A/N:I promised everybody a Thanksgiving story, and here it is! Well, here's the first chapter. Thanks to my pre-readers, mxpw, Aardie, quistie64, and BDaddyDL, who looked over this for me and pointed out various mistakes. Despite all of them, it's still without a beta reader (like the rest of Greater, so any errors you see are completely mine).
I know we're a little while from Thanksgiving yet, but I see this having either four or five chapters, most of which are already written. If you haven't read That Which is Greater, you will probably be really confused! This picks up about a year before That Which is Greater: Trick or Treat and a couple months before That Which is Greater: The Happiest Place on Earth.
Happy early Thanksgiving, everybody!
Disclaimer: I don't even own Violet Bartowski. Please don't sue me, no money is being made off of this story. All rights belong to Warner Bros and NBC Universal.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade started off in 1924 as a way for the immigrant owners of Macy's Department store to show their pride in the American holiday, Thanksgiving. It's now watched by more than 44 million people every year.
Chapter One: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Sarah looked up from finishing off her last report—finally—as Casey stomped in, a large duffel bag over his shoulder and his usual expression in place. Her brow wrinkled. Casey hadn't made any mention of leaving for the holiday. Quickly, though, she smoothed her face back into an expression that wasn't so curious.
It didn't matter. Casey still read her easily. "Just to the gun range," he said, helping himself to a Pop-Tart. "Not spending this friggin' day moping around like your boy-toy, Walker. If you need me, I'll have my cell phone."
It was a bit unfair to say that Chuck was moping, but Sarah didn't point that out. In an unusual bout of holiday cheer, she just said, "Have a good time at the range."
Casey grunted on the way out. She supposed the noise could be considered holiday cheer as well, as it wasn't one in the registered catalog. When the door closed behind him, Sarah shrugged to herself and swiveled back to face the laptop. It could probably be considered pathetic to be filing reports on Thanksgiving Day, but in her career as a spy, holidays tended to be hit or miss. And paperwork, she thought with a sigh, tended to be permanent.
Chuck wasn't really moping, was he? She was tempted to check the video feeds and make sure that wasn't the case, but she'd made a promise that she wouldn't spy on him more than once a day (and that was to make sure he hadn't been mysteriously abducted from his house without his watch). And things were actually somewhat okay between them right now, which meant she didn't want to blow it.
So she resolutely stuck to finishing off the sitrep report on her laptop and when that was finished, powered the computer down. With Chuck not planning to do anything for the holiday, either she or Casey needed to stay around the house just in case. And it looked like Casey had volunteered her for that.
Thanks, Casey. She wondered if it was stretching the rules to go for a run. Lazing around at home for a day didn't really sit well with her restless side. No wonder Casey had headed to the gun range.
Just as she debated going upstairs and putting on real clothing—sitting around in her pajamas would just make it worse—the doorbell rang. She glanced at the surveillance monitors automatically, frowning. Chuck was standing on the front porch in plaid pajama pants and a T-shirt.
"What's wrong?" she asked when she opened the door.
He gave her a startled look. "Uh, what?"
"You're in pajamas. I thought something was wrong."
"No, no, I'm just lazy." Chuck shuffled one untied chuck against the doormat and looked sheepish. "I just thought..."
"What?" Sarah asked warily, wondering what on earth problem her erstwhile asset had waiting for her today. It was never what she expected, with him.
Chuck sighed. "I'm really pathetic," he said. "I'm still in my pajamas and it's Thanksgiving and I'm going to be even more pathetic here in a second."
Sarah bit her tongue over the observation that she didn't have much room to talk, as she'd been filing reports in her own pajamas. Which, she noticed, kind of matched Chuck's in a goofy way that one of her old partners would have sneered at and called "matchy-matchy." They had both conceded to the late autumn coolness with plaid pants (though hers were pink and blue; his were just blue) and long-sleeved shirts in shades of blue, another concession on Sarah's part. She only wore the revealing pajamas when she wanted to screw with Casey's head.
Chuck, having no idea how to read her thoughts (thank God), barreled onward. "With Morgan stuck doing prep at the Buy More, and Ellie and Awesome gone and Vi...with Vi at Sophie's, I'm..."
"Bored?" Sarah supplied.
Chuck nodded. "And you said you didn't have any holiday plans," he said, sounding hopeful for the first time. "I just thought, since it's Thanksgiving, we could maybe hang out? I know it kind of violates our little asset-handler thing to hang out on personal time, but…it's Thanksgiving."
It would take a woman much stronger than her to kill that hopeful look in its tracks. Sarah pushed the door open a little wider and stepped out of the way for Chuck to come inside. When she still felt a telltale spurt of nerves as Chuck passed her by, she nearly frowned. Violet was out on a yacht, spending the holiday with her mother. There was no reason to be nervous if it was just Chuck.
She was being ridiculous, but that wasn't unusual lately, unfortunately.
"Not handling the empty nest syndrome well, huh?" she asked, closing the door behind Chuck.
He arrowed in on the coffee pot. "It's that obvious?" he asked as he collected mugs. "I was trying to hide it and be cool."
"It's fine. You've already talked to her today?"
"Mind-reader," Chuck said. Sarah leaned one shoulder against the door jamb between the foyer and the kitchen. "She called me when she woke up. They're going to watch the parade; Sophie apparently gets satellite out there."
"It's nice that Vi gets to see her mom," Sarah said. And even better, this time, Sarah hadn't been present for the hand-off. Sophie might not be around much, but Sarah found that lying to Sophie about being Chuck's girlfriend ten times more awkward than it was with Ellie. Why that was, she had no idea. Sophie wasn't competition, and the relationship was only a cover. "Is she having a good time?"
"She is. I'm supposed to give you a hug for her, by the way. She was very insistent."
"I won't tell if you won't," Sarah said. It got a laugh, which made her smile. She took one of the coffee mugs from him and sipped. "What do you want to do, then?"
"I think I'm in trouble if I don't watch the parade. Have you seen Vi's disappointed face?" Chuck mimicked the expression with startling accuracy. "She always makes me feel like I'm the kid and she's the adult when she gets that look going."
"Guess that means we are watching the parade. It's been a few years."
"Has it? I always forget not everybody revolves around a kid schedule. What do you normally do on Thanksgiving? Any crazy Walker family tales?"
None she was willing to share. "Ah, we usually just ate turkey. Way too much turkey. You know how it goes."
"Right. Yeah. Speaking of eating, have you had breakfast? I can make pancakes. I found this really great recipe online that's a lot healthier for you than the box mix, and Vi really loves them, so I promised her we'd have them on Thanksgiving, but that was, you know, before Sophie decided to take an interest, and..."
"Pancakes are fine," Sarah said quickly. "Just, you know, none shaped like mice or anything like that."
"Not even smiley faces? We could use strawberry halves for the eyes and whipped cream for the mouth."
"I generally prefer to forget whatever I'm eating has a face."
"Point. Well, prepare to have the most awesome pancakes of your life anyway, Sarah Walker."
"Are you sure you should be talking them up that much?" A spirit of fun overtook her, making her speak before she could fully measure the words. "I mean, after all, what happens when they're not the world's best pancakes? How will I live with the disappointment?"
"You won't have to because they are." Chuck began rummaging through the cupboards. It was probably a testament to how many nights he spent at the Spy Casa going over missions with Casey and Sarah that he was able to find everything with relative ease. Or maybe that was just the governmental organization system. "And I will prove it to you. By making them right now."
"Well, get cracking, I suppose." She pulled out eggs and other things she thought pancakes might need from the fridge, and, ignoring Casey's house rules, she hauled herself up so that she was sitting on the island counter. It gave her a good vantage point to watch Chuck. "Are you going to share this recipe when you're done?"
"If you're nice and stop doubting me, maybe." Chuck grinned. "Can we put on the parade?"
"Sure." She had to stretch to reach the remote, which she had thankfully had beside her while doing paperwork. It took a couple of tries to find the channel, but the smiling veneers of the hosts were gleaming at them before long. "So what's Vi's favorite part of the parade?"
"She's a sucker for the balloons. I think her life goal is to actually be one of the people holding onto the tethers. That or an astronaut."
"I thought she wanted to dig up dinosaur bones."
"Oh, that was last week. We watched Zathura before I drove her down to San Diego, and she definitely wants to be an astronaut now."
"Ah, okay." She had no idea what Zathura was, but she knew it wasn't English.
Chuck began combining ingredients into the bowl with only a small explosion of flour. "As for me, I like Snoopy."
"You know how they always have a balloon of Snoopy or Woodstock? I like the Snoopy one, though Woodstock was always my favorite Peanuts character. I liked how his dialogue was always just lines, and when I was a kid, I tried to figure out how that would sound. I never did."
That was adorable, Sarah thought, but she didn't say anything.
By the time the commercials cut in, Chuck had the griddle all warmed up and was dropping water droplets on the hot surface just to watch them dance and sizzle. "Vi gets a big kick out of this," he said, grinning over at her.
Sarah watched the water jump around frenetically. "You really need to get out more."
Chuck shrugged and turned down the heat on the pan. "The dangers of cooking with a five-year-old around. Oh, hey, look, Yo Gabba Gabba has a float this year."
"What?" Sarah twisted and frowned a little at the brightly-colored...things overtaking her TV. "What are those?"
"Yo Gabba Gabba," Chuck said, as though it should be obvious.
Sarah wracked her brain trying to come up with a response to that, but all she could think of was, "Gesundheit."
Chuck laughed and poured batter on the griddle.
- O -
"This is so lame," Chuck said an hour later, squirming a little on the couch as he tried to get more comfortable. He'd kicked off his chucks awhile before, and he had his feet draped over the side of the couch, leaning back against the middle with his elbows. It had to hurt his neck like nothing else to watch the TV from that angle, but he hadn't complained—about neck aches, at least. Everything else appeared to be fair game. "You know, when I was a kid, parade meant a parade. You watched the marching bands for more than thirty seconds. You let them perform."
"Uh-huh," Sarah said.
"Now it's all just a song and dance number. Should just call it 'five-six-seven-eight' for all they show the long, cold trudge to the Macy's storefront. Two shots in the last ten minutes! Two! And those were the balloons. They just keep showing these little miniature musicals." Chuck glared at the TV, where the cast of some musical or other was currently about to start a kick-line on the Macy's-appointed staging area where, admittedly, most of the broadcast had been focused. "It's lame."
Sarah sighed. She didn't really see what was so interesting in people walking down the street, but it wasn't worth it to point that out to Chuck.
"Lame," Chuck said again, and Sarah finally reached for the remote. She hit mute and nearly laughed as Chuck recoiled to give her a scandalized look. "What was that for?"
"You didn't seem to want to watch the musical. I solved your problem."
"But they were just getting to the good—I'm being a brat, aren't I?" Chuck let his head collapse against the couch so that some of his curls brushed the side of her thigh.
"No, no, it's funny," Sarah said. "I've never met anybody who's felt this strongly about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade before."
"Well, I like to keep things original. Do you want to do something else? We can watch 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' or finally use the excuse that it's already Thanksgiving to listen to some of that Christmas music we've been denying that we like because to do so means acknowledging gross and overt commercialism."
"You lost me at pumpkin," Sarah said, blinking at him.
Chuck started laughing. "Not gross and overt commercialism? Had you at hello, lost you at pumpkin. Such is the charm of Chuck Bartowski, I suppose."
"Such is." An idea began to take hold. Sarah glanced at the sliding door that led to the backyard, where sunlight warmed the mosaic-style tiles on the floor. The sky was the crystalline blue somewhere between ideal and perfect. "You know what?"
"Do you want to go out?"
Chuck stammered something and stared at her. "Like—on a date?"
"No." But she ruffled his hair anyway. She told herself that it was just good practice for keeping the asset calm, not that his hair was soft and the texture from the curls interesting. "No, like outside. It's a lovely day. We should be outside, enjoying it."
"I thought the point of Thanksgiving was to eat too much and then laze about, doing nothing, like the spent gods and goddesses we should be after too much turkey."
"Well, we had pancakes, not turkey."
"The point still stands," Chuck said.
Sarah hopped off the couch and grabbed his upper arm to pull him after her. "C'mon, go home, get dressed. We're going out."
"But not on a date." Chuck slowly climbed off the couch, moving like a geriatric man rather than the young Intersect Sarah knew him to be. He made a point of stretching out both his arms and legs when he stood, his knuckles nearly grazing the ceiling. "I don't wanna."
"It'll be fun," Sarah said, feeling stubbornness begin to take over. "And I seem to recall that you once offered to show me around L.A. I am cashing that check."
"You're just tired of hearing me whine about the parade," Chuck said. Sarah laughed at that even as she gave him a helpful shove toward the front door. "Meet you back here in a few minutes? If we're not going to lay around like the spent gods and goddesses we should be, going out would be fine."
"Yes, perfect," Sarah said, and pushed him out the front door. She headed upstairs to get ready, oddly excited about this: a whole day with her asset, without her annoying, monosyllabic partner or her asset's admittedly-bright but still slightly scary five-year-old around. She studied her closet for a full minute, trying to figure out what would be appropriate attire for this. Jeans, that was a given. Things needed to be casual, and she looked great in jeans, but what about the top? She needed something warm enough—it was still late November, even if Southern California was warmer than, say, the deepest recesses of Russia. But vanity demanded something cute, too.
She settled on an aquamarine top and her favorite leather jacket over that. Since Chuck still hadn't come back a few minutes later, she took the time to pull her hair back into a fishtail braid and was just staring at her necklace collection when the front door opened.
"Just me," Chuck called up the stairs. "No shooting, stabbing, or blowing me up, please!"
"Maybe next time," she called back. "Ready to go?"
"Yeah, I packed a bag and everything."
Sarah paused as she sat on the foot of her bed to pull on her boots. He hadn't packed the Dad Bag, had he? They were exploring Los Angeles, not mounting an expedition into the wilds of South America.
Indeed, it was the Dad Bag, which he used to store things like granola bars, Violet's extra shirts, and various other parenting accessories. It sat on her kitchen counter, almost taunting her, when she trotted down the stairs. Chuck himself was wiping at a missed food spill on the counter.
"I've got provisions," he said in greeting, gesturing at the bag.
"Leave 'em," Sarah said, letting impulse take over.
"We'll consider it an adventure. Today, we are not going to eat anything but things we forage for ourselves."
Chuck gave her a confused look. "In L.A.?"
"Yeah, surely they've got restaurants in L.A." Sarah allowed her smile to color her words and let him know she was teasing. "We're going to leave the spy stuff, the kid stuff, and all the stuff behind. Let's go."
"Okay, okay. Where did this bossy streak come from, just out of curiosity?"
"Why? Don't like it?"
"No, no, I do." Chuck grinned as she collected her car keys from the bowl by the front door. "You can boss me around anytime."
"You say that and yet you won't stay in the car."
"Hey, didn't you say we were leaving the spy stuff back there?" Chuck gestured vaguely at the kitchen as he followed her outside. "That includes all gripes about me not staying in the car."
"Sure, whatever you say," Sarah said, and led the way to her car.
A/N the Second: Yeah, this is mostly a story of Chuck and Sarah learning to coexist peacefully as asset and handler in the That Which is Greater-verse. OR IS IT? Dun dun dun... next chapter, we meet some new folks, there's a lovely view, and...a shooting contest?