A/N: This is it, guys! The last words!
I want to first thank all of you for reading this story. Thank you for taking the time to review, for tweeting, for messaging me, etc. Thank you, also, for giving this story an Awesome Award. This has been an incredible experience. I'm very grateful, and I'm amazed by the response Chuck vs. the Rogue Spy has received.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me, graciously helped me, given me advices, and inspired me throughout; when I mentioned this story idea back then on Twitter, and didn't know if I should *try* to write it or not; when I actually took the plunge; when I first posted back in January; and when I struggled to write the difficult scenes and complete this story. And particularly, thanks to BDaddyDL, Catrogue, Frea O'Scanlin, LinShoe85 and quistie64. :)
Thank you to JoeltotheD. I've often said this story wouldn't have existed without you; that's because it's true. You've helped me when I started writing, not this story, but started writing. Heh. You've read countless of drafts and very bad English. You walked with me through the plot. You listened to my bad jokes. You wrote some of my favourite lines in Chapter 9, even if you probably don't remember it. (Yes, I put the u there for you, Joel. ;-)) In short, you're awesome.
Thank you to mxpw. You deserve all of your Awards and more. Seriously, you have beta magic. You correct all the wrongs and ask all the right questions, but you've also been *very* patient with me. Not only when I confused you like nothing else with my phrasing, baguette crumbs, or wrong vocabulary, but in general. You've taught me so many things about writing; I'd probably cringe now looking at the first draft I ever sent you. You've advised me, talked with me through the difficult chapters, answered all my questions, and you did everything with so much humor. Thanks, BetaMax!
I hope you all enjoy this epilogue. And really, thanks for reading!
Epilogue: The Family Dinner
January 8, 2010
Casey puffed on his cigar. "Beckman called," he said as soon as Sarah reached him. "They found him."
"Already?" she said.
"Heh." He shrugged. "What's the matter? Not ready to quit, yet?"
Hugging herself in the cool breeze of the apartment complex's courtyard, Sarah looked down at the fountain in front of her. Was she ready to quit? She wasn't sure. After what had happened to her, she'd been tired of the CIA and fed up with the life, but since then, she'd settled into some kind of routine.
In the wake of the Ring invasion of the Buy More, the team had wanted to make sure that they'd all be safe, and that Shaw would be put away for good. At the top of the Ring hierarchy, they'd found out, were five Elders—most of them high placed within the government. The team had therefore ended up chasing the Ring Elders for the past month, dismantling every Ring cell, one after the other. It had been quick—lots of Ring agents had abandoned ship after the second Elder's arrest, deciding to work for themselves, or changing employers, like to the powerful Volkoff Industries the team had been hearing about. All Elders were now incarcerated, except one, who had fled early in their hunt. After that, the team would be done with this mission, and Chuck and Sarah had a nice vacation waiting for them.
That was the plan—except they hadn't planned anything on the matter. Between the Ring, handling Chuck's health issues with the Intersect, and the full-on Bartowski holidays celebrations, they hadn't taken the time to.
Now, the last Ring Elder had been apprehended. They would have to make plans, and their vacation was only a tiny part of it. Coming back, they'd have to make decisions. It was certainly unnerving. Sarah had never been in this situation before; her path had been set ever since her recruitment: training, missions, survival. Surprisingly, knowing she and Chuck would make whatever decisions they'd make together, gave her enough confidence not to be freaking out.
"Honestly?" Sarah said. There wasn't much need to lie to Casey; he knew what it was like. "I don't know. What about you?"
Casey hadn't mentioned it to anyone, but Sarah was aware of his new eating habits. He'd become a regular at the diner where Alex McHugh was working: his daughter. What would Casey do if Chuck and Sarah quit? The Burbank Buy More operation would cease. Would Casey leave L.A.?
Her partner raised his eyebrows at her, and attempted to feign ignorance. "What about me?" he asked.
"You've been in L.A. for some time," Sarah said. "You have a life here too." That was beating around the bush, but she didn't want to interfere in his relationship with his daughter. Learning about Alex's existence couldn't have been easy. Telling her that her father wasn't dead after all certainly wasn't either.
Something flickered across Casey's eyes, and he took another puff on his cigar. "There's ways to keep working and stay in L.A.," he said. "Even if Operation Bartowski's over."
Sarah smiled. "Yeah," she said. It was clear Casey had already thought about it. There were plenty of jobs they could seek in California, either within the government or the intelligence private sector. "I guess there is." She wouldn't mind Casey staying around, either.
The door from Chuck and Morgan's apartment opened. They both spun around to see her boyfriend and his roommate exiting the place.
"Heading out for your date?" Sarah asked.
Morgan nodded. "Indeed, I am." He rubbed his jacket with his palms, straightening it up even though it didn't need it.
"Who'd you dress up for, Grimes?" Casey asked.
"No one of interest to you, Colonel," Morgan replied.
Casey's eyebrows knitted dangerously together, and he glanced at Chuck. The two best friends had been catching up rather well ever since Morgan knew the truth about their spy lives. Thankfully, Ellie had saved Sarah from game night, though.
"Don't look at me," Chuck said, lifting both palms in front of him. "I don't know either."
"I don't want to jinx it!" Morgan said.
Sarah chuckled. "Well, have a good date night, Morgan."
Casey snerked at Morgan's departing figure, amused.
"Admit it," Chuck said. "The little bearded guy's growing on you."
Casey grimaced, showing off how much the thought disgusted him, and grunted. "Thanks for dinner."
"You're welcome," Chuck replied. "Oh, Awesome wanted to know if you were up for a jog tomorrow morning?"
"I think so," Chuck confirmed. "He said your usual spot."
"Works for me," Casey replied. "See you on Monday."
Chuck and Sarah wished him goodnight, and Casey entered his apartment. Chuck waited for the door to close completely, before approaching Sarah and wrapping his arms around her. He grinned. "Hi," he said.
Sarah circled her arms around his neck. She was finally able to do it without her shoulder hurting—much—and grinned back. "Hi."
"You've been quiet, tonight," Chuck said. "Well," he tilted his head to the side, "quieter."
"Mmhmm. Anything on your mind?"
"Not much. It was your family time, that's all," she said. "Although, Casey just told me they found Blue." It wasn't the Elder's name, obviously, but Chuck had quickly tired of trying to pronounce the Russian Molotkovskiy correctly. So he'd decided to call him Blue, like the color of the sweater he was wearing in his file's picture. Sarah had to admit, it was simpler.
It wasn't difficult to observe Chuck working out the information. For a second, she thought he'd start asking questions. What did she want to do now? Was she quitting? He hadn't decided what he'd do himself either, but they both knew Ellie wanted him to. Maybe Chuck would even ask her to move in again. She didn't want to think about all of that tonight. Sarah needn't worry. Rapidly, Chuck smiled. "So we can go on vacation?" he said.
"Seems like it," Sarah said. "Where do you want to go? We could go back to Seattle, and actually visit the place."
He wrinkled his nose a bit. "I was more picturing someplace sunny, and sandy," he said. "With beaches and nice cocktails."
Sarah laughed. "You just want to see me in a bikini."
"Guilty," Chuck said, completely unapologetic. "We could go to Montréal, too, in that case," he added more seriously. "Or Rome, I heard they have a nice CIA facility there."
"If we're going to Europe, I thought you've always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower."
Chuck licked his lips. At the motion, Sarah's eyes flickered to his mouth. He didn't seem to notice. "I do want to," he said, and hesitated, "but I thought Paris wouldn't bring very good memories for you."
Sarah considered it. They were finally moving on with their lives. "Maybe it's time to make some new memories," she said. "Good ones."
She nodded. "So, Paris?"
"Paris," Chuck confirmed, and—finally, Sarah thought, since she'd been waiting for it ever since they'd been alone—he closed in to give her a kiss.
When they broke off, after a few minutes, Sarah felt a little lightheaded, and she knew it wasn't because of the champagne Morgan had bought in celebration of the end of the repairs at the Buy More.
"Should we go back?" she said.
Chuck agreed. "Don't think we won't talk about you moving in again, though," he said lightly, and took her hand to lead her into his apartment.
Sarah chuckled, and grinned back at him—but their smiles fell when they opened the door.
Chuck squeezed Sarah's hand a little tighter at the sight in front of him.
"What are you even hiding from anymore?" Ellie said angrily.
"Eleanor," Stephen said. Chuck felt Sarah squeezing his hand back. "It's complicated."
"What's going on?" Chuck interrupted, walking into the room. He let Sarah close the door behind them.
Ellie spun around in her chair to look at him. She was sitting at the dinner table on one side, turned toward their father sitting at the end of it. Awesome had retreated to the kitchen, and was watching the scene from afar.
"Dad's leaving," Ellie told Chuck. "Again."
"Oh." Chuck sat down at the news. He couldn't say he was surprised. His dad had agreed to come visit them for dinner, but Chuck had assumed it was only to check on the Governor he had built for him a few weeks ago.
After meeting with a government psychiatrist, it'd been obvious to Chuck that the government had no idea how the Intersect affected his brain. The doctor had called it a new science, which they hadn't mastered yet. But he'd also warned Chuck that he did believe the Intersect applied pressure—likely unhealthy pressure—to the brain.
So even though he had had his reservations about admitting to his father that he had uploaded the Intersect 2.0 and was working for the CIA, Chuck had contacted Stephen. Sarah and Ellie wouldn't have let him not do so, anyway.
The conversation with his father had been slightly choppy—Stephen was not happy at the prospect of his son being a government agent. Sarah had even tracked him down after they thought he had left again—but Stephen had eventually relented. Ellie and Chuck were grown-ups. They had learned to live their lives by themselves, and they wouldn't let their absentee father decide what kind of lives they would lead. Ellie had taken Chuck's side in the argument, despite her own worries. Of course, the hope had always been that Stephen would want to be part of their lives.
"Aren't you tired of running?" Ellie said. "We are your children, and we are here."
"What people?" she cut him off. "The government isn't after you," Ellie went on. "They've made that clear to us. And Fulcrum and the Ring are gone."
"Ellie," Chuck said. He'd rarely seen his sister display such overt anger. She'd made her peace with Chuck's situation after he had told her about everything, including the Intersect. She'd been impressed by it, actually; as a neurosurgeon, she found the Intersect fascinating. But it also had taken away her brother for a little while, and their father for good it seemed, and she hated that. Chuck felt guilty for bringing their father back into their lives, especially around the holidays and the great family time they had, when he knew Stephen wouldn't stay. He also knew that Ellie and Devon wanted to move on with their lives too. With Ellie's general worry about Chuck lifted, they were thinking about having kids now. Chuck wouldn't be surprised if Ellie announced to him this year that he would become the uncle of an awesome baby.
"I'm sorry," she told Chuck, and sipped a good amount of wine. Awesome, probably sensing that his wife needed him, walked back to the table and sat with her.
"Are you worried about the government?" The question surprised them. It came from Sarah, who had stayed near the couch, not saying a word.
Stephen sighed. "Among others," he said, scratching his cheek. "I think they've proven by now that they can't be trusted, or relied on."
Chuck had to agree, even if he didn't want to. Despite her perfect record, nobody had questioned Sarah's culpability aside from Casey and him. They didn't care about individuals, or families, they'd made that pretty clear back when Chuck was just an asset too. The greater good wasn't as great as you'd expect.
Sarah moved closer to Chuck, and rested her hand on the nape of his neck. The cold of her charm bracelet tickled a little. "But not because of the Intersect?" she asked. Chuck glanced up at her. Where was she going with this? "The government is building a new Intersect," she carried on. "They've got their team and have no intention of trying to get you to work for them. Even after you helped us take out Shaw's Intersect." It had been Stephen's idea to get involved after he'd built Chuck's Governor, although he'd stayed hidden while working on extracting Shaw's Intersect. He'd said that he wanted to make sure his children and their friends would be safe. "You must know that, I'm sure."
Even before Stephen had started working on building the device that would regulate the surge of electrical energy generated inside the brain by the Intersect flashes—govern the Intersect, Stephen had said, and that was why he called it the Governor—Chuck and Sarah had looked into the government project regarding the Intersect. With the discovery made about the Ring Intersect, their own project had received a second wind. None of their plans, though, included Stephen Bartowski anymore.
Stephen's eyes flickered to Sarah, then to something behind her, before returning to the occupants of the table. "They've," he said, "they've lied before."
"But that's not it," Chuck said, catching up.
Stephen looked down, and stared at his glass for what felt like forever. He was fidgeting in his chair. Nobody said a word. Chuck craned his neck to look at Sarah again, and her hand moved in an undefined pattern across his shoulders. He could sense his father was pondering telling him about something—something important.
"Dad?" Ellie eventually asked.
Stephen looked up. He gazed at Ellie and Awesome, then at Chuck and Sarah, and stood up. Chuck had no idea what was on his mind. He'd never understood much about his father's all but crazy demeanor. Stephen trudged to the French doors, looking outside as though they were watched, and closed the curtains. He repeated the motion with every window, as everybody looked at each other perplexed.
Sarah took a seat next to Chuck, and asked him if he was okay in a whisper. He only nodded.
"I'm sorry, guys," Ellie said. She looked tired—probably tired of dealing with all the secrets and lies. "I didn't mean to ruin dinner."
"It's okay, Ellie," Chuck said. "You don't have to apologize."
Awesome gave his wife's temple a kiss, as Sarah whispered to Chuck, "Hey." She reached across the table to take Chuck's hand. "It's gonna be okay."
"I don't know, Sarah," Chuck said, looking down. "I mean, I know we were just finished, but…" He stopped playing with the charms on her bracelet, and looked up. "What if he's in trouble?"
"Then we'll deal with it," she said.
It was so simple, and it seemed so obvious to her. He always relished every time she talked about them this way, especially since they'd been more or less living together for the last month: "We will." His lips couldn't help but curl slightly upwards.
Finally, Stephen stopped. He came back in front of them. "I never wanted you to be a spy, Charles." He tugged at his ear. "I knew how dangerous this world is, what it does to the people in it." He shook his head. "Look at what happened to you, Sarah."
"And we made it," Chuck said.
"Yes, and you paid the price, don't you think?"
"But we're together now," Chuck said. "We can move on with our lives." Sarah and he might not have known exactly what'd they'd do yet, but whatever either of them would choose, they'd build a life together. "If we'd followed your example, we'd be hiding forever, instead of being here tonight."
"I had hoped you'd get a different life," Stephen said. "Like your sister."
Getting annoyed now, Chuck said firmly, "I didn't." Ellie looked away from the both of them, fixating on the kitchen bar. Chuck sighed. "Do we really have to have this conversation again?"
"No," Stephen said, momentarily stopping his constant shifting of his feet. "But—but that's why I kept something from you, from the both of you. Something about me, about Orion." His eyes looked at Sarah. "This need to be kept between us."
"Are you serious?" Chuck heard Ellie say.
"Babe…" Awesome said.
"It's okay," Sarah assured.
"Whatever you have to say," Chuck told his father, "we're family here."
Stephen fidgeted with his shirt pocket for a few seconds, but kept going. "I haven't been just running, you know. I've been a spy for the last twenty years, working—working for myself." He paused. "Maybe being a spy is in our blood, after all."
"Working on what?" Ellie asked.
"Maybe I should have told you all of this long ago," Stephen added, looking at everything but them, "but you should know, all we've done, it was to protect you both."
Though Chuck frowned at the pronoun, and glancing at Ellie, he could see she had too, nobody interrupted their father.
"I guess now," Stephen said. "Now it's time for you to know the truth about my work, and—and about the people who tried to destroy me."
Chuck felt himself breathing more heavily as his father went on. He was going to learn the truth. It was scary, he could admit, even if he desperately wanted to know. He gazed at his sister. She was listening intently with Awesome's arm draped around her, and Chuck realized, he was ready to know the truth. He and Sarah were together, for good, and her presence at his side filled him with confidence—confidence that they would be okay. The supportive stroke of her fingers on the back of his hand only illustrated it more.
"Besides Fulcrum and the government, you mean," Ellie said.
"Yes," Stephen said. "If your brother chooses to keep working for the government, I can't protect you." He shook his head again. "I obviously can't protect you forever anyway," Stephen added, gesturing around. "And when I'm gone, you won't be safe from them anymore. Neither of you will be safe."
"Who are you talking about, Mr. Bartowski?" Sarah said. "Why would they come after Chuck and Ellie?"
"These people, they—they are ruthless and cunning and... It's—it's time you learned about your family. Because..." Stephen stopped, motionless. He looked at Ellie first, in a way that made Chuck wonder if he wasn't seeing someone else, before shifting his gaze at them all. "I did it all for her."
The room became quiet, until Chuck's stuttering voice broke the silence. "H-her?"
"Your mom," Stephen said. "She's…kind of a rogue spy."