Chuck vs. the Sound of Music II: Operation BiB
Chuck and Sarah's bedroom was filled with warm morning light. Sarah was in that dreamy, twilight state, not fully asleep, but not fully awake, either. Stretching, she rolled on her side and extended an arm out toward Chuck's side of the bed. She expected it to land on her husband, but instead, it flopped all the way to the mattress. Her brow furrowed as she lifted her head off the pillow and squinted her eyes open. The sheets were cold, so she knew he hadn't recently gotten up and was simply in the bathroom.
Rolling onto her back, she placed a hand to her forehead, thinking. Did I sleep through the kids going to school today? No, she was sure it was Sunday since she and Chuck had gone out on a Saturday night date the evening before. That was fun, she thought, smiling at the understatement. Deciding that lying there wasn't going to answer any questions, she threw back the covers and got out of bed. She changed out of Chuck's dress shirt and pulled on a pair of sweatpants and her favorite Stanford t-shirt.
The minute she opened the bedroom door, she heard whispers and lowered voices coming from the kitchen. It always amused her how some whispers could be louder than regular talking. Curious, she made her way down the stairs and padded toward the sounds. She stopped in the doorway and watched as Chuck and all seven of their kids bustled around the kitchen. Megan set silverware on a bed tray while Martie carefully placed a small round vase that held two white gardenias at one corner. Lizzie flipped pancakes on an electric griddle. Lisa, festooned in oven mitts, stood in front of the oven, watching the timer count down, patiently waiting for whatever was in it to finish baking. Curtis, both hands wrapped around a cardboard carton, poured orange juice into a glass. Some of it missed, of course, and splashed on the counter. Fred stood vigil near the coffeemaker and seemed mesmerized as he watched the brown liquid trickle into the rapidly filling pot. Chuck, his back to her as he stood at the sink, rinsed a skillet and handed it to Bridget who put it in the dishwasher. He was absolutely adorable in the yellow rubber gloves.
It was Curtis who saw her first as he glanced up after setting the juice carton on the counter. "Awww! Aunt Sarah, you weren't supposed to come down here!"
Megan rolled her eyes and grumbled, "I told you we needed a lookout."
"What?" Sarah said, looking to Chuck for an explanation. He turned off the faucet with a slap at the handle, pulled off the gloves and tossed them on the counter. "Guys, I'll take care of this," he said, crossing the kitchen to stand next to her in three long strides. "You know the plan," he called to them over his shoulder as he took her hand, turned her around and pulled her toward the stairs. "Operation Bravo India Bravo has not changed!" he said with a triumphant note in his voice. A cheer rose from the kitchen as she and Chuck started up the stairs.
"Chuck, what in the world is going on?"
He grinned but said nothing.
"Chuck," she stopped on a step half way up the stairs. "I refuse to move until you tell me what you're up to."
He stopped on the step below her, so that their gaze was level. "I can't do that." He kissed her. "Do you trust me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Of course I trust you." It was her turn to kiss him.
"Then I need to get you back in bed."
An eyebrow shot up and she said with a smirk, "With all the kids awake, Mr. Bartowski?"
"Sorry, Mrs. Bartowski," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Let's not scar the children. The therapy bills alone would be outrageous."
"Fine," she mock pouted. Turning, she started back up the stairs. "I guess I have no choice but to trust you and go back to bed." She squealed and slapped at his hands when he grabbed at her waist, tickling her. She fled up the rest of the stairs, taking two steps at a time, turned and sprinted down the hall, Chuck following closely at her heels. Taking a flying leap, she flopped onto the mattress with him landing right next to her. Giggling, she rolled onto her back and found Chuck's face hovering inches over hers. Lowering his head, his lips caught hers in a soft, lingering kiss. Had they been alone in the house, their kiss would have deepened and other activities would have quickly ensued. However, their restraint was justified when there was a loud and obvious throat clearing at the door.
She sat up and saw Lizzie standing in the doorway holding a bed tray loaded down with food. Her brothers and sisters filled the doorway as they surrounded her. "Is that for me?" Sarah asked, still confused about what was happening.
"Happy Mother's Day!" the kids shouted together.
Sarah sat on the bed in stunned silence.
They tumbled into the room, filling it. Chuck piled their pillows against the headboard and motioned for her to scoot back and lean against them. She did so and Chuck helped Lizzie place the tray over her outstretched legs.
"Okay everybody. Up on the bed! Carefully!" Chuck called.
It took some doing, but eventually everyone sat somewhere on the bed, even if it was only on the side.
Sarah suddenly felt self-conscious. Was she supposed to say something? She was more than overwhelmed by it all. She looked helplessly at Chuck and then gazed at each of the kids.
Lizzie spoke up, "We did this every year for Mom. Dad would help us make breakfast in bed for her and then we would all pile on the bed with her while she ate." Snickering, she looked around and added, "We were a lot smaller then."
Her breath caught in her throat as she chuckled. "I don't know what to say," she said quietly as tears threatened. "Thank you."
"We're just glad we get to celebrate Mother's Day like this again," Fred said.
"I didn't even realize what today was," she said. "I haven't celebrated it with my own mom since I was about Megan's age," she said, looking at her youngest niece as she sat on Chuck's lap. She shrugged. "I just learned to ignore it."
"We won't let you do that around here," Curtis boasted.
All heads nodded vigorously. "Now that you're like our mom, we hope you don't mind if we celebrate today," Bridget said.
"No, not at all," Sarah said with a shaky smile. "It's the first time I've ever had a real family to share it with." Afraid she was about to turn into a sobbing mess, she took a deep breath to regain her composure. "Speaking of sharing, you've made enough food here to feed an army. Pancakes, muffins, scrambled eggs—I hope you'll help me eat some of this."
"Okay!" Fred said enthusiastically, swiping a muffin off the tray.
"Fred!" Lizzie and Lisa scolded.
"What? She said we could!" he said defensively, peeling the paper off the muffin and shoving it in his mouth.
Now that Fred had distracted them, she relaxed enough to take a bite of the eggs. They were perfectly done. The family may not have known much else about cooking, but they knew how to pull together a pretty mean breakfast.
Between her bites and some help from the kids, it didn't take long before the plates on the tray were empty.
Megan looked at Lizzie and whispered loudly, "Now?" Lizzie smiled and nodded her head ever so slightly. Megan, followed by Martie, climbed off the bed and ran out the door. Sarah could hear their little feet pounding down the hall, across to the other hallway and into their room. Their return was equally as quick and they skidded to a stop at the side of the bed. Chuck lifted the tray from across his wife's legs and set it on the floor. Sarah sat up and crossed her legs to make more room for Martie and Megan, who had already clambered up on the bed and were sitting on their knees expectantly in front of her.
"Go ahead, Megan," Lizzie prompted.
Megan, her eyes shining with excitement, handed Sarah a small, flat box wrapped with floral wrapping paper. On the front of the red construction paper "card" Megan had drawn in crayon two figures holding hands: the taller one had the label "Aunt Sarah" under it and the much smaller one was labeled "Megan." On the inside, large, kindergarten handwriting wrote in pencil, "Happy Mother's Day, Aunt Sarah."
"Sweetie, you did a wonderful job on this card. Thank you."
"We did it at school." She bounced on her knees. "Open your present."
Sarah glanced at Chuck who had an inscrutable smile on his face. She carefully tore off the paper and lifted the lid off the box. Inside was a round, white disc lying on a bed of yellow tissue paper. In the middle of the white disc was a handprint with "Megan" carefully etched across the top.
"That my hand!" Megan said, holding out her hand to prove it. Her siblings snickered at her enthusiasm.
"Oh, Megan. This is so wonderful. Thank you." Megan, no longer able to contain herself, launched herself at Sarah and gave her a hug.
Pulling back, Megan looked into Sarah's eyes. "Do you really like it?"
"I love it."
Convinced, the little girl nodded and sat back on her heels.
"Is it my turn?" Martie asked tentatively, looking to her oldest sister. Lizzie smiled encouragingly and tipped her head toward Sarah.
Sitting up straighter, Martie looked at Sarah and said, "This is the first time I've ever made anything for Mother's Day. Before, when the other kids made stuff for their moms, I was kinda left out 'cause I didn't have one." Sarah's throat tightened and her eyes burned with tears. "This year, I asked my teacher if it was okay if I did the Mother's Day project for you, even though you're my aunt and not my mom." Martie scratched her nose and said, "She said I could and then her eyes got all watery." She held out a piece of paper for Sarah to take.
Sarah took the paper with one hand, and with the other, wiped her eyes. At the top, it said, "My Aunt Sarah." Colorful crayon flowers surrounded the words written down the center of the paper.
"We copied the first part of each sentence and then we made up in the rest."
My aunt is awesome.
I love her because she loves me and my family.
She is best at everything.
She does not like bad people.
She is very pretty.
She loves to kiss my uncle.
She makes me happy.
Sarah had a hard time reading the whole thing since the world had become suddenly very blurry. "Thank you, sweetie. It's wonderful." She looked at each of them and then said, "Thank you for everything." She let out a teary chuckle, snagged three tissues from the box on her nightstand and wiped down her face. Looking at their grinning faces, she said, "Are you done reducing me to a sobbing mess, or is there more?"
"We're done," Lizzie said with a smile. With the festivities over, the kids eventually left the bedroom and headed to the kitchen to eat more. That only left Chuck and Sarah on the bed. She sipped her orange juice while Chuck leaned over and snagged her coffee cup so carefully placed on a saucer and took a sip.
"So what happens now?" Sarah asked.
Chuck shrugged and said, "This is unchartered territory for us. We've never actually had a 'mom' to celebrate with. Every year, the kids have done something to remember Ellie, but this year…"
"I hope they will. I want them to. I don't want them to not do something because they think it might be weird. They don't think that, do they?"
"I'm sure they don't. I'll make sure we do what we've always done." He leaned over and kissed her cheek. "You're wonderful, you know that?"
She cut her eyes toward him and smiled. "Flattery will get you everywhere."
~ O ~
The family gathered around the TV, watching the home videos archived on Chuck's computer. Chuck, Sarah and some of the kids enjoyed slices of pecan pie in honor of Ellie. Those who didn't munched on their Klondike bars. The sound in the room ebbed and flowed between raucous laughter when one of the kids—much younger than they were now—were shown doing something funny or embarrassing and reverential quiet whenever Ellie appeared on the screen.
Sarah thought for sure the house would fall down around them as laughter shook the walls during one particularly embarrassing moment for Fred. It was summer and the family was at the beach. Devon and Fred, age three, both attired in colorful board shorts, posed and flexed for the camera. Fred copied the poses of his father down to the huge grin.
"Nice muscles, dude!" Curtis laughed at Fred.
Sarah noticed that even during the teasing, Fred's smile never left his face as he watched himself and his dad have fun.
"Okay, Fred," Devon said on the video. "Big finish! Like this." Devon leaned forward and bent his arms slightly, flexing his chest muscles. When Fred mimicked his father, Devon laughed and boomed out, "Awesome, little dude!"
The camera panned to the left to catch Ellie clapping and cheering as she sat on a low beach chair where a chubby infant Curtis sat in her lap, wearing a wide brimmed baby hat and yellow baby sunglasses. Curtis' drool-covered hand was shoved deep in his mouth.
Laughter grew louder when Fred shouted, "Rockin' the shades, Curtis!"
"You two are digging quite a hole there," Chuck's disembodied voice said from behind the camera as it zoomed in on Lizzie and Lisa holding small plastic shovels. Lizzie, almost five, did most of the digging while Lisa, at two, really only flipped sand back into the hole.
And so it went as they watched happy family times. Everyone cheered when baby Megan finally made her grand appearance at another day at the beach. It was there that Chuck turned off the computer. Everyone knew why, but no one wanted to kill the jovial spirit, so Chuck clapped his hands together once and said, "Aunt Sarah and I are going to watch Casablanca. If anyone wants to watch with us, you're welcome to. If not, go about your business." Fred, Curtis, Martie and Megan scattered. Lizzie, Lisa and Bridget stayed.
Chuck had apparently already placed the DVD in the player since all he did was turn it on and hit the play button.
"Ellie's favorite movie. Have you ever seen it?" he asked as he dropped an arm across her shoulders.
She nudged him and said, "You know most of the movies I've seen have been with you. So, no, I haven't."
"Oh! You're in for a treat then," Lizzie said as she curled up in a chair as the opening credits rolled.
Sarah burrowed in next to Chuck and tucked her feet under her. As the narrator earnestly explained the escape route out of Nazi Europe over a hilariously low-tech spinning globe, she reflected back on where she was one year ago. On that uncelebrated Mother's Day, she had been working undercover as a nun in a convent trying to smoke out a Fulcrum agent in hiding. Like any other Sunday while at the convent, she spent the day either in services or alone in her cell. She thought then the job was all she needed. Now, she was married and "mom" to seven kids. If someone at that convent had told her where she would be in one year, she would have written them off as insane while being scared to death. Today, she couldn't imagine her life any other way. Sighing happily, she rested her head back on her husband's shoulder. Happy Mother's Day, indeed.
~ O ~
A/N: Thank you to Tenks7 for wondering awhile back if the kids would do anything special for Ellie and/or Sarah on Mother's Day. I immediately knew that they would, and planned on putting something in the main story. When my awesome beta, AgentInWaiting mentioned that my ideas might be fun to do as its own one-shot to post on Mother's Day, it became obvious that was what needed to happen. So, thank you both.
Thank you for reading and Happy Mother's Day!