad I could help." He knew that, after everything that had happened between them, he didn't have the right to want a normal relationship with his son, but he could at least try. "So… I've gathered that you like this girl?"
Chuck blushed a little and looked up. It was all so surreal he almost laughed. In a little over than an hour, his father had showed up, tranqued him, tied him to a chair, finally explained why he and his mother had left all those years ago, and unveiled a conspiracy against the US government to him, and now he was asking him about a girl. "I… yeah. We're together. I mean, it's kind of recent, but we are taking it slow and…" He inhaled and realized this was the first real conversation he had had with his father in his whole life. So this is how it was supposed to be, he thought. He chuckled and looked his father in the eye. "It's really good to see you, dad."
Stephen grinned. "It's good to see you too, son."
A couple of hours after his father left, promising to find a way to keep in touch, Chuck got a call from Casey. When he crossed the hallway in his way to the Major's apartment, he spotted Sarah coming out of the elevator. They shared a smile and immediately sobered up when the door opened. As soon as they got in, Casey informed them that the CIA had learned the cipher's drop was going to take place that night in a local restaurant. Their mission would be to retrieve it and apprehend Leader and the mole.
"Is everything ok?" Sarah's voice brought him back from his musings. He was conflicted about telling his partners about the surprise visit he'd had a few hours ago. He knew he could trust them, but he didn't want to put them in the position to have to lie to their superiors.
"Uh… yeah, yeah. Just a little distracted, that's all." He smiled a little, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
Sarah eyed him. "Chuck…"
He sighed. And he caved. "Ok. There's… there's something I need to tell you. But you have to promise me you're not going to tell the bosses."
"Carmichael, if this is a National Emergency issue…" Casey started, but he was soon interrupted by Chuck.
"It's not. Well, at least I don't think so. I really don't know and that's kind of the thing… until we're sure, we can't let the bosses know."
"And why is that?" Casey half grunted.
"Because they would not stop until they arrest the person who gave me this information."
"Chuck, who gave you whatever information you're talking about?" Sarah asked.
Chuck swallowed and looked her in the eye. "My dad. He kind of stopped by today."
After he told them everything about his dad's visit and what he had said about Roark and FULCRUM, Casey and Sarah were just as skeptical as he had been the first time he'd heard it, but they still agreed they wouldn't say anything to Graham and Beckman until Orion made contact again.
Casey announced he was going to get changed for the mission after taking a quick glance to his watch and unceremoniously guided them to the door. Before they knew what had happened, Sarah and Chuck found themselves in the middle of the hallway.
"So, I guess I should go change too…" Chuck said. "I'm assuming we'll meet at the restaurant?"
Sarah took a step closer to him, smiling when she saw him swallow. "Actually, I didn't know how long this meeting was going to be, so I brought my clothes here. I figured you wouldn't mind if I changed at your place?"
Just the thought of Sarah undressing in his room made his pulse race, so Chuck forced himself to focus and take his mind out of the gutter. It was just a mission and they were taking things slow. What the hell had he been thinking when he'd agreed to that? Oh, no, he hadn't agreed… he had been the genius that came up with the brilliant idea. Enough, Bartowski, stop being an ass. He couldn't help but stutter a little when he answered, "Uh… no, no. I mean, of course you can… change at my place. It was a good idea… I mean, you always think of everything…"
She smiled and couldn't help herself as she said, "Well, you know what they say… 'Spies always come prepared'."
She kind of expected him to blush and start rambling nervously, but was surprised—and a little turned on, to be honest—when he smiled and replied in a sultry tone, "That's good to know."
Figuring it wouldn't be the best idea to jump him there in the hallway, she mumbled something about going to get her dress out of her car and almost ran to the elevator.
Satisfied by her reaction, Chuck got into his apartment and started to get ready himself. He was in the shower when he heard Sarah getting into the apartment and letting him know it was her. Five minutes later, he stepped out of the shower and dried himself, wrapping the towel securely around his hips. He made his way to his bedroom and found Sarah fumbling with a coat hanger.
She seemed to notice his presence because she turned around saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't want the dress to get wrinkled so I came here to… to…" Her mouth went dry and her heart pounded when she saw him standing there, his crazy, wet hair making impossible shapes and him wearing only a towel—quite loosely, she mentally added. Luckily, her brain decided to work again and it reminded her they had a mission in a little more than an hour and there was no time for her to do any of the things she wanted to do at that particular time.
"Yeah, no problem." Chuck smiled, and she got the distinctive feeling that he knew exactly what she was thinking. She blushed a little as he continued, "The shower's ready, in case you need to use it. There are towels in the counter next to the bathtub and you can use my bathrobe."
"Thanks, Chuck," she said and headed to the bathroom without looking at him again. She was going to need that shower. A cold one, too.
Forty minutes later, Sarah was in front of the mirror applying her makeup. Which should've been an easy task, but Chuck's mirror was a guys' mirror and not like the one she had at her apartment. Also, she was currently wearing his bathrobe, which smelled like him and it was making her unable to focus.
Ever the gentleman, Chuck had lent her his own room to get changed. As she entered the room, she thought it was kind of fair, considering he'd been done in about 12 minutes. As she slipped into the short, blue dress, she heard the TV playing in the living room. Taking a quick glance at her watch, she realized it was almost time to head out. She went to the bathroom and looked herself in the mirror one last time, smiling satisfied at the result of almost an hour's work.
She headed to the living room and stood right behind the couch. She cleared her throat, because obviously, Chuck hadn't heard her. He jumped a little at the noise and quickly turned around, and she soon knew all the time she had just spent had been worth it.
Chuck knew he was gawking, but he couldn't help it. She looked absolutely stunning. Before his brain could catch up, he jumped off the couch and made his way towards her in about two strides. She looked flushed for some reason, but he didn't stop to think about it. If he didn't kiss her right now, he was going to die. So he did, and she wasted no time in wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her body into his. He finally pulled back and was able to clumsily mumble, "You look beautiful."
She smiled brightly at the compliment and ran her thumb through his lips, in an attempt to clean the lipstick trail she had left. "So do you."
Chuck laughed and leaned in again, but the loud knock on the door stopped him midway. "Come on, you two, we're gonna be late."
He sighed heavily. "I guess that's duty calling."
Sarah nodded, not trusting her voice just yet and ran a hand through his chest, straightening his shirt. After fixing his tie, she finally spoke. "Ok, then. Let's go get them."
Again, Casey was pissed. He had been in this business for almost twenty years and he was suddenly relegated to bartending. He was a marine, for crying out loud, he should've been the one to make the bust, but here he was, behind the counter, missing all the fun. Ignoring the call of a middle-aged, brunette woman, he spoke into his watch. "Are you two in position? He's supposed to show up any time now."
"Yes, Casey," he heard Sarah's faux sweet tone in his ear. "We've been in position since we arrived, thirty minutes ago."
He grunted his response and finally took the order from that woman. He watched his partners, sitting in a table in the corner opposite to the entrance. He suspected he'd caught them in the middle of something earlier, because they were both flushed when they left the apartment and avoided to talk or look at each other while driving to the restaurant. Good for them, he vaguely thought, as he shook the cocktail shaker. They were both good kids and they seemed to like each other. He just hoped they wouldn't screw up any missions they might have in the future, including that night's.
At exactly 7:03, the rogue agent known as "Leader" got into the location and headed to an empty table situated in the darkest corner of the restaurant. Casey heard Chuck letting him know they had seen him and were ready to move if anything happened. He nodded in his direction, and watched as Leader took a seat and ordered a drink. About ten minutes later, a blond guy joined him and ordered a beer. He heard Chuck's voice again, this time telling him he'd flashed, and that the guy's name was Tyler Jones and he was a CIA agent, and most likely, the mole. Leader and him were talking amicably and he ordered a beer. At some point, Casey saw them exchanging the restaurant's menus and alerted his partners.
"We saw them, Casey," Sarah confirmed. "We'll wait until they leave to follow them and make the arrest."
Casey grunted again, knowing he would have to keep serving drinks until those two traitors decided to leave. Luckily, they didn't seem to be very hungry, because after another ten minutes, they paid the check and stood up, heading for the door. Chuck and Sarah noticed and stood up as well, giving them a little lead, not wanting to blow up their covers. As soon as they got out of the restaurant, they noticed Leader and Jones talking, but kept walking anyway. "Casey, they're behind us," Chuck threw an arm around Sarah's shoulders and took the opportunity to look back, "I think they're going to split up."
"Copy. I see them. I got Leader, you get Jones. I think he's turning left in the next corner."
At that moment, Sarah tripped and Jones bumped into her. "Oh, my God, I am so sorry, sir," she said. "I'm just a little tipsy, you know," she smiled.
He smiled back, although it didn't reach his eyes and said, "No problem," as he kept walking.
Chuck and Sarah exchanged a look and, after she nodded, he took out his tranq gun and pointed it at him. "Tyler Jones, CIA. I need you to come with us."
Jones, caught by surprise, did the only thing he could think about. He ran. Chuck sighed and went after him, "Why would he do that?"
"My guess is he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in jail," Sarah answered, following him closely although her heels weren't making the task so easy.
"Well, he should've thought twice before committing treason, don't you think?" Chuck aimed his gun at the now fugitive's back and shot three darts, just to be sure. Jones' body slumped and crashed to the pavement, passed out instantly and Chuck winced at the thud. Sarah darted over to search him.
"He's clear," she said, as she took his gun and cuffed him.
Chuck talked into his watch. "Casey, we got him, he's clear. Leader's the one with the cipher."
The Major's voice answered in his ear. "I know, I just caught him. I got the cipher and the perp, see you at the van."
"Uhm, I actually had to tranq Jones, so would you mind picking us up? I think someone might be alarmed if they saw a young couple dragging a seemingly dead dude on the streets."
Casey heard Sarah's chuckle and smiled a little himself. "Figures. Stay where you are, I'll be there in five minutes."
True to his word, he was there in three. Both Graham and Beckman were delighted about the success of the mission. Graham informed them the Intersect upload was going to take place the next day. After congratulating the team again, they finally dismissed them. As Sarah's car was still parked in front of Chuck and Casey's building, the three of them drove back together. As soon as he got out of the car, the Major bade them a good night and left them standing next to Sarah's Porsche.
"Well, that was fun." As usual, it was Chuck who broke the silence.
"Yeah. You were pretty badass with you tranq gun and everything," she said.
Chuck grinned. "And you were pretty badass yourself, tripping like that and pretending to be drunk."
She chuckled but quickly sobered up. "So I guess it's really happening. They're uploading the Intersect tomorrow."
"I guess they are. But you don't have to worry about me. I'm safe, Graham said it himself," he took a step closer. "I still have a job and you're still in my team," he added, winking at her.
She pretended to be offended. "Oh, so now it's your team, Bartwoski!"
"Well, I am the one with the computer in his brain, so…" She chuckled and he put his arms around her waist. He kissed her lightly. "You were amazing tonight. I couldn't have asked for a better partner, Sarah."
She smiled, touched by his words. "Me neither, Chuck. We make a pretty good team, I'd say."
He nodded, a grin taking over his face. He suddenly remembered the information his dad had provided, and he cleared his throat. "Hey, uh… since we don't have a mission in the foreseeable future, what do you say if we go out… let's say, tomorrow night?"
Sarah eyed him suspiciously, but let it go. "I'd love to," she said, kissing him again. Things quickly escalated, and soon they were both pulling back for air.
He swallowed before he spoke. "Good. So I'll pick you up around seven, if that's ok?"
Still breathing heavily, she nodded. "Yeah, yeah, that's fine."
He reluctantly let her go. "Great. I'll see you then."
She smiled as she got into her car, although she didn't really want to go anywhere right now. "Good night, Chuck."
"Good night, Sarah."
She watched him wave through the rear mirror as she left. If that last kiss proved anything, was that she was not at all immune at the Bartowski charm, and that was a nice way of putting it, since she found it hard not to jump him every time she had the chance. And she had been dumb enough to agree to take things slow. She sighed, frustrated. She had no idea how the hell she was going to survive a whole date with Chuck Bartowski.
At exactly 6:58 pm, Chuck was about to knock on Sarah's door when she opened it. How did she keep doing that? He was about to ask her when he finally looked at her. "Wow, Sarah… you look amazing."
She smiled brightly at the compliment, glad he liked the casual outfit she had picked for the night. She studied him and her smile broadened even more when she noticed he was wearing his black Chucks. She gave him a quick kiss and said, "So do you. Shall we?"
He chuckled a little at her response, but chose not to comment. Instead, he answered, "Yeah, of course." He offered her his arm, and she gladly intertwined hers with his.
He took her to a nice, yet not too fancy restaurant. Judging by the look on Sarah's face, he had been right to choose that place and not another, more expensive one. He didn't feel the need to impress her, he just wanted her to have fun and enjoy her birthday, and, with any luck, his company.
Sarah was having a great time. The place Chuck had chosen was perfect. It was good to know he was still the same guy and wasn't trying to woo her with fancy dinners and expensive gifts like a few others had tried before him. He was just being him and she wouldn't have had it any other way. As always, he proved to be a perfect gentleman, opening doors and pulling her chair out for her. And, of course, he was more than a little entertaining when it came to conversation. He told her a lot of stories from his childhood and college time, and together, they remembered a lot of high school ones. Aside from the strong feelings she obviously had for him, she was relieved to know they were still friends and could talk without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. She conveniently chose to forget the first couple of times she had seen him as Sarah Walker, rather than Jenny Burton.
It was getting kind of late and they were the last two people in the restaurant, so Chuck asked for the bill and left a generous tip when he paid. That was his way of apologizing to the very gentle waiter for keeping him working that late. They made their way to the car hand in hand, and as he was about to open the door for Sarah, she grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and kissed him. He wasted no time to respond, having wanted to do just that for hours.
"Thank you, Chuck. I had a really great time." Sarah said, smiling.
"Hey, isn't that what you're supposed to say when I'm walking you to your apartment so I get to kiss you good night?" he joked.
"Oh, I plan on saying it again, don't worry. I just wanted you to know that this is the best date I've ever had."
He grinned, pleased. That was what he was aiming for. "Well, it is my pleasure, trust me." He kissed her again and opened the car door for her. Sarah smiled at his chivalry as she sat in the passenger's seat. Normally, she wouldn't appreciate those little gestures, but coming from Chuck they seemed so natural and well intentioned that she couldn't do anything but enjoy them.
She was quiet on the ride home. Chuck was dying to know what she was thinking, but he told himself that, if she wanted him to know, she would tell him. He was almost sure he hadn't done anything to upset her, but he was still sweating a little. Without turning his head, he took a quick glance at her, and sighed in relief when he saw she was smiling, her head resting against the window. He noticed her left hand resting on her thigh, and when he finally mustered up the courage to do it, took her hand in his. She just smiled wider and squeezed it. Her comforting touch was enough to calm him for the rest of the way.
Sarah looked at their joined hands. She knew it was crazy, that they had just reconnected, but everything felt so right... He had been a great friend and a perfect gentleman, and he made her feel things she never thought she would. He had accepted her for who she was, eight years ago and now, and he'd never pushed her to do anything. And then, he went even further and gave her the best birthday she could've asked for, although there was a good chance that he didn't even know that.
She waited in her seat, knowing it was pointless to argue as Chuck made his way to her door to open it. They walked into her building and got into the elevator, their hands linked once again. When they were standing in front of her apartment, she fidgeted with her keys and finally asked, "Would you like to come in for some coffee?"
He grinned. "I'd love to."
She opened the door, suddenly a little nervous, and turned on the lights. Her eyes widened as she just stood there. She heard the door closing and felt Chuck's arms snaking around her waist, hugging her from behind. His breath has hot in her ear when he whispered, "Happy birthday, Sarah."
She turned around to face him, with a shocked look on her face. "How did you…?"
He smiled. "My dad told me yesterday. He read your file and…" Noticing her slight frown, he quickly clarified, "Don't worry, that's the only thing he told me, I swear." He felt her relax in his embrace.
"But how did you manage to… do all of this?" she asked, pointing at the giant vase of gardenias that was set on the table, the champagne in ice and the box wrapped in bright blue paper and adorned with a big, white ribbon.
"As much as I'd love to say that I possess the gift of ubiquity, I have to admit I had a little help." She just stared at him, waiting for him to elaborate. He finally gave in. "Carina."
That only added to her astonishment. "Carina?" she asked, unable to keep the incredulous tone out of the question.
He chuckled. "Yeah, you know. She's pretty cool, once you learn to ignore how scary and inappropriate she can be. When I called her and told her about my plan, she was on board."
"Wow." Sarah was seriously impressed with all the trouble Chuck had gone through just to surprise her. "So I take it she broke into my place while we were at the restaurant?"
"Yeah. She ran a little late, because she arrived this afternoon from Chile. But everything went according to the plan, as far as I can see."
"Oh yeah?" Sarah said, disentangling herself from his embrace and walking towards the table, to examine the flowers. She took a meaningful look at the champagne and turned to face him. "And this plan… consisted of what, exactly?"
Chuck's eyes widened when he understood what she was implying. He took a few steps closer to the table and handed her the blue box. "I believe you'll find the answer here."
She looked at him with an arched eyebrow, having fun making him squirm. "Ok… but if I find a leather suit and a whip you're gonna be in trouble, mister," she teased.
Chuck choked on air and blushed furiously. He started to mumble something when he saw her smile brightly.
"Aladdin, Ferris Bueller's day off and The Matrix?" she inquired.
"Yeah, I mean, those first two were your favorite back in high school and The Matrix is awesome. I was thinking we could do the whole 'dinner and movie' thing but we could also have some champagne to celebrate your birthday."
"And eat some chocolate and listen to 'Funeral' by Arcade Fire too?" she asked, pulling the box of chocolate and the CD out of the box.
"Oh, no, those are just yours," he said with an adorable smile. "So, what do you say? Are you in the mood to watch some of the greatest movies ever made?"
Sarah looked at the DVDs lying on the table, along with the chocolate and the CD. Only Chuck would give her all that stuff. She half expected to find a comic book too, but he hadn't let himself get too excited, apparently. Her sight focused on the flowers, and she decided that no, she wasn't in the mood to watch any movies right now. Taking a step closer to him, she slowly shook her head. "Not really."
He tried not to look too disappointed as he shrugged. "Oh, ok, that's fine. Some other time, maybe. It's getting kind of late anyway…" he started to walk towards the door, but she stood in his way. She smiled when she saw his frown. "Sarah, I…" for once, she wasn't interested in what he had to say. So she shut him up in the only way it had ever seemed to work. Chuck quickly responded to her kiss and soon, he was pressing her to the door.
"I think we should be heading the other way," she said, slightly out of breath, pointing to the hallway across the room with her head.
Chuck looked in that direction and finally, he understood. She could almost see the light bulb above his head. He audibly gulped. "But Sarah… we said…" she kissed him again and made sure to make it clear that she didn't care what they had said. "Are you… are sure about this?" he asked, pulling back. She nodded and couldn't help but smile when a grin took over his face. This time, when she kissed him, he didn't protest.
A few miles away, Director Langston Graham was standing in the middle of a white room, ten carefully selected CIA agents next to him. He watched as two scientists placed the cipher in the core of the Intersect and then left the room. He typed the password only he knew and quickly put on his specially designed sunglasses. He pressed enter and as soon as the images started to appear, he knew something was very, very wrong. He looked at the screen in front of him and clenched his teeth for what was coming when he read the message on it.
FULCRUM thanks you.
A/N: I'm aware that "Funeral" didn't come out until September 2004, but in this alterative universe it came out sooner. I loved that reference on the show and I just wanted to use it.
Please, leave a review and let me know your thoughts about this one. I'm working on chapter 4 of Sarah vs. the Nerd, in case you're following that one as well.
Until next time.