~ The Future Bartowskis and the Bartowskis' Future~
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Sarah turns toward Chuck's empty side of the bed and pulls his pillow against her chest. He insisted on getting up and doing breakfast, citing an extra tiring week and their anniversary as the reasons that he should get up, and she should stay in bed.
Today is their beach anniversary. Exactly two years ago today, she went to find herself and ended up at their beach. If someone had told her then about the life she would be living now, she would have thought they were ten rounds short of a full mag. To this day, she has no rational explanation as to why she drove to that beach, except that her heart was looking for Chuck. And he found her.
She hears Chuck's quiet singing as he walks downstairs, and she smiles as she listens for the rest of the morning routine: Dog food tumbles into Sir's bowl. Humming and quiet singing. The refrigerator door opens. The microwave door shuts. More humming as he shuffles across the kitchen. The back door opens to let Sir out. The microwave dings. And the coffee maker gurgles as it sucks up the last of the water from its reservoir.
Sarah gets up and quickly throws on some jeans and a long sleeved tee, then creeps downstairs to watch Chuck. Sir howls to come in. Well, it's not a howl exactly. There's a trill in Sir's howl that makes it sound more like … singing. He doesn't howl, he warbles … or yodels, depending on the occasion.
Once downstairs, she steals down the short hallway to the kitchen, where she stays out of view so she can watch Chuck. It's one of her favorite things to do. Watching Chuck. Two years ago, she watched him every chance she got to try to get to know the man she loved but barely remembered. Now, she watches him just because she loves him. Because he makes her smile.
She watches with pure adoration and the smile he always evokes. Chuck sits at the table, oblivious to the bits of banana in his hair and the smears of cereal and peaches on his face. No wonder we buy so much baby food. Half of it ends up on Chuck.
She thinks back to the night they decided to get pregnant.
Operation Baby Bartowski.
Piece of cake. Or at least that's what she thought. They had been trying for two and a half years not to get pregnant, so it seemed logical that all they would need to do to get pregnant would be to stop trying not to get pregnant. Apparently there's more to it than that. Sarah was expecting to be … expecting. She was expecting to buy an EPT, not another month's supply of feminine products, but things didn't turn out as expected.
Then Carmichael Industries exploded with new clients, and even a few new employees. Two months came and went with no pregnancy. Abby told Sarah that sometimes babies take time. She said it took her and Dave almost a year to conceive. Ellie reminded Sarah that stress is often a factor, "Not that I'm implying your life has been stressful, Sarah." Both women chuckled. "It'll happen. In the mean time, relax and just … enjoy each other. Give it a year before you worry. We can talk about it more at Thanksgiving, when you and Chuck come to visit."
So, that's what they did. They dove into their cases, enjoyed each other … thoroughly, and stopped expecting anything. They resigned themselves to the fact that Operation Baby Bartowski was not to be rushed.
Sir yips and wags his whole body in delight at their morning ritual. It's his happy dance. He is quite zealous in his self-appointed duties as meal monitor and floor cleaner.
Getting pregnant snuck up on her, partly because of their exhausting schedule and partly because she had accepted that it was going take a while.
They left home at the crack of ridiculous to catch a 6:00 flight to Chicago. The flight bounced them safely from LAX to O'Hare for a noon arrival, the day before Thanksgiving. Ellie hugged them both, then took a good look at her sister-in-law. "Sarah. You don't look so good. Are you feeling okay?"
"No. But I'm sure I'll be fine, once my stomach gets the memo that we landed. That was the roughest flight I have ever been on. There was turbulence practically the whole way, but the Dramamine should kick in soon."
Devon took Sarah's bag. "Okay. We can chat in the car. I bet you guys are tired. We have the guest room all set up."
"I can't wait for you to see the house," Ellie said with boundless enthusiasm. Where did she get the energy? "And Clara is talking … finally. We've been showing her pictures from Labor Day, and she can't wait to see Uncle Tuck and Aunt Sawah."
The house was fantastic: a beautifully restored two-story, with a nice back yard. The guest room in particular was calling Sarah's name. After a month of non-stop cases, the early flight, and the turbulence, she felt beat. And when was that Dramamine going to kick in? She wanted nothing more than to curl up on the bed and sleep until Christmas. But that would leave Ellie to get ready for Thanksgiving by herself, so after a power nap, she pried herself off the bed and went to the kitchen to help Ellie with T-day preparations. Sarah sliced and diced, and Ellie put the pies in to bake. All was well until the giblets and broth began to boil … and Sarah's stomach started to rebel. "So, Ellie, do you want me to set the table and get it all ready for tomorrow?" Anything to get out of the kitchen.
"Oh, good idea, Sarah, thanks. You know as many times as I've done this I always feel like I'm forgetting something." Ellie looked up at Sarah and raised an eyebrow. She pointed to a dish on the counter. "Have a peppermint, Sarah. It'll help settle your stomach."
Sarah's eyes widened. "How did you … "
"I'm a doctor, remember? … The table can wait until tomorrow. Why don't you go unpack, and I'll call you when the guys get back with the pizza."
"Thank you, Ellie. That sounds great."
After dining on Chicago's famous pizza, Sarah went to bed early, completely exhausted, and slept until three in the morning, Burbank time. Chuck was spooned behind her. With a deep sigh of contentment, she tightened his arm around her, snuggled closer, and drifted back to sleep. Two hours later, she woke again feeling much more than contentment. Chuck nuzzled her neck and planted an innocent kiss on the slope of her neck, igniting unexpected and rather intense desire. "How are you feeling?" he whispered.
She swallowed a moan. "Like if you stop what you're doing, I may have to hurt you."
So he didn't stop, until they lay cuddled together, spent and content. Chuck wrapped his arms around her. "Where did all that come from, so early in the morning? Not that I'm complaining, because I'm definitely not."
"Mmm." She kissed his neck. "You started it."
"Now, I wish I'd paid more attention to what I did." He kissed the top of her head and drew circles on her back."
"I love you, Chuck." She felt him smile. "With or without a baby, you make me happy."
"Me too, Sarah. But Baby Bartowski will come along in his, or her, own time. You'll see."
The next time she woke up, it was to kitchen sounds and the smells of Thanksgiving: turkey roasting, soup heating, dressing and casseroles baking, and … ohhh … that famous Chicago pizza must not have agreed with her.
After a long shower, she felt much better and breezed into the kitchen. "Morning, Ellie ..." The heat and smell of turkey slammed into her like a bus. "What can I do to help?" she asked, trying to hide the wave of nausia rolling through her.
"Good morning." Ellie studied her for a moment and smiled. "Well, setting the table would be"—she paused mid sentence—"or better yet, would you mind going out and sending Devon in?" Sarah brightened. "I need him in here, if you wouldn't mind taking his place playing with Clara for a little bit outside. With these warmer days, we like to give her some outdoor time."
"Sure. I can do that. I would enjoy it, actually."
"If you want, you can even walk to the neighborhood park."
Sarah grabbed her jacket and went out the back door, grateful for the cool, fresh air—still clueless as to the cause of her malaise.
Playing with Clara in the fresh air relieved her queasiness and gave her the appetite of a bear getting ready to hibernate.
It was a wonderful Bartowski/Woodcomb Thanksgiving, albeit the smallest in recent memory—and she remembered all five of them. Chuck rarely had to retell stories any more or explain references. After remembering ground zero, her memories just seemed to be there when she needed them, or whenever something triggered them. The four of them ate and talked about past holidays. She and Devon listened to Chuck and Ellie's funny holiday stories, especially Ellie's first turkey after their mom left. They laughed and ate until they couldn't move. Sarah stopped after generous second helpings of everything … but only because she couldn't figure out how to discreetly go back for thirds.
After dinner, Sarah helped Ellie clear the table and started loading the dishwasher. Ellie stopped her. "Sarah, go relax for a while. Devon and I will clean this up, and then we can all have dessert."
"I'm fine, Ellie. I slept almost twelve hours last night."
"I know. But a kitchen full of dirty dishes and congealing food is not a fun place for a pregnant woman."
Sarah's head snapped toward Ellie, and her eyes widened.
"Sarah,"—Ellie smiled—"I'll eat Clara's blanket, if you're not pregnant."
A small smile tugged at Sarah's lips. "Really?"
"Well, you'll have to test at the right time, but that's both my professional and female opinion."
Sarah's smile went nuclear. Then it faded. "Just don't tell Chuck. He'll buy every EPT in a twenty mile radius."
"Oh. I'm sure." The two women laughed. "No. I'll leave that to you."
Chuck's helicopter sounds and Breanna's squeals of delight pull her from her reverie.
She never gets tired of watching him smile and laugh through meal time. The father's love in his eyes makes a new kind of warmth bloom in her chest. Chuck never rushes. He makes every mouthful a game and each touch a gesture of love, just as he has from the very beginning.
Sure enough. November rolled into December, and it was time to think about EPTs.
Chuck shuffled into the kitchen, and looked at her with his sleepy smile. "Morning."
How anybody could look so sleepy and so sexy at the same time, she didn't know. She was tempted to have her way with him right there in the kitchen. Or maybe the couch. Pregnancy did wonders for her libido. But she couldn't contain her secret any longer. "I think I'm pregnant."
Chuck's sleepy face vanished, replaced by confusion, then understanding. "Sarah. Oh. That's—how do you—when did you—are you sure?"
She couldn't not laugh at him. "Well, I won't know without testing, but I think …"
"Okay then. Let's go. Oh, wait. You need to eat. Have you eaten?" He put his hands on her shoulders and searched her eyes. "Do you feel okay? Any morning sickness?"
She smiled. "I've eaten. I feel okay … except when I don't, and I've been experiencing morning sickness since the flight to Chicago." She stood on tiptoe and kissed him. "And, I think we have time for you to eat your breakfast and put some clothes on, before we raid the nearest store for an EPT."
They filled the cart with the other things on their list and headed to the drug aisle. Sarah detoured to pick up a loaf of bread, and when she caught up with Chuck, he had placed four EPTs in the cart. She looked at him and put three back on the shelf. He put two back in the cart. She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. He gave her a sheepish grin and put one back on the shelf. On the way to the car, Chuck handed Sarah a bottle of water—"drink up"—and gave her a big grin. She narrowed her eyes, but humored him and drank the water.
After putting the groceries away, they grabbed an EPT and headed to the bathroom. They followed the instructions and waited … and waited.
A blue plus sign. Definitely pregnant.
They blinked at the stick, and stared at each other. Chuck looked as shocked as she felt. She wanted this, but still. She was pregnant. Help. Then she saw his smile. Happiness won out over worry, and she couldn't help smiling. They were going to have a baby.
Chuck was always attentive, but after that, he was attentive on steroids. He watched her constantly, both openly and secretly. He always seemed to know what she wanted and bent over backwards to makes sure she had it.
Besides his hyperactive sweet side, his nerdy side went into overdrive. He became the Intersect on all things baby. Honestly, Chuck had more information than Google and could tell her anything she wanted to know … and a lot she didn't. After she convinced him that she didn't need to know everything he did, peace was restored to her world.
Every night he massaged her feet and rubbed her back. Every night he would snuggle close and fall asleep with his hand resting over their baby. His love for her was coupled with his love for their child, and all of it was focused on her. It was endearing and sweet ... and a wee bit overwhelming.
This time, a locomotive chugs through the air and delivers a spoon full of peaches into Liam's open mouth.
Breanna Kate and Liam Stephen. The Bartowski two-for-one special.
Bre has honey brown hair, and her eyes are beginning to turn a sort of brownish hazel, like Chuck's. Liam is a little towhead with his mother's blue eyes.
She can't imagine life without them, but oh, the shock when they found out they were expecting two babies, instead of one!
The doctor looked at them with a bright smile and said, "Congratulations. You're going to have a little girl."
They looked at each other, breathed a happy sigh, and smiled.
"And a little boy."
Their heads snapped back toward the doctor. "What?" they said in unified shock.
"You're expecting twins."
Twins. As in two. Whatever else the doctor said was just noise.
Of course, Chuck recovered quickly, and by the time they got to the car, his enthusiasm was radioactive. Did he not hear the same thing she did? His mouth was moving. She should say something. "Hmm?"
"Sarah, Honey, say something. You're scaring me."
"Yeah." His grin would have powered New York for a week.
"Chuck, that means there's two of them."
"Yeeeahh." He furrowed his brow.
Sarah opened her mouth and closed it. "It's just that, as much as I want children, and I really do, I was thinking, um, you know, one at a time. Having a baby and becoming a mother is kind of scary … but now there are two babies."—her eyes began to water—"I don't even know if I'll be a good mother to one baby, let alone two."
"Sarah. You're spiraling." He pulled her close, kissed her forehead, and held her. "You'll be a wonderful mother. I promise."
She tightened her arms around him. "How do you know?" she murmured into his shirt.
"Because you have a kind and good heart that's full of so much love. You always have, Sarah. You're smart and forgiving and patient. You had lots of practice on me, remember?" She smiled. "And ... you're their mama lioness protector."
She laughed. "And pregnant ninja. Which sounds so wrong." Her mood lightened.
"Oh, but it is soo sexy." That earned him a raised eyebrow. "You're mypregnant ninja, and I say it's really … hot."
She looked at him with a half smile.
"And besides … you're not doing this alone. There are two of them and two of us. That makes it even, right?"
The skeptical eyebrow rose again, but her tension was gone.
"Just be glad I put back the third EPT."
Her jaw dropped, and she couldn't help laughing with him. "Thank you."
"For putting back the third EPT?"
"Well, yes, that"—she rolled her eyes—"but mostly for making me laugh. For making the impossible seem doable." She kissed him. "I love you."
"I love you, too." He looked at her growing form. "Or should I say. I love you, three."
Sarah's face began to crumple.
"Okay, not the most sensitive thing to say. Too early for twin jokes. Ice cream. How about ice cream? Rocky road. … It's your favorite." He gave her a hopeful smile.
Her half smile returned. "Can we make it a double?"
He coughed to hide his smile. "Twin scoops?" He looked her way—no tears. "Okay. I think we can do this."
Chuck puts sippy cups of juice on Bre and Liam's high chairs and takes his own glass of juice. They take their cups in their little hands, and Chuck holds his glass toward them. "Cheers?" The twins hold their cups out in front of them. Chuck counts, "Ready. Here we go. One, two, three … drink." They all drink some juice and set their cups down.
LnD: Labor and Delivery
Sarah waddled to their CI dining table and eased into a chair, her back hurting worse than usual. Casey, Morgan and Alex arrived with everybody's late lunch/early supper, take-out from their various favorite places on the mall. Chuck was in the kitchen getting their drinks.
Sarah stood up to help … and sat right back down, breathless with a cramp.
"What's the matter, Walker?" Casey was at her side in two strides, looking at his watch.
"Nothing." She grimaced.
"Then why are you making that face?" Casey set his sack on the table and studied his former partner.
By then Chuck was beside her, one hand on her shoulder and one hand on the babies. Sarah straightened up and blew out a few breaths. "It was just a cramp."
"Sarah, Honey, is that the first one." Chuck rubbed her tummy.
"Yeah, but I'm okay, now."
"What about your back pains?" Casey asked.
Sarah gaped at him.
"Sarah, why didn't you tell me?" Chuck sat down facing her and held out his hand.
She shrugged. "Until now, I honestly didn't think much of it. Back pain has just been part of the package. You learn to ignore it." She put her hand in his and gave him a small smile.
"Any other little cramps you've ignored today, Sarah?" Casey asked casually, as he unpacked his lunch and handed Alex her sandwich.
"I don't know," she said, "I guess. Maybe. But they weren't bad."
Chuck's eyebrows shot up.
"Like I said discomfort has been my norm for a while now. It's probably just a Braxton Hicks. I'm not due until August fifth or twelfth, which is a week or two away."
"Yeah, but Honey, twins can be early."
"Well, we'll know soon enough, won't we. Now, can we please eat and find something else to talk about?" she said, her voice crescendoing in agitation.
"Sure, sure. Of course. How about baseball?" Chuck said, trying to cooperate. "Who's going to make it to the playoffs this year: the Chicago White Sox or the Minnesota …" Everybody glared at him. "Why don't we just eat."
"I think eating is a great idea. I know I'm starving." Morgan set two containers in front of Sarah. "Sarah, you had a bowl of chili with a tamale and sweet and sour chicken with fried rice." He dug in another sack and placed one more container at her elbow. "Annnd … cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate. Perfect."
Chuck's eyes went wide at Sarah's meal choice, but he wisely said nothing.
"Thank you, Morgan." She smiled at her friend, who had been her wing man when it came to her cravings. When no one else was looking, he would bring her any weird combination she wanted.
"You're welcome. You're eating for three. So what, if one likes Mexican, and one likes Chinese."
"Oh, so, you're blaming the twins?" Chuck's tone was mock serious, but his eyes shown with humor. "And which one is the cheesecake for?"
"The cheesecake, Chuck, is all mine. And if you mind your own business and eat your burger, I might be in the mood to share," she teased with a sweet smile and affection.
Sarah polished off the Mexican half of her lunch and hid a grimace. Chuck swallowed, but didn't say anything. Alex nudged her dad. Casey looked at his watch. Half way through the sweet and sour chicken, there was another grimace. Two bites into her cheesecake, Sarah had to stop to let the pain pass. Chuck put a hand over the twins, and his eyebrows shot up.
"That's it Walker. Your cramps are five minutes apart."
"Sarah, Baby, that was a contraction. Was that like the cramps you've been feeling?"
She blew out a breath. "Yes, but that one was worse."
"Come on"—he helped his wife up —"I'm taking us to the hospital."
"I'll drive," Casey offered.
"We'll clean up and let everybody know that Breanna and Liam are on the runway," Alex said, as she and Morgan walked out with them.
As labor goes, hers went fairly quickly, or so everyone assured her. Easy for them to say. And there was no shortage of opinions. Having twins is different from having just one baby, for more than the obvious reasons. As Sarah's labor progressed, she was wheeled in to an OR, just in case there were complications or in case a C-section would be needed. There weren't, and it wasn't. But it was one big plus-one party, anyway—just in case: two nurses, each with a plus-one; the ob-gyn with her plus-one (another ob-gyn); and an anesthesiologist with his plus-one (a pediatrician).
Chuck was Sarah's plus-one, and he kept her sane and focused in the middle of all the birthing bedlam. Typically loving and atypically calm, he helped her focus on him and their babies and forget all the lights and machines and voices. He made the impossible possible. Five hours—and much blood, sweat, and tears and panting and pushing—later, at 12:05 a.m. on July 30, 2013, Breanna Kate Bartowski debuted with great gusts of lung power. Sarah looked up from her next contraction and saw Chuck holding Breanna. The look on his face took her breath away … or would have, if she'd had any breath left to take. Then he looked at her with a smile that melted her heart and fueled her last push. At 12:13, Liam Stephen Bartowski drew his first breath and belted out his first cry. Soon nurse #3 put Liam in her arms. Chuck sat on the edge of the bed, transferred Bre to Sarah, and wrapped his arms around his family. Sarah cuddled her babies and leaned into Chuck, smiling and completely oblivious to the tears rolling down her cheeks. All of the postpartum flurry faded to white noise. It was just the four of them.
Once they were back in their room, the Bartowski contingent poked their heads in one by one to take a quick peek at the twins, promising to return in the morning.
As promised, the next morning, Emma, Molly, Mary, Morgan, Alex, and Casey all showed up with coffee, juice, and bagels for breakfast with the Bartowskis: all four of them. The grandmas took turns holding each twin and Casey gave his approval with a gentle grunt. Morgan set up a laptop at the foot of the bed to stream the party to Ellie and Devon. Ellie squeed, and Devon pronounced the twins and the whole party awesome. And so it was.
She looks at her family, and her eyes slide to the door frame, which now bears 6 marks, besides the original Sarah + Chuck: birth, three months, and six months for each baby. She never passes that doorway without smiling at one memory or another.
First Month Home
No sooner had they walked in the door from the hospital, than Chuck headed over to the door frame to etch the twins' heights for posterity. He held Bre against the door frame and furrowed his brow. Uncle Morgan set Liam's carrier down, complete with a peacefully sleeping Liam, and walked to the kitchen, returning with a yard stick. "I know I'm not the dad around here, but, ah, wouldn't it be easier to measure her on the floor and then mark the door frame?"
Chuck looked from Morgan to Bre to the door and back to Morgan. "Oh. Right. Good idea."
"Or you could take it from the cards the hospital gave you," Alex suggested.
Morgan and Chuck looked at her as if she had suggested liver tacos for breakfast.
"Hold on," Sarah said, turning gingerly toward the stairs. "She's not going to grow appreciably in the next two minutes."
"What do you need, Sarah? I'll get it." Alex placed a hand on her arm.
"Oh, thanks. I was going to get the changing mat to put under them for the, ah ... measuring ceremony." Sarah and Alex exchanged an amused look.
"Got it." Alex dashed up the steps.
Measured, fed, diapered, and burped, the twins fell asleep. Chuck and Sarah laid them gently in their crib, then fell across their own bed and conked out. Bringing children into the world was exhausting. Their nap ended prematurely with a squalling duet from the crib.
Chuck stood at the crib, looking back and forth between the two unhappy newborns. "Sarah, there's two of them." He was wearing his panic face. He picked up a fussy Liam, while Sarah picked up a hollering Bre, both in need of a change.
"Mm-hmm. I thought you said that makes it even," Sarah cooed as she held her daughter close and reached for a diaper. Bre got quiet and knit her little brow, concentrating on her mother's face. Annnnd … her diaper got a little warmer.
"Yeah, but that was before I understood the baby ratio: that one baby outnumbers any adult three to one." Liam snuggled into Chuck, stopped crying, and tried to put his fist in his mouth. "Isn't that right Little Man?" Chuck spoke softly. He kissed his son's fuzzy head and laid him down to change him.
"Ah, Chuck, you might want to cover him with a diaper while you …" Too late. Liam's stream, hit Chuck's neck and left a wet trail down the front of his shirt, inside and out.
Chuck looked from his shirt to Liam's angelic face to Sarah. "You were saying?" he deadpanned. Sarah handed him a wipe and turned to her own task to hide her smile. From then on, at changing time, Chuck lovingly referred to his babies as Lord Geyser and Ladypoo.
One memory pulls another, and Sarah finds herself unconsciously smiling at all of them:
Whoever coined the phrase sleep like a baby was woefully uninformed, not likely female, and definitely not a parent. Sarah was thinking maybe a monk … at a silent monastery.
After two weeks of twice the feedings, two times the spit-up, and double the diapers on half the sleep, they decided to accept the two grandmas' offer of help. For two weeks Mary and Emma handled the housework, the meals, and the twins. At first Sarah wondered how it would work, but by the end of the two weeks, the two very different women had bonded over their children and grandchildren.
By Labor Day, the twins were five weeks old and sleeping five hours during the night—sometimes even the same five hours. It was a welcome change from the sleepless nights of the first two weeks. Sarah relished the longer sleep and the absolute bliss of spooning behind her husband without a mound of babies in the way.
The entire Bartowski Clan descended on Casa Bartowski for their second annual Labor Day cookout: Ellie and Awesome and Clara had come a week early. Both grandmas and Molly were there. Morgan and Alex, the newly weds of the group, brought their usual supply of games, and Casey convinced Gertrude to come. To Chuck and Sarah's surprise, even Carina and Zondra showed up to meet their godchildren.
With everybody pitching in, Chuck and Sarah had more help than Downton Abby. Ellie, Emma, and Mary shooed them out of the kitchen, and they didn't dare interfere with Carina, Zondra, and Gertrude, who were laying out the food, just like laying out gear for a mission. They started to head over to the grill, but stopped short, spellbound by the scene at the other end of the deck.
Casey stood there is his honorary grandpa apron, keeping one eye on the grill and the other on the twins, who were napping in their stroller, with a doting Aunt Molly at the helm. When Casey thought no one was watching he would drop a bite of hotdog for his namesake, who had settled himself between the grill and the twins.
As Sarah looked around, she realized that Chuck had been right that first day on the beach. Their life together only kept getting better.
Chuck knows she's there. He usually does, but he always allows her the pleasure of watching them. He wipes Bre's face, and she holds out her hands for him to wipe. Liam, on the other hand, is hanging over the arm of his high chair sharing his biscuit with a grateful Aussie.
"Sirrrr …" Sarah warns as she approaches the foursome. Sir bounds over to Sarah and does an abbreviated happy dance, then lies down in mock contrition. She gives him some attention and then smiles at her family. "Good morning." Liam and Bre's little faces light up and they stretch their arms toward their mama. Chuck gets most of the goo off Liam's hands, then kisses his wife. Sarah picks up Bre, and Chuck puts Liam in her other arm. She hugs and kisses each one. "Mm, I love you … and I love you. Did Daddy give you a good breakfast, hmm?" Two hands go to her hair and two to her face. She puts her head down and Liam and Bre pull their faces to hers. It's their routine, and it never ceases to fill her heart with a joy she can't describe.
After breakfast Chuck and Sarah finish their coffee on the couch and enjoy their family. The twins play on the floor and Sir is where he is happiest—right in the middle of everybody. Sarah wondered how Sir would adjust to the twins, but he instinctively adopted them as his family ... to herd and protect. He is amazingly patient with them, and when he's had enough, he asks to go out or seeks refuge with Sarah or Chuck.
At this age, Liam and Bre are crawling everywhere and pulling up on everything: Chuck and Sarah, the furniture, Sir … each other. The latter is a hilarious routine, in which each twin pulls up on the other, resulting in the other one falling down. The cycle almost always ends with neither twin standing.
Today the Bartowskis abandon their morning routine of getting everybody ready to go to work. It's time to get ready, all right ... but not for work. Today is the first Bartowski ...
After the final flurry of preparations,Chuck and Sarah are ready to load up the Herder for their anniversary trip. Named after Chuck's old car, the new Bartowski Herder is a dark, metalic-blue SUV that holds two big Bartowskis, two little Bartowskis, two car seats, one Australian Shepherd, and all their respective baggage, toys, and gear. It has a moon roof, an onboard computer that would make NASA drool, and all the coolest CI modified gadgets. It is the ultimate spy car … minus the missile launcher and self-destruct options. Go figure.
Sarah puts a blanket on the ground. Chuck puts the twins on the blanket, and Sir will keep them there. Liam hits the ground crawling. He gets to the edge of the blanket, and Sir blocks his path. Instead of changing course, Liam pulls up on Sir and turns toward Chuck and Sarah, one hand still clutching a fistful of Sir fur, the other flailing for balance. Sarah nudges her husband. "Chuck, look." Sir takes a step toward the middle of the blanket, and Liam moves with him. Sir walks Liam three more steps, before Liam drops to all fours and crawls toward his sister, eyeing her stack of blocks.
"Alrighty then." Chuck puts the last bag in the Herder. "Let's lock and load."
Sarah laughs at the radical change in the meaning of that phrase.
Chuck goes down the check list: "Car packed, dog settled, car seats locked in place and loaded with babies, adults buckled in."
Sarah gives the go ahead, "Operation Bartowski Road Trip is a go."
"You ready for this Sarah?" Chuck is as excited as Sir, who has already panted a thick circle of fog on his window.
"It is kind of exciting. Our first road trip as a family."
"And a little weird."
"Yeah. But in a good way." She reaches across the car, fists her right hand in his shirt and pulls him into a power kiss, then whispers, "What I'm really looking forward to"—she nips his ear lobe—"are four nights alone with you," and settles back into her seat with an innocent look on her face.
Chuck gulps. "Oh, yeahh. Abby's plan is genius. We get Bre and Liam in the day time, and they take them at night." He bobs his eyebrows. "Family vacation by day … honeymoon by night."
Their anniversary road trip begins where everything seems to begin for them ... at their beach. After the Bartowski version of a tailgate party, meaning snacks and bottles and diapers, Chuck and Sarah each strap on a baby carrier and load it with a baby. They walk down to the water's edge and stroll hand in hand along the shore. Sarah thinks back to that day two years ago and how lost she felt. The comfort of her fingers laced with Chuck's and Liam's happy babbling fill her with awe. The thought of all she has with Chuck amazes her. The thought of all she would have lost, if Chuck hadn't found her ... terrifies her. Today, when she looks out at the sea, Chuck's words—not Graham's—come to her on every wave. Grow old with me, Sarah. The best is yet to be.
"Chuck,"—she tugs on his hand and looks at him—"I love you." She fingers Bre's little hand. "I love our life and our babies. Sometimes it overwhelms me ..." She looks at the horizon.
"What does, Sarah?" He puts his hand on her shoulder.
"How strong the love is. … How happy I am."
"Me, too, Sarah." He cups her cheek. "You … and Bre and Liam are everything to me. I'd be hopelessly lost without you." Then he lightens her mood. "And who'd a thought, right? I bet two years ago, you didn't think we'd be here today, with twins strapped to our chests, did you?"
"No." She shakes her head and kisses the top of Liam's head. "Two years ago, not only did I never expect this, I never expected to get my life back, and I wasn't even sure what that meant."
Chuck cranes his head around two little heads to kiss his wife, who reaches around the babies and grabs the sides of his shirt and deepens the kiss. Sarah remembers their fourth first kiss and would gladly reprise it, if not for the squirming mass between them. Sir nudges their legs, then sits and warbles as they kiss. They break apart laughing and squat down to pet their operatic dog. "Sarah! If I had known you wanted to bend the public decency laws, I would have strapped the twins on our backs instead of our fronts."
She looks at him through hooded eyes. "Wait until I get you in private, Chuck. I plan to do a lot more than bend them."
He gulps. "Well, then, I may have to bend a few speed limits."
After a beautiful drive, extended by numerous tailgate parties along the way, Sarah turns into the Sandersen ranch and drives under the canopy of trees toward the main house. "Chuck, it's so beautiful here … peaceful."
"And just what we need?"
"Yeah." She huffs out a small chuckle.
"It's going to be great."
Abby and Dave come out to greet them. Abby's jeans and boots accentuate her tall, slender frame, and the afternoon sun brings out the copper in her auburn hair. Dave is taller than Chuck by a couple of inches, with a similar build, hazel eyes, and unruly sandy hair. Sir bounds out of the car and runs circles around it. He stops in front of Abby, wagging his whole body. "Hello, Sir." Abby puts her hand out palm down, and Sir sits. "Good boy." She reaches down to him palm up, and Sir puts a paw in her hand. Abby laughs. "You've trained him well, Sarah. He's a good dog." She kneels down and gives him lots of attention. "You can have fun herding a few sheep this week, can't you, Sir?" Sir yips and bounds off to greet everyone and oversee the unpacking of the Herder. Sarah pulls Liam out of his car seat, and Chuck gets Bre.
"Man. These little ones have really grown," Dave says, walking toward Chuck and Bre.
Abby smiles at Liam and speaks in a calm voice, "Hi, Liam." Liam eyes Abby for just a beat, then reaches out to her. She takes him from Sarah. "You are a handsome fellow, you know that? Mm-hmm, and you have your mother's eyes." Liam works his little hand into Abby's hair and makes a grab for her nose, but she intercepts it. She makes silly faces at Liam, which he reciprocates with smiles and baby laughter.
Bre is equally taken with Dave. She squeals and smiles as he jiggles her high in the air and grabs his ears when he rubs heads with her. Dave passes Bre off to Sarah, so he and Chuck and the thirteen-year-old Sandersen twins can unload the car.
"Abby, this was a really generous offer. Are you sure you're up for the invasion?" Spies may travel light, but spies with twin babies do not.
"Are you kidding? We've been looking forward to it all week. Dave had a blast setting up the crib, hanging a new mobile over it, and attaching toys to the rail. He cleaned up the double bike trailer and the bikes, and the boys childproofed the house. I hardly had to do anything, except a little shopping."
"Wow. I'm impressed."
"It's a fun outlet for him. He gets tired of board meetings and stuffed corporate shirts. Underneath the suit, he's just a big kid. When the boys were little, he always had as much fun with their toys as they did. He's like Chuck in that regard."
Sarah laughs. She watches Dave show off the bike trailer to a fascinated Chuck, two big kids, indeed. Chuck looks over at Sarah and points to the trailer, flashing her a huge grin and two thumbs up."
"Yeah. They are a pair, aren't they." Sarah returns Chuck's smile and waves. "Look Bre, there's Daddy." Bre looks over at Chuck, and soon Bre and Liam are both reaching toward Chuck.
After unpacking, Sarah finds Abby in the kitchen. "What can I do to help?"
"I saved all the chopping for you. Unlike you, I am not good with knives. The boys wanted to do a build-your-own-whatever Mexican night. So I thought we'd do a salad and ingredients for tacos, nachos, burritos … whatever. If that's okay."
"Sounds perfect." More taco nights and fewer evil cabals. Sarah sighs and opens the fridge to get the ingredients. "You don't know how much I've looked forward to this."
"Oh, I may have a pretty good idea." Abby gives Sarah a knowing smile. "I still remember what it was like when Lane and Logan were that age. Your babies consume your time, your attention, all of your energy ... and then some. I remember wishing I could have a few hours alone with my husband and have enough energy, all at the same time, to enjoy … things."
Sarah raises an eyebrow. "What did you do about it?"
"My favorite aunt gave us a weekend like this. It was just what we needed to find us again. Then, we discovered the strategic use of baby sitters." Abby pins Sarah with a raised eyebrow of her own.
Sarah turns back to her chopping.
"I'm not assuming anything, Sarah, I just figured a little rest and romance couldn't hurt, at this point."
Sarah looks at her friend and speaks quietly, "No, you got it about right. So, I guess that means I'm normal?"
"Well, I don't know about that."
Sarah's eyebrows shoot up.
"You're pretty amazing, Sarah. You and Chuck are a walking miracle in my book, after all you've been through. Cut yourself some slack and just enjoy the weekend, hmm?"
"Okay." Sarah smiles and takes the advice to heart. "I will."
The main house is built on a long curve with a wall of windows on the west side overlooking a pasture that slopes down to the ocean. That's their view as they build their tacos and nachos ... something Chuck and the big twins turn into a lively competition.
Chuck and Sarah put Liam and Bre to sleep in a small room across from Dave and Abby's room. Abby listens patiently to Sarah's instructions, and then gives Sarah some instructions: Go. Enjoy your night with your husband. Don't come back for at least twelve hours.
The guest house is charming, decorated in modern/rustic, with an open floor plan and lots of natural light. It has a small kitchen and a spacious living room with a gas fire place shared with the master bedroom. Sarah walks into the living room and stops. The room is filled with soft music and the scent of gardenias. There's a low fire in the fireplace and a bottle of champagne chilling on the coffee table. "Chuck, this is beautiful and so … romantic. I don't know what to say."
He circles his arms around her waist. "Say you'll enjoy this family honeymoon—which sounds weird, I know—with your handsome husband and lucky father of your adorable children." His eyes radiate a love that warms her heart and quickens her pulse.
She crosses her arms behind his neck—"It's all I've been able to think about, Mr Bartowski."—and kisses him.
After a glass of champagne, Chuck starts a slow, thorough massage of her neck and shoulders. All tension evaporates. Worries drain away. "Ohh, this is better than ss ..." He kisses her neck. "sex."
"Ooo, Mrs Bartowski. I am going to prove you so wrong." He catches her ear lobe between his lips.
"Give it your best shot, Chuck." She tilts her head back, and he plants slow, deliberate kisses down the slope of her neck and along her color bone. She turns, and he captures her lips in a slow kiss that arouses and consumes. She loves it when he proves her wrong. It's an exquisite proof that begins on the couch and continues in the bedroom, at the end of a trail of clothing.
Cocooned in a blissful haze and Chuck's embrace, Sarah drifts deeper into the peaceful fog of perfect sleep. Unbidden, thoughts of two tiny Bartowskis invade her mind. "Chuck?"
"Do you think they're okay?"
"They who, Baby?"
She tugs lightly on his chest hair.
"Ow. Sarah, I'm only kidding. And, yes, I think they're okay. Better than okay."
She sighs. "You're right."
"If it makes you feel any better, though, I put a baby monitor in the room," he says in an appeasing tone of voice.
She raises her head and looks at him. "You did?"
"I did. I was pretty sure they'd be fine, but I thought you might not be, at least not without a way to check on them."
"I'm sorry. It's just that ..."
"I know. Sarah, it's fine. I'd expect nothing less from our mama lioness protector." He kisses her forehead. "Open the baby app on your phone, then close your eyes." Chuck trails his fingers up and down her back.
With her phone monitoring her babies, she snuggles back into Chuck. "You're the best husband and dad in the world. … Love you."
The next thing she hears is Liam's small whimper, soon followed by Bre's louder protest. She sits up. Chuck pulls her back down, spoons behind her, and wraps his arm around her. "Just listen. You don't have to get up, remember?"
"Maybe." She relaxes back into him. Moments later, grown up voices coo words of comfort, and Bre and Liam stop crying and start cooing back at Abby and Dave. Sarah listens to the quiet exchange as Abby hums, and Bre and Liam drink their bottles. When she hears their breathing even out into sleep, she turns off her phone, and drifts into a deep sleep.
Around nine o'clock, Sarah walks into the the kitchen in the main house. "Good morning."
"Morning." Abby closes the refrigerator door and appraises her friend. "I don't even need to ask how you slept. You look thoroughly … rested."
"Good." Abby smiles. "Your twins conked out again after breakfast. I imagine the trip and new sights and extra people tuckered them out."
"I'm not surprised. Yesterday was a full day for them. What can I do to help?"
"I think the boys are going to ask Chuck to fix pancakes. I thought we'd whip up some omelets."
"Look who's awake." Dave walks in with an armload of twins.
Sarah's face lights up, reflecting the joy on the two little faces."Good morning," she coos.
"I take it you're addressing the babies." Dave deadpans. "Here, Sarah, I'll swap. You take the twins, and I'll help Abby with the omelets."
"Deal." Sarah takes her babies to the couch and holds them, makes silly faces with them, talks to them. They climb up on her and burrow their heads in her neck, babbling baby wisdom in answers to all her questions.
Sarah listens with amusement to Chuck's long list of activities for them to do on the Monterey Peninsula. It would probably kill them. "Chuck, Honey, all of that sounds really fun …"
"But, unless you want us to be too worn out from the family part of the vacation to enjoy the honeymoon part …"
"No, no. We definitely wouldn't want that."
"No we wouldn't. So, let's do the Aquarium this afternoon and have dinner at Rappa's. Then we'll play each day by ear."
Chuck and Sarah strap on babies and amble through the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Bre and Liam stare wonder-struck at the odd creatures, while Chuck and Sarah tell them about each one. They watch the otters and penguins with rapt fascination, reaching toward them, then smiling and babbling at their parents. Cheek to cheek, Sarah and Liam stare mesmerized at the luminescent jellies. Bre plays peek-a-boo with the fish, leaning toward the glass to stare down a fish, then hiding her face in her daddy's chest.
Worn out from the Aquarium, the twins nap in their stroller, Bre hugging her penguin and Liam resting against his otter, as Chuck and Sarah stroll toward Fisherman's Wharf. "That was really fun, Chuck. I kind of loved it."
He gives her a big smile. "I'm glad you did. It was fun going as a family. I still can't quite believe we're taking our twins to the aquarium."
"I've never been to an aquarium before. I didn't really know what to expect."
"Really? You've never … I love aquariums … aquariums? … aquaria?" Chuck knits his brow. "Anyway, I love them. We'll have to go more often."
All along the wharf, people smile at their babies, stoop to get a better look at them, and remark how cute they are. Sarah projects a casual, friendly demeanor, but inside the Mama Lioness Protector is on full alert. They stroll into Rappa's, and Tony greets them like long lost cousins. Predictably he is instantly smitten with Bre and Liam. "Oh, they are little angelos. But what else would they be, no?" He escorts them to the best seat in the house. "Buon appetito!"
Rappa's has become a tradition, especially on the anniversary of their third first date. For some reason Tony took a liking to them. Chuck swears it's because he's crushing on Sarah ... in a fatherly, non-creepy way. She always points out that after the news coverage of the bank robbery, Tony sent Chuck a card and a gift certificate and fussed over him, because he was shot. Whatever. Tony likes them and always finds a reason to give them free cheesecake: first, because they were newly weds; then, because they were heroes; then, because Sarah was pregnant. Tonight it will probably be because they are new parents.
Tonight, just like two years ago, they eat a leisurely dinner, enjoying the view and the company. Except, now there's half the leisure and double the company. Between courses, Chuck pulls out a jar of baby food, but before he can open it, Tony rushes over with homemade, hand-mashed baby food for his little angels, who, he insists, will not eat food from a jar in his restaurant. At the end of the meal, right on cue, the waiter brings them a huge wedge of cheesecake, topped with strawberries and a drizzle of chocolate—on the house—and four spoons: two dessert spoons and two demitasse spoons.
Friday was a perfect and perfectly lazy day. The day's only activity was a long bike ride on the Monterey Coastal Trail, with Bre and Liam riding in style in the double bike trailer ... and recorded for posterity by the camera Chuck attached to the back of his seat. Minimal exercise, maximum fun.
Now, Chuck and Sarah are dressing for a date. A solo date. That quaint custom where mom and dad go out to dinner ... alone ... with no kids ... just for fun. And don't rush home before dessert. Since becoming parents, the closest thing to a date Chuck and Sarah managed, up until now, was a quick fast food lunch, while Morgan or Alex watched the twins. "Are you ready for this, Sarah?"
"Oh yeah. I think I'm getting the hang of this whole honeymoon thing." She turns her unzipped back to him.
"Mm. Me too." His kisses stay just ahead of the zipper, all the way up her back. He circles his arms around her and rests his chin in the crook of her neck. "I am the luckiest man on the planet."
Sarah turns and gives him a quick kiss. "And don't forget it." She quirks an eyebrow at him. "Let's go."
Abby and Dave send them off on their solo date, which is basically right next door. "Just follow our road through the trees and across the narrow bridge. Mission Ranch Resort is the next property over. Dave is part owner, so dinner is on the house."
They sit near the fireplace, at a window table, overlooking a view similar to Dave and Abby's. Sarah decides on a salad and prime rib, and Chuck orders soup and lobster. They eat watching the sheep in the meadow, on the other side of a white rail fence.
"My lobster was great. How was your prime rib, Sarah?"
"Really, really good." She takes a sip of water. "I had almost forgotten what it's like to eat dinner like this, in a nice restaurant."
"Yeah. Dressing up and not getting baby food on my tie or in my hair … or up my nose, which is not pleasant."
"No spit-up down the front of my dress, or worse, down the inside of my dress." .
"And you can feed just yourself and have an uninterrupted conversation with … me."
They sigh in unison. "Tomorrow, Chuck, I'll be ready for bottles and diapers again, but this is really nice."
"Yes, it is."
Sarah savors her Key Lime Pie and offers Chuck a bite. "You have to try this. It is so good." She pokes a forkful of pie in Chuck's open mouth. "Oh, by the way, Abby said that the owner, Clint somebody, wants to meet us, just to say hello and set up a time to discuss the possibility of hiring CI. I said I didn't think you would mind."
"Of course not," Chuck mumbles around his Key Lime Pie.
"She said it could lead to more business, because he used to be the mayor of … Carmel, I think."
Chuck almost chokes. "That wouldn't be Clint Eastwood, would it?"
"Yeah, that sounds right." Sarah creases her brow. "Is that a problem?"
"No. Not at all. I just hope I don't say something stupid like, Go ahead. Make my day." Chuck does his Dirty Harry impersonation and laughs.
Sarah looks even more confused. "Why would you say that?"
"Honey. Clint Eastwood? Dirty Harry? ... You don't ..."
"Because everyone else does, Mrs Bartowski," an older gentleman explains, "and your husband's impersonation is better than most." He puts a hand on Chuck's shoulder. "Keep your seat, Mr Bartowski."
Chuck shifts and offers his hand. "It's Chuck, and it's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Eastwood. I was just telling my wife about your movies. She's not really"
"Hi. I'm Sarah." Sarah smiles and offers her hand.
"And I'm just Clint. That way I don't feel so old, even though I am."
"Would you care to join us?" Sarah offers.
"No, Dave told me it's your anniversary. I just wanted to meet you and get your business card. There are a lot of businesses on the peninsula, and some of us think that a more unified approach to security might be a good way to go."
Chuck and Sarah nod for him to continue.
"We asked Dave what he thought, and he told us a little bit about Carmichael Industries and the work you did for him. The name sounded familiar, and when he said you were the couple that stopped the bank heist, that got people's attention. So, if you're interested at all, I'd like to make an appointment to discuss the project."
Chuck hands Clint a few cards. "We'd be happy to talk to you about it. Just call the office, and we'll set up a meet."
"Good. The others will be glad to hear it. Nice to meet you both. Enjoy the rest of your weekend."
Sarah wakes up earlier than usual, having had more rest and sleep these past three nights than she usually gets in a week. She wanders into the main house and finds Abby on the way out the door.
"Sarah, you're up early."
"Yeah. I was awake so I got up."
"Dave is keeping an eye on Bre and Liam, and I'm off to the barn. One of the ewes is lambing. You want to come?"
"Ah … "
"Dave can send Chuck and the twins down later."
"Sure. Why not." Abby and Sarah and Sir pile in the jeep and head to the small barn. When the jeep stops, Sir leaps out and pauses to yodel, then makes himself at home running in the pasture.
The baby lamb stands on its spindly legs, then with nudging from its mother, wobbles to an udder for nourishment.
"That's incredible. He's so little. I didn't know they could stand up so soon." Sarah watches in amazement.
"Yep, it's a critical thing for baby lambs to stand up early and nurse," Abby explains. "Come on, you want to help dry the first one?"
Abby hands Sarah the blow dryer and holds the little wet lamb.
"Like this?" Sarah uses the blow dryer carefully and fluffs the soft fur with her fingers.
"Just like that." Abby helps fluff his fur. "Now we wrap him in a towel, and … here. You can hold him."
Sarah takes the little lamb in her arms, awe-struck, and strokes his head. "He's so soft." She rubs the top of its head with her cheek, then cuts her eyes up at Abby. "But you don't need to bring him to our door in a few weeks."
"Ha ha. You love Sir, and you know it."
"That, I definitely do. We all do. Our family wouldn't be the same without him." Sarah smiles at her friend … then raises an eyebrow. "But I don't think we need a sheep, just because I think he's cute. Besides, Sir has twins to herd."
Abby laughs. "Touché. But if you had really wanted to take advantage of Sir's herding abilities, you would have had triplets."
"Ohh, that is so not funny." Sarah glares at her friend and then smiles. "Twins are quite enough for my herding abilities, thank you."
"Speaking of ... look who's here."
Chuck walks in bearing twins, followed by the big twins and Dave.
Logan goes to help his dad dry the second lamb, while Lane walks over to Sarah and pets the lamb with her. He asks if he can take it to show Bre and Liam. He holds the lamb where Chuck and the twins can see, and softly tells them all about the lamb being born and being a twin like them. Then, he helps them pet the lamb. Sarah is riveted to the scene, until she needs to intervene, before Bre and Liam try to hug the lamb like they hug Sir.
"What a day." Abby hands Sarah the knife that she has observed is Sarah's favorite.
"I think I've got this figured out." Sarah narrows her eyes at Abby. "You just want me around for my knife skills."
"You got me. Think how much I've saved on band aids this week! And all I have to offer in return is my encyclopedic knowledge of sheep." Abby smirks and hands Sarah a zucchini.
"Funny." Sarah starts slicing. "It was a great day, Abby. I never got to do things like that growing up—family hikes with friends."
"But now you do." Abby smiles and hands Sarah a bell pepper. "Besides, I never got any kickback from cookie sales or conned my way into a governor's mansion for the summer."
"Yeah." Sarah smiles with her friend. "And I bet you even delivered the cookies you promised."
"See? What was wrong with me?" Abby slaps her palm to her forehead.
"Seriously, Abby, we had a really good time at Point Lobos. It was fun and so beautiful. Plus, I was amazed at how good your twins were with our twins: showing them flowers and dandelions, pointing to the seals, and making animal noises. Not to mention carrying them for most of the hike."
"Logan and Lane are the only twins in Dave's extensive family or among our friends. They couldn't wait to have twin babies to play with … once they puzzled their way past the fact that twins can be a boy and a girl and don't have to look alike."
"That puts them ahead of a lot of adults, I can assure you." Sarah handed over a plate of zucchini and pepper chunks. "I suppose you want me to do the onion, too," she deadpans.
While Sarah and Abby skewer the veggies, Dave fires up the grill, and Chuck does double twin duty.
The two families eat on the deck, picnic style around a big play rug that Dave put down for Bre and Liam. After supper, as the sun streaks red across the sky, the adults talk and watch the older twins play with the younger twins, while Sir lies contentedly on his fair share of the rug.
Sarah presses close to Chuck and kisses his neck. "Chuck, this is what normal people do, isn't it?"
His hands roam her back. "What ... set up security systems for Clint Eastwood?"
"Design secure mobile apps for the President?"
"Stop a virus from hijacking all our country's missile silos?"
She chuckles into his chest and tugs on his chest hair. Chuck can always make her laugh.
"Oh-oww. Sarah, I thought you liked my chest hair."
"It's still there." She gives him an impish smile.
"Well, it won't be, if you keep pulling on it." He kisses her forehead.
"I meant ... that normal people have children and make friends and do fun things together as families."
"Yep. That's about as normal as it gets,"—he kisses the top of her head—"and I won't tell Sir that you left him out of the normal equation."
"Mm, thank you." She sighs and wriggles closer. "I love being normal with you, Chuck."
"Me too. But only with you, Sarah. Normal with anyone else would just be boring."
As the steam swirls up from the kettle, Sarah thinks back over their day.
After loading the Herder, they said their thank yous and goodbyes, with all the right combinations of hugs and handshakes and fist bumps. Sarah hugged Abby and thanked her for the gift of this time with Chuck. They would see each other soon, not for such a long holiday, but work takes them back and forth often enough to keep in touch, do lunch and friend things.
Exhausted, the twins slept the whole way back, eliminating the need for tailgate parties and getting them home before dark. After unloading the car and unpacking their bags, Sarah threw a load of clothes in to wash, and Chuck started on dinner. With dinner in the oven and clothes in the washer, they bathed, fed, and diapered Bre and Liam, then rocked them to sleep. Chuck went downstairs to put dinner on the table, and Sarah lingered just a few more minutes to watch her babies sleep, one of her favorite things to do, along with watching Chuck. They finished their anniversary weekend, as her new life had begun, with candlelight, Catawba, and Chuck's famous chicken pepperoni ... her favorite for many reasons.
The kettle's whistle pulls Sarah from her wool gathering. She takes Chuck a mug of hot cocoa and sits beside him on the couch. She scoots close, props her feet next to his on the coffee table, and leans against him. Sir is stretched out under their legs, and their babies are sleeping peacefully in the upstairs nursery.
Cozy, homey, simple.
Behind the white picket fence and the red door, inside the white house, Sarah has what she has always wanted. Home.
Her dad and the CIA gave her plenty of road trips, but they never gave her what Chuck did. With Chuck, she can have all the adventures she ever wanted …
And then come home.
A/N: I hope you like the post series galaxy I've created in the Chuckverse for Chuck and Sarah and their future life and adventures together. I set out to write a canon compatible story that is faithful to the series and to the characters we love ... a story that flows out of the finale and paints the details of Chuck and Sarah's happy future that S5 began to sketch for us.
If I write more stories, they will very likely be in this galaxy. I'm sure at some point I'll be tempted to do just that, but for the next little while, I need a bit of a break. It's time to read some of the wonderful Chuck stories I've fallen behind on.
Thanks for reading. To those of you who have encouraged me with your reviews, I can't thank you enough. Drop me a final word if you like, and let me know how the story turned out for you.