Title: A Very Bartowski Christmas
Rating: PG-13. Because you never know.
Spoilers; Seasons 1-5
Disclaimer: The next gen characters are my doing. Everyone else belongs to Schwartz and Fedak.
Summary: Christmas at the Bartowski house. Twenty years down the line.
Notes: I have no clue where this is going. Bear with me.
"Happy day before Christmas Eve."
Sarah Walker-Bartowski grinned as her husband kissed the back of her head. She'd been awake for an hour, doing the crossword in the newspaper, enjoying the quiet before her house was filled with the chatter of boys.
"And to you," she said, looking up at him.
fifty-four looked good on Chuck; his dark, curly hair sprinkled with gray, the laugh lines at his eyes were deep and he wore reading glasses that he constantly perched on his forehead, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head back just a little so they would drop onto his nose when he needed them.
It was a very Chuck thing to do. Nearly thirty years later, and he was still her Chuck.
As she watched him pour himself some coffee, she liked to think she was still his Sarah, though her hair was certainly graying and she felt much older these days, like she was one hundred instead of fifty-five.
After two children and a lifetime of spy work, she had changed quite a bit. For one thing, she no longer favored the ankle-killing heels or the skinny jeans.
Alright, she still liked the skinny jeans, but mostly she favored comfort over her old style, and working as a CIA instructor rather than an operative fitted a more relaxed sense of fashion.
It had been one of Chuck's harebrained schemes, turning Castle into a CIA farm, but like most of those schemes it worked incredibly well, and while Chuck trained analysts and counseled them on a less "trust no one, kill everything" sensibility, the CIA sent their best, most promising recruits to Sarah.
This included their daughter. Their pride and joy, apple of her father's eye, Sarah's very own little baby. Their first born Willow.
Anyone who accused the Bartowski's of coddling their babies was probably right, but they had produced two spectacular kids.
The aforementioned Willow (Willow Eleanor Bartowski) worked as a field operative for the CIA, and was currently being loaned out to MI-6 in London. All evidence suggested that she loved it there. Chipper emails filled with how her weeks were going and photos of friends and her new boyfriend popped up in Sarah's inbox once every two weeks like clockwork. Some emails were pages long, and some were only a few words, but such was the life of a spy.
Sarah felt both proud and worried. Willow was capable and strong but the spy life could be cruel. She couldn't wait for Willow to come home, even if she was bringing that new boyfriend and would probably have little time or patience for old family traditions.
Their son, Case (Casey Stephen Bartowski) was very different from his older sister. Sixteen, outspoken, mischievous and a little bit of a ham, Case was more interested in music, acting, playing sport, and competing on the debate team than any sort of espionage.
And that was fine with Sarah. More than fine. She loved to go to his plays and concerts and games and meets to cheer him on.
"Morning," the sixteen-year-old said as he bounded into the kitchen. He was a tall kid with shaggy blonde hair and a big smile. His brown eyes always seemed to gleam like there was always something going on in his mind; like there was always a joke or a plan. This morning, he sported a pair of long, blue running shorts and a thin grey t-shirt, obviously intending to go for a run after breakfast.
"Hi, Sweetie," Sarah said. She watched him pull a box of Pop Tarts from the cabinet and pull out two packages.
"No," Chuck said firmly. "Uh-uh. No. one pack and a banana."
Case pursed his lips, looking bitter.
"Bananas won't kill you," Sarah said. "And you'll be all jittery if you eat all that sugar, your run won't go very well."
Case huffed and put one pack back in the box. "Fine."
"Thank you," Chuck said, sipping his coffee. "So, Bartowski's, our expat arrives at two this afternoon. What's the plan?"
"Willow said they're renting a car," Sarah reminded him. "We don't have to pick her up from the airport."
Chuck looked a bit crestfallen at that but hid it with another sip of coffee.
"She's bringing the boyfriend?" Case snorted as he dropped his Pop Tarts into the toaster. "Isn't he like some weirdo inbred royal or something?"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "His grandfather is a Lord. That doesn't mean anything for him. You, Casey, will be nice to him."
Chuck nodded in agreement. "We all will. It's hard spending Christmas away from your family, especially when it's to spend it with somebody else's, and especially especially when that somebody else happens to be your significant other."
Case wrinkled his nose at his father, looking a little confused. "Seriously?"
Chuck sipped more coffee. "I did, however, pull out the ole' lie detector from Castle and set it up in our basement."
"Chuck!" Sarah admonished.
"This guy, this...Jim person is dating our only daughter, and if he has weird, dirty, dark secrets I feel that we should know before it gets any more serious," Chuck said quickly.
Case stared at Chuck for a long moment before turning to Sarah. "He's finally lost it and turned into Grandpa Stephen, hasn't he?"
"Oh no," Sarah replied. "This is all your father."
"He could be part of the Ring."
"Okay, that's your grandfather talking," Sarah said.
Chuck frowned at her and huffed, and their son cackled a little.
Sarah got to her feet and kissed him and then kissed Case's cheek. "I'm gonna go shower."
Chuck's frown turned to a soft grin and he nodded. "We'll hold down the fort."
Sarah smiled at both of them and then headed out of the kitchen, toward the stairs, passing the large whiteboard that sat in the living room.
She stopped to look at it and grinned. It was covered in names and flight arrival times, and what, if anything, each name was bringing with them.
It was the first time in five years that their whole family would be here. Twenty years ago, Sarah would have had a freak out about the idea of so many people in their house, needing to be fed and given gifts and in some cases put up for a few nights, but these days, she was just happy they were all coming.
The whiteboard itself was getting up there in age. Chuck had bought it two days after he'd found her on the beach, before all her memories came back. She remembered watching him muscle it into their apartment and place it in the hallway outside their bedroom.
"When you remember something...anything, whether it's...something about me or some big crazy thing that happened or whatever," he'd told her. "You can write it down on here. And! I bought colored markers!" He'd shaken the box of markers with a hopeful grin.
It had taken a few months but the whiteboard was so filled up with things that were coming back to Sarah that they'd had to flip it and use the other side as well, until there was no room, and subsequently, nothing left for her to remember.
After that the whiteboard was used for other thing, like house hunting. Their dream home, sadly, became less of a dream in light of what Sarah had done to Chuck in it, as well as Quinn's looming presence, and so they'd used it to list their wants and needs, taping photos of places they'd looked at and ranking them from most desirable to least.
After the house came the plans for their new CIA farm, which took up one side, while everything they would need for their newborn baby when she arrived took up the other. After that, it became a doodle board, a teaching tool for homework help, and a way to negotiate family vacations, and now, it held holiday plans.
It was an odd thing to love a whiteboard so much.
Sarah smiled to herself and headed up the stairs and down the hallway to the master bedroom.
This house had become their new dream house after they'd given up on the old one (after Chuck had stolen and replaced that door jam, bringing it home with him. It now hung in their bedroom). It was much bigger, and the only reason they could afford it when they'd bought it was because it had been falling apart.
Chuck had thrown himself into the remodel. He wanted everything about it to be perfect, and he'd succeeded. The basement held a workout room (along with the large, squishy couch that Bryce occupied after coming back from the dead again), The main floor held their kitchen, living room, dining room and a spacious office that both of them used, while the upstairs held four bedrooms, plus a sunroom that held most of their books and comics, and had a balcony with an old telescope Chuck had brought home from a yard sale when Willow was little. The attic was designated the kids hideout, and boasted all their video games and old toys, along with a large blanket tent that had been erected when the kids were still small.
Sarah knew that in a couple of years, when Case went away to college, they'd have to find some other use for that room; go through all of the toys, maybe even take down that tent, but for now, they let it be. Besides, Chuck and Morgan still played video games up there all the time anyways.
She wandered into their bedroom, passing the bed to get to the bathroom for her shower. Even from there she could hear her husband and son singing some wildly silly Christmas song, and she laughed a little.
Willow Bartowski had a sort of sixth sense about her family. It was an eerie talent to be sure. When she knocked on the door she could tell what kind of mood her parents and brother were in by what her knuckles sounded like against the wood. A deep low rap meant all was calm; no need to worry. A higher pitched knock was a sign of tremendous chaos. Someone had blown something up or Case had gotten into trouble again.
Upon opening the gate that lead to the front walk and stepping through the adequately mowed grass she stepped up onto the spacious porch. Her boots made a comforting thumping sound which was a good sign. Had the thump been more of a tap it meant her mother was in a terrible mood.
"How is it going so far?" Jim asked behind her, carrying their bags.
Willow sighed and nodded, looking back at her boyfriend. "Not bad. Mom should be in good spirits."
Jim nodded standing behind her more for protection than anything else. Rumors about the Bartowski clan spread far and wide throughout the intelligence community. All accounts suggested they were good natured but a little kooky and quite a bit dangerous.
Not that Willow didn't count for being dangerous (she was a field agent after all) but the gossip about her mother punching her way through Thailand, earning her the name Giant Blonde Shemale was genuinely worrying. To say nothing of her father bringing down a slew of Russian paratroopers on a CIA team that stood in-between him and his wife.
Each story about the Bartowski's was more outlandish and exciting than the last, and it was easy for Jim to imagine that these were Willow's parents but it didn't make it any less intimidating to meet them.
Jim Marbury wasn't anything special, at least in his own eyes. He worked as an auto engineer and mechanic for MI-6. He was no genius or brave field agent. Just a guy who knew his way around a car. He was of medium height, and medium build, with blonde hair and annoyingly bright blue eyes. His teeth were a little crooked, but in an endearing way (so Willow told him), and his skin was very pale.
Willow, on the other hand, was spectacular. She was tall and beautiful with a wide, bright smile, and big brown eyes. Her hair was curly and dark brown, and very long, and her skin was pale, but Jim knew she tanned instead of burned in the sun. She was a little quiet, but not shy, and she was an incredibly capable agent.
The rumor mill had buzzed incessantly when she'd first arrived in London. About how dangerous she was; about how she'd been trained by the best. Jim had thought nothing of it. So many agents came through MI-6, and all of them had something to boast about, but when he'd met her, Willow hadn't been interested in showing off.
In fact, the first thing she'd said to him was this:
"So do you guys have corndogs in England?"
It had endeared her to him immediately, despite not knowing for the life of him what a corndog was.
She'd been shocked by that, and the next week had returned, though she looked a little crestfallen.
"I tried to make you some corndogs but I burnt them. I only know how to make pie. Do you like pie?"
The week after that, when she'd returned (with a pie), he'd asked her to dinner and the rest was history.
Now they were standing on the front porch of her parents' house, waiting for the door to open. Willow's knuckle's had made that deep rapping sound she'd so been hoping for, and so she smiled and laced her fingers through his.
The door swung open, revealing a very short man, with salt and pepper hair and a matching, bushy beard. His face was a little wrinkled but his blue eyes were lively, and he was wearing a "kiss the cook" apron.
"What's the password?" he asked, his voice oddly gravely and his face in something of an exaggerated scowl.
"The Eagle Flies At Dawn," Willow said, though how she kept a straight face, Jim would never know.
The man's face lit up immediately, and he practically jumped to hug Willow. She giggled and hugged him back tightly.
"Hi, Uncle Morgan."
The older man launched an excited rant as he led her into the house. "How is my most favorite of favoritest nieces? How's England? You look great. Your parents can't wait to see you. We just got here about an hour ago. I can't believe how long it's been! You are gonna make the pies this year, right?"
Jim stood on the porch, ignored, blinking.
It was going to be a long Christmas.
He looked around, until seemingly out of nowhere, Willow's hand grabbed his sleeve, and tugged him inside with her.