Frea's A/N the First: I think most of the puns last chapter were my fault. This chapter, it's quistie's fault. quistie's glorious, glorious fault. Also, the Charah Hater's Club called and let me know I was a traitor. And then they left a bag of flaming dog crap on my front porch. I'm considering actually letting Chuck and Sarah have sex in Fates as my revenge.
quistie's A/N: Yes, this is definitely all my fault. I'm okay with that. And I don't care what anyone says, it was not me that made that anonymous call to the Charah Hater's Club.
Thanks to all who have read, reviewed, alerted, etc. You all are awesome. Also, thanks to the Beta Boys, mxpw and AgentInWaiting for their work. They, too, are awesome.
Chapter 09: The Restaurant at the End of the (Hotel) Universe
Chuck led the way into the hotel's bar and restaurant, which Sarah imagined was probably a nice, white table-clothed dining establishment most of the time. For the convention, however, it had been transformed into some sort of extension of a nerd haven. The table cloths were now bright green plastic, Xeroxed menus rested in silver holders at every table, and the servers all wore nerdy T-shirts. It was also considerably less crowded than the con floor had been. A glance at one of the menus as they passed told her why: the prices were probably out of the wheelhouse of most of the con attendees.
Chuck, who was probably in the same demographic as most of them, however, headed for the bar. He had a crestfallen, defeated look about him. Dave ambled along behind them, ever amiable.
He was a pain in the as—butt, but Sarah had bigger problems.
They took their seats at the bar and the bartender, wearing a bright orange shirt, wandered over. He did the stop-and-stare thing that nerds had been doing to Sarah all day.
Chuck, apparently, was getting good at ignoring that. "I could really use a drink," he told the bartender.
"Sure. Whaddya need?"
"What do you have?"
The bartender, never looking away from Sarah, placed a drink menu in front of him. Chuck took it, glanced at it, and passed it over to Sarah.
Before she could read it, however, the bartender gulped, audibly. "You are the best Seven of Nine I've seen since Jeri Ryan herself," he whispered, reverently.
"Uh, thanks." Sarah glanced at the menu and blinked. These were some of the strangest drink names she'd ever seen. "Uh, I'll have the Goldeneye Martini."
"Harvey Wallbanger," Dave said without looking at the menu.
"Make mine a Sonic Screwdriver," Chuck said.
The bartender began mixing up Sarah's martini first. He kept sneaking furtive peeks at her, which nearly made her roll her eyes, until: "Your drinks are on the house," the barkeep said.
Dave, Chuck, and Sarah blinked at him. "What?" Chuck asked.
"Seven of Nine should never have to pay for a drink in my establishment. You three drink free." And he wandered off to finish mixing the drinks.
Dave's face lit up. "Sweet! Free drinks! See? I told you here was the best place to be." He settled in to study the menu with a renewed vigor.
Sarah ignored him. All this time, she thought, all this time she'd just suspected Ellie's brother of being uptight and nervous. And yes, he'd been cute and funny at dinner the night before, but—really? He'd turned her into a video game character?
And then he'd kissed her?
She really didn't understand Chuck Bartowski at all. Except for right now, she thought. Right now she probably knew him really well: he was staring morosely at his hands, though his eyes kept shifting toward her and very quickly away.
The worst part was that she felt bad. That was strange. She'd had to turn down a lot of dates with eager men who never bothered to look past the surface, and she'd learned to stop feeling bad about it—and how to get around it. Intimidating men was surprisingly easy, actually. But now, she felt bad.
This was a fine mess.
The bartender put her drink in front of her. She made it a point of smiling at him and waiting until he cleared off to go help some other convention-goers down at the other end of the bar. Then she turned to Chuck.
He froze, the Sonic Screwdriver—which looked like just a regular Screwdriver—halfway to his lips. "Ah, yes?"
"Ellie never told me you actually created video games," Sarah said, surprising herself.
He looked flustered for a second, but took a long swallow of his drink. "Uh, it's not video games, really. I just did the one rendering."
"Yes." Chuck flinched.
"Working off, what? That was…highly detailed."
"Oh, it wasn't from memory or anything. I'm not that creepy, I promise. Ellie had your picture set as the profile for you in her phone, so I went in and grabbed it when she left it on the counter one day and—wow, that's just as creepy. I'm sorry." Chuck knocked back the rest of his drink.
"Why'd you use my picture?"
Chuck mumbled something.
"What was that?" Sarah asked.
Dave flipped the menu over, eyes lighting up at the idea of even more free drink possibilities. "He says you're pretty."
Chuck glared at him. "I used the word attractive."
"Besides, it was kind of Ellie's idea," Chuck said, giving his empty glass a forlorn look.
"I needed somebody kickass for the models I was rendering, and I wanted to skip the whole He-man superhero type. Ellie suggested Carina at first."
Sarah actually felt a little offense rise at that—which was ridiculous. Carina was a great agent. They'd worked together for nearly a year. She'd make a good template for a kickass model rendering.
"But Carina's scary," Chuck said. "So Ellie suggested you. And…it fit."
"Because you're pretty," Dave said.
"Shut up, Dave."
"Fine by me," Dave said. "Bartender, a Captain Jack Rose Tyler, if you please!"
Sarah and Chuck stared at the mostly full Harvey Wallbanger—with its very own rabbit ears—in front of Dave. He gave them a "So what?" look, slammed it back, and eagerly held out his hand for his new drink.
Her ability to be Seven of Nine, Sarah realized, was going to give him alcohol poisoning.
"Another Screwdriver?" the bartender asked Chuck, sighing at Sarah's mostly full martini.
"No, I think I'll have a Seven's Seven and Seven," Chuck said.
The bartender brightened considerably. "Excellent choice!"
"Wow," Chuck said after the bartender wandered away again. "He really has a thing for Seven of Nine."
"Yeah, no kidding." Sarah shifted in her seat, uncomfortable at that. This was just awkward, she decided. "So you think I'm kickass, huh?"
"Of course I do." Chuck didn't slam back his drink but instead swirled it, still staring at it. "You're a sp—seriously awesome woman. Ellie told me about some of the things you two faced when you were still living in Burbank. And I'm sorry I kissed you like that. That was wrong."
"Why?" Sarah asked before she really thought about it. "I liked it."
Chuck's shock was interrupted by a high-pitched whine. Both Chuck and Sarah looked over at Dave, the source. Dave abruptly stopped laughing and straightened. "I know, I know. Shut up, Dave. But do you hear that, dude? She likes you!"
Sarah sighed. "Stay," she told Dave.
"What? You're leaving?"
"For a minute. You can still order more drinks."
Dave perked up. "Sold. Barkeep, a Wallace and Gimlet, please!"
Sarah left him to his boozy heaven and grabbed Chuck's elbow, hauling him away from his ersatz student. Chuck looked nervous—not surprising, given that she'd put him in an arm lock not twenty minutes before. But she only pulled him out of earshot of Dave.
"I figure this'll go faster without him here," she said.
Chuck glanced over his shoulder at Dave. "We could just ditch him."
"No, I know his type. He'll just find us."
"Especially if it leads to more free booze," Sarah said.
"True. Wait, you really don't want to kick my as—butt? Seriously?"
"Why would I? You're a good kisser, Chuck."
"I..." Chuck's mouth shut with a gentle snap. "I can think of absolutely nothing to say to that. Absolutely nothing."
"Good." Sarah threw caution to the wind—she was on vacation, and she'd genuinely had fun with Chuck all day and the night before, and why not?—and grabbed the front of Chuck's jumpsuit. She pulled his head down to hers and—
"Ew!" Violet's voice cut through the narrative, making her cousins and Stephen look over at her in confusion. Even Sir raised his head.
"Violet? What is it?"
Sir, seeing that no food had magically appeared during his rest, put his head back down.
Violet, on the other hand, scowled. "They're kissing again, aren't they? Aren't they, Grandpa?"
Stephen adjusted his reading glasses. "Well, yes," he said at length. "But that's what people do in romances. They kiss."
Martie sighed. "I like it."
"Well, Major Casey Sir doesn't," Violet said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Uncle Casey's not here," Megan said, all rationality as she gave her cousin a strange look.
"So I don't think he'd really mind if he's not here, do you?"
"Well..." Violet puzzled over her cousin's statement, a line appearing between her eyebrows as it always did whenever she was deep in thought. "That's a very good point, Megan."
"Thank you, Violet."
Stephen looked from one grandchild to the next. "Well?"
"They can kiss. I'll allow it, but only because Major Casey Sir isn't here," Violet said, the picture of magnanimity itself.
"Thank you, Violet," Stephen said, conveniently hiding his grin behind the book, especially when Megan and Martie gave solemn nods to say that they agreed with their cousin. "Now, where was I? Oh, yes..."
Sarah pulled Chuck's head down to hers and kissed him, a great deal less frantically than earlier, before the strange man with the face tattoos and the red and black uniform had tried to attack Chuck. He seemed surprised, but not displeased.
In fact, when he lifted his head, he was grinning. "Wow," he said.
"Do you know how long I have been dreaming of this moment? Wait, no, that sounds creepy but—wow." Chuck's grin threatened to overwhelm his entire face. Sarah started to laugh at him, but he surprised her by kissing her again, quickly. "Wow."
Her own head felt a little light, and she couldn't be positive her smile was any less brilliant than Chuck's own, but Sarah attempted to give him a droll look anyway. "You're not going to start dancing on the table-tops, are you?" she asked, mock-seriously.
"No promises." His eyes sparkled. "This is the greatest day ever. I feel...Actually, I don't know how I feel, but I feel great. You're so perfect, this is so perfect, this is so great."
"Gee," Sarah said, but she could actually feel an honest blush beginning to spread, "tell me how you really feel."
"Okay," Chuck said, and with no prompting, picked her up, twirling her around.
(To the tune of If I Were a Bell)
Ask me how do I feel
Ask me now that we're nerdy and geeking
Sarah, all I can say is that if I were R2 I'd be beeping.
From the moment we kissed tonight
It was just like I left Yoda's cave
Boy, I feel like a Jedi Knight
And it's Leia that I have to save.
Ask me how do I feel, lanky me with my nerdy upbringing
Well, now all I can say is if I were Vader I'd be scheming
And if I were a droid I'd be popping my springs
Well if I were R2 I'd go beep boop beep boop beep.
Ask me how do I feel from this chemistry lesson I'm learning.
"Uh," Sarah said, holding up a hand to stop him—not in time, as he leaped onto a table. She blinked. "Chemistry?" was all she could ask.
Chuck grinned down at her before he yanked her up on the table with him. "Yes, chemistry," he said, and dropped to one knee to serenade her. On a tabletop.
Sarah, if I were on Alderaan then I would be burning.
I knew like Luke's dad I would crack
From the wonderful way that you looked
If I had the Force I'd talk smack
And if I were a Worrt I'd be cooked.
Tell me how do you feel about wearing a metal bikini?
Well now if you did that then my legs would turn into linguine.
Ask me how do I feel about this whole beautiful thing.
Well, if I were R2 I'd go beep boop beep boop beep.
He spun in a circle on his knees—and made Sarah laugh. That was, until a "Hey!" made both of them look over.
Their bartender stood at the mouth of the bar, giving them both incensed looks.
"Whoops," Chuck said, and hopped off the table. He held a hand up to help Sarah down, but she ignored it and jumped easily to the ground. "Sorry about that, dude. Heat of the moment, you understand. Beep boop—"
The bartender's scowl only intensified. "Who the he—ck do you think you are?" he asked. "Have a little respect!"
Chuck and Sarah exchanged a look. "Erm," Chuck said. Sarah gave him an I don't know what he's talking about either look. "I really am sorry about the table thing. I can pay for any damages and..." Hurriedly, he bent and wiped at the tabletop with the elbow of his jumpsuit. "See? Good as new, sort of."
"I don't give a donkey's—behind about the tabletop, jerk."
"Whoa," Sarah said. "Wait just a second—"
The bartender ignored her. "Have a little respect for the uniform," he told Chuck.
"I'm...I'm sorry, what?"
"You're Captain Jonathan Archer, and you're singing about atrocities like R2-D2?" The bartender's face was now taking on a mottled shade of red that didn't look healthy. "You, sir, do not deserve to wear that uniform until you have a little more respect!"
"I..." Chuck seemed genuinely at a loss for words. "You do know that Star Wars and Star Trek, they're not really...real, don't you? That they're just fiction, right?"
"Just—" The bartender's eyes grew comically wide, and Sarah wondered for a moment if he was going to go into cardiac arrest. "Just fiction? How—how dare you!"
And he plowed his fist right into Chuck's confused face.
Chuck discovered in that moment that being punched in the face was not fun. At all. In fact, it was so un-fun that the second the stars left his vision, he was going to swear off the habit altogether. Right now, however, he was too busy reeling from the sheer amount of pain that exploded across his jaw, all the way to his toes.
Every bit of his high—his wonderful, wonderful high as Sarah Freakin' Walker had kissed him, and had smiled about it—immediately deflated. His eyes began to water. Ow. He took a surprised step back.
Sarah's reflexes were much faster than his. He'd only had time to take that one step before she'd moved—just a blur, really—and the bartender was on the ground, wheezing for breath. Sarah herself firmly in front of Chuck and glaring at their bartender. "What," she said in a voice colder than Siberia, "is your problem?"
It took the bartender a minute to climb to his feet, one hand on his chest. He curled forward a little, too, probably out of pain "Disrespectful fans," he said, glaring at Sarah and then at Chuck. "That's my problem! All day, these posers come in and out of my bar, and finally I meet the perfect Seven of Nine, and she allows some dork to defile his Star Trek uniform and sing her Star Wars love sonnets."
Sarah's glare deepened. "The term," she said, "is nerd."
Chuck Bartowski fell in love on the spot.
"Whatever. I'm not going to allow some Vader-loving loser to sully the good name of Seven of Nine! Even if you don't have anything on Jeri Ryan—"
"Hey!" Chuck surged forward. "Nothing against Jeri Ryan, but watch your mouth!"
"Chuck," Sarah said.
"Insult me all you like, but leave her out of this," Chuck said.
"Really not helping," Sarah said.
Their bartender's scowl deepened. "I think the both of you need to leave."
"Gladly," Chuck said. "And don't think I won't get on Yelp and give this place one star later!"
The bartender rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, like you could actually write a review that people would even listen to. You like Star Wars. Your lot couldn't even punctuate 'I suck' properly."
"I'll have you know, my grammar is impeccable!"
"You know what? We're leaving." Sarah grabbed Chuck's arm and started to pull him away. "And don't think I won't be talking to hotel management about this," she called over her shoulder at the bartender. She hauled Chuck from the bar.
"Can you believe that guy?" he asked the minute they were outside. "What a tool. I can so punctuate a sentence properly."
Sarah rolled her eyes, but she was smiling again. "How's your face?"
"It hurts. Ow. They don't tell you how much getting punched in the face really freaking hurts. Geez." Chuck gingerly touched his jaw.
Sarah pulled his hand away. "Here, I'll help you feel better," she said, and kissed him.
None of his daydreams, real dreams, or even thoughts, Chuck discovered, could live up to the very real sensation of her lips on his. Warmth flooded his chest.
This wasn't heaven. This was something better.
"Does that help?" Sarah asked, smiling at him.
He couldn't remember what it was supposed to help. Not surprising: he couldn't remember his own name. So he just nodded. "I don't know," he heard his voice say. "It might not have worked. Maybe you should try again?"
Sarah laughed. "Maybe in a little while. Right now, I'm hungry, and R2-D2, whoever he is, just got us kicked out of this place's biggest restaurant. What are we going to do now?"
"Snack bar," Chuck said. "Though I have to say, I'm a little disappointed the bartender was such a tool."
They began walking, joining the crowd of nerds once more, their costumes allowing them to blend in. When Sarah reached for his hand, Chuck's heart nearly stopped. He kept it together—good one, Bartowski—by taking a deep breath.
"Why's that?" Sarah asked.
"I got a look at the menu before we were leaving. I was really excited to try the Steak Tar-TARDIS, you know?"
Chuck had to laugh at the confused look. "Yeah," he said. "It sounded really good. Possibly even better than the Fillion Mignon."
"I don't know what that's a pun of," Sarah said, "but I do know it's a pun, so..." She groaned.
Chuck laughed. This day, he decided, was perfect, even if his face hurt.
"Wait a second," Sarah said, stopping in the middle of the aisle.
Chuck nearly groaned. Spoke too soon, his brain told him.
"Probably passed out thanks to all of that free alcohol you got him," Chuck said. "Should we go back and get him? I can sing the Star Wars Gangsta Rap and annoy the bartender some more if you feel up to protecting my face."
"Tempting," Sarah said. "But let's just let him sleep it off."
Megan elbowed Violet and leaned over and whispered, "Poor Dave."
Martie nodded. "He's going to miss out on the snack bar. Poor Dave."
"I'm hungry," was all Violet said to that.
"Guess it's time to take a break," Stephen said. "What would you like to eat?"
"Hm, seems a little implausible. How about some Scooby Snacks instead?"
When that was met with cheers, Stephen set the book aside and ushered his charges off to the kitchen. It was a good a time as any to take a break. When they got back, the real trouble would begin.