A/N: Hey, guys.
This story is a sequel to Rogue Spy: the True Story. Although, I believe it can be read without previous knowledge, the universe and various relationships probably won't make any sense to you without having read the original story, Alt-RS as I call it.
It also means that if you didn't like the first story, you won't like this one either. At all. The story is in the same humoristic and alternate/parodic vain as the previous one, and is not to be taken seriously. If that's not your cup of tea, give it a pass, and the good news is that this fic won't distract me from my other fics, because it's done.
If you did enjoy the fun of the original Alt-RS, then I hope you'll enjoy this dinner party. Alt-RS Sarah Walker has no idea what she's doing, and as we know, she gets very confused at times, so she could use all the support she can get.
Thank you to mxpw for being the best beta, and for all the laughs we had with it. Thanks to JoeltotheD for the support and laughing with me. Finally, thanks to Catrogue for the inspiration! :)
Rogue Spy: the True Family Dinner
– 05:37 PM
Sarah put the showerhead back up in contentment, and buried her face under a stream of tepid water.
Her version of happy shower time rarely involved Sarah alone these days, but today, she knew she needed it. What better way to relax before dinner? And since there would be no sneaking away before everyone would get here—or during the evening, probably, as it'd be too chancy—she wouldn't get to really relax until later that night.
Sarah couldn't remember whose idea this dinner had been in the first place. Though, if she had to guess, Sarah would put her money on one of the Bartowskis, if not both, since being social butterflies seemed to be part of their DNA. Everybody had backed-up the idea, of course, inasmuch as the Bartowskis surrounded themselves with friendly and sociable people, or made people that weren't friendly and sociable want to be. Even Casey had thought it a good idea, i.e. he had made a "Why the heck not? I don't have anything else to do, and you're kind of okay people" grunting sound. In any case, as the fateful day approached, Sarah had grown more and more anxious about it. Truthfully, they all had. Today had been the worst. It just felt so hazardous to risk everything they'd been working towards for the last four months. They were all in a great place now. Chuck, Devon, Ellie, and Sarah had found balance. Sarah couldn't remember a happier time in her life. And it could all crumble tonight.
She washed off one last time, before stepping out of the cubicle and drying herself.
Carina and Zondra would be arriving any minute now.
Sarah walked down the hallway in her towel, and entered her bedroom. She skirted the bed to get to her side, where she had spread out the outfit she'd selected to wear for the big occasion. She had thought hard about it—one of the several preventive measures she had taken. Even if this gathering felt like tempting fate, putting on her jeans and boring conservative blue top reminded Sarah that she was prepared. She could do this.
It reminded her, as well, how utterly wrong it was to conceal her body under a copious amount of fabric. Not only was it simply a shame to confine such beauty (and work, it didn't all happen by miracle), but it also made her uncomfortable—ensnared, bound, imprisoned. She cursed this shindig one more time at the thought. Things would be awkward enough as they were, and she had to also sacrifice part of her well-being.
A knock on the window caused her to whirl around in alarm. The blinds weren't closed. She usually left them open on purpose, but Ellie was probably finishing cooking at this hour. The appreciative smirk on Zondra's face let Sarah know immediately that it had been Sarah's first mistake of the night. Sighing, she knew others were inevitably coming.
A family dinner could only be a synonym for trouble.
– 05:54 PM
"Hey, girl," Zondra said. She gave Sarah a hug—which Sarah had to shake off when it lasted too long—before walking inside the apartment, brushing against Sarah like she was wont to do. Zondra was still wearing the same perfume, Sarah noticed.
"Hi," she replied. Sarah tried not to let herself get distracted, and turned to her other guest. It worked. She was grounded by an unreadable stare. "Carina."
The redhead nodded tersely in response. "Sarah."
"Oh, c'mon," Zondra said, while she put the two helmets she had in hand on the table, "you two seriously need to kiss and make out." Zondra took off her cute leather jacket—the same Sarah remembered from Casey's safe house. It didn't reveal a black tank top this time, it was white, but the cleavage was as prominent as it always was, and Sarah could see a dark bra through the shirt, but couldn't be sure of its color.
Sarah shook herself inwardly so she could muster a glare at Zondra, and she stepped off to the side in invitation for Carina to come in.
Zondra's smile didn't waver. "I don't mind watching," she added. "Of course, the three of us—"
"We get it," Sarah cut her off. She closed the door. "Can I take that?" Carina unceremoniously passed Sarah the cloche lid-covered tray she'd been holding. It mustn't have been practical to carry it out on the bike. For that matter, Carina's dress wasn't the most appropriate attire for biking, being so short and fitting, and all, though it must have made for an interesting view. "What is it?"
Carina ignored Sarah's question so completely, one might wonder if she had even heard it. The redhead placed her purse on the table near the door. Sarah didn't acknowledge Carina's cold shoulder, and turned to Zondra instead.
"It's a surprise," the CAT said, "we brought dessert." Sarah suppressed a groan. "Don't look!" Easier said than done, Sarah thought. "Just put it in the fridge."
Sarah did so without arguing. She'd have to choose her battles tonight. "Ellie should be here soon, but Chuck won't be here before six forty-five, and everybody else is running late. Sorry."
"What's the nerd doing?" Zondra asked.
"His name's Chuck."
"Right," Zondra said. She didn't care. "What's Chuck doing?"
"He's at work," Carina said, and Sarah fought down some annoyance. "I told you he'd be late."
"I'm sure," Zondra replied, "that we can find something to do to occupy ourselves."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "How about a drink?" Spotting Carina eyeing the apartment closely, she asked, "Something wrong?"
Carina deposited another blank stare on her. "Just admiring what you did with the place."
Sarah kept herself from sighing. Had she not taken the time to shower properly, she'd already be tense at the prospect of constantly juggling Carina's animosity and Zondra's flirting. "We rearranged a bit since it's been just the two of us," she confirmed, giving Carina an even look and keeping her voice neutral—as if she wasn't talking to an ex, but simply having a light conversation with a friend.
"I like it," Zondra lied. Sarah knew she thought it was lame. "And sex on the beach."
"Ex—excuse me?" Sarah said. Her voice sounded a lot higher than she wished.
"To drink," Zondra said, amused. "But, if—"
"Right," Sarah cut her off again. She harrumphed, and moved behind the bar to get started on the cocktails. "Carina?"
Unexpectedly, Carina's stare switched to something much more amicable. "Sex on the Beach is certainly good," she said, once she and Zondra were seated at the bar. "We've had plenty in Belize."
Sarah froze for an all too long second. "Oh," she said, dropping her eyes back to the drink. She needed to keep her mind clear—clear of the images Carina and Zondra's comments were sure to generate. "I thought you were coming back from a mission."
"Yeah, in Costa Rica," Zondra said. "We stopped in Belize afterwards. To relax."
"Chuck didn't tell you?" Carina asked, all but innocently.
Sarah knew what Carina was doing: throwing her relationship with Chuck in Sarah's face. She wouldn't let it get to her; she'd promised herself. "No," she said. "He just told me you two were in Central America. I just assumed it was for a mission." She placed a glass in front of Carina, and offered her warmest smile. "I'm glad to hear you had fun."
"Fun?" Zondra laughed. "You make it sound like tic-tac-toe." The game wasn't as banal as Zondra seemed to imply, but Sarah really didn't need to tell her that. Ever. Zondra proved Sarah right when she reached over to take the second glass Sarah had prepared, adding, "Belize was rapturous," and it took Sarah a moment far longer than it should have to realize that Zondra's fingers were lingering against hers. Sarah hurriedly retracted her hand. "A shame you couldn't join, really."
"I'm sure," Sarah said, without thinking. It was true, but…
"You do love that kind of setting," Carina said. "The beaches, the cocktails…" Sarah looked up from the mojito she was now making for herself. Did Carina know something? She didn't look accusing. To Sarah's surprise, she looked reminiscing. Carina was smiling, even. "Like Gainsbourg sung: sea, sex, and sun."
Sarah chuckled at the memory of that summer the CAT Squad had spent in the south of France. The song of the French singer had been an appropriate vacation soundtrack. Her eyes caught Carina's, before dropping to her mouth without her consent. Carina was playing with the slice of lemon from her cocktail. Why did she always have to do that?
The bell literally saved Sarah. Thank God. She rushed to the door, all the while trying to clear the fog that had invaded her mind. She needn't worry, because it all dissipated instantly when she opened the door.
Ellie's eyes lit up—in that way only Bartowskis' eyes did—as soon as she saw Sarah. "Hi."
Sarah grinned. "Ellie! You're right on time."
– 06:24 PM
Sarah shook her head. She should probably prepare a pitcher and save herself some time; Carina and Zondra were already on their third glasses. Which reminded Sarah that she'd let them out of her sight for far too long. She looked up from behind the kitchen bar to the living room, where her ex-CAT Squad partners were discussing with Ellie.
For a minute, Sarah almost believed that this soirée might have been a good idea, after all. The three women were the image of normality—chatting, laughing, seemingly catching up, just like friends would. At least, Sarah imagined normality would look that way. A simple flicker from Carina's eyes down Ellie's (quite enjoyable) cleavage, however, reminded Sarah that her friends were…different.
She couldn't really blame them. Ellie was being her adorable self, in the cute, little green dress they had found the week before on their regular shopping (s)escapades. Come to think of it, it wasn't the outfit they'd agreed on during their preparations. Not that she didn't love the dress, because she did—the hue reminded her of memories from Costa Gravas and a similarly colored (and now unfortunately ripped) bikini—but damn it, Carina and Zondra didn't need any incentive.
There wasn't any reason for Sarah to be worried, really. Ellie had never strayed. Never would. Be that as it may, Sarah couldn't help the uneasy feelings at Carina sitting so close to Ellie. She chastised herself for it, but when it came to Carina and the Bartowskis, Sarah knew she'd always feel that way, feel as though it was dangerous to leave them with Carina without surveillance.
Sarah sighed. Jealousy: she still wasn't used to the idea—or rather, the idea that she, Sarah Walker, could get jealous. She'd never blamed and mocked Carina for her own jealousy, even if it'd been a little excessive at times, but Sarah had often thought herself above it. She'd always fought it every step of the way, never acknowledging it. She was presently well past denial. That's what the Bartowskis did to her. It thankfully came with other, more pleasant things, too.
When Ellie and Sarah had decided to come back to Burbank four months ago, they had done it separately, in order not to raise any suspicions about what they'd been up to in Costa Gravas. Both of them had a different cover story, and no intention to reveal their relationship to anybody. It was their secret—their still on-going secret.
Ellie had come back first—her departure had been less complicated. It hadn't involved faking her death, if nothing else. The short version Ellie had given was that, following Sarah's death, Ellie had discovered the truth about Chuck's spy life, his lies, Devon's lies, and she'd…snapped. She'd left, to think. She'd rapidly realized her mistake, and had eventually summoned the courage to return, because Ellie'd known: She simply didn't want to live without her husband and her little brother. That much was true.
Carina and Chuck had already broken up at the time. After tracking down the people responsible for Sarah's frame-job and supposed death—ending with Carina's ruthless murder of Daniel Shaw—Carina and Chuck had eventually realized that what had united them had been their loss of Sarah. Once the Ring was dismantled and the man behind Sarah's demise was dead (very dead, according to the pictures in the reports), it became clear to them that they shouldn't have ever been together in the first place. Carina and Chuck had stayed great friends, but that was all they were now.
Sarah gulped down her mojito. She winced, not at the alcohol, but because at this rate, she'd definitely need pitchers tonight.
That was one preventive measure out the window.
Indeed, the trouble was that the situation had become even more unsettling when Carina and Ellie had become great friends as well, during the time Ellie had stayed with her brother, while trying to patch things up with Devon.
A tap on the door brought Sarah back from her thoughts—and her mojito. Devon's head peered through the doorway. "Hey, guys!" he greeted with a shining smile. "Babe, you forgot the appetizers."
"Oh," Ellie said, "right. Sorry."
Ellie avoided glancing at her, but Sarah smiled knowingly nonetheless: Ellie had been in a hurry to get here. Carina rose to her feet to greet Devon and introduce Zondra. They settled back on the couch, with cocktails and appetizers.
"Are you going to spend the night here?" Zondra asked, approaching the bar. Her eyes traveled across the kitchen pensively. "I can work with that. It wouldn't be the first time we got ourselves a few bruises."
Sarah tried to glare at her again. She really did, but Zondra was grinning at her, and—and what was with her perfume? It had to be some kind of aphrodisiac or something.
Zondra joined Sarah behind the counter, and said, "I see you haven't forgotten the universally acknowledged truth: Nothing gets done without alcohol."
Sarah stiffened, and she forced a casual laugh. Zondra fed on apprehension; she just loved it.
The CAT jerked her head in the direction of Devon. "He's hot—"
"No," Sarah said. She was glad for the change of conversation.
"He isn't hot?" Zondra replied with a laugh.
"Marriage doesn't cancel hotness," Zondra said, and eyed Devon more closely. "Clearly. So, you've never tapped that?" The question was asked as though it was the saddest thing on the planet. "Shame. I'd—"
"He's happily married," Sarah said, and took a sip of mojito. It was so hot all of a sudden. She hadn't checked the weather channel, but a maybe a heat wave was in the air.
"If you say so." Zondra took the pitcher Sarah handed her. "At least, you're not married," she added with a wink. "Think you can handle that many people at once?"
The mojito went down the wrong pipe, and Sarah coughed. How could she still be surprised like an amateur?
Zondra laughed, leaving for the living room, and Ellie arrived.
"About time!" Sarah said through clenched teeth. "We talked about this! We agreed you wouldn't leave me alone with her!"
Ellie laughed. "That bad, huh?" She let her shoulder rub against Sarah's as she helped her with a second pitcher.
It felt heavenly, even if it also reminded Sarah that they hadn't seen each other for almost two days—yesterday didn't count, it'd been way too short. Sarah exhaled slowly at the sensation, both appeasing and yearning. "No," Sarah half-lied. She didn't want to be with Zondra—Sarah was content in that department these days—but it was still Zondra; it'd always been such a challenge to even think of saying no. "But that was part of the deal: no leaving me alone with Zondra."
"I know, I know," Ellie replied. "You seemed to be doing fine, though, and I did come eventually."
"You sure did," Sarah teased, before asking, "If you're so Zen about it, what happened with the appetizers?"
Ellie's moistened her lips slightly, as if she didn't want to admit she was worried about Sarah and her two guests. Her cheeks had reddened at Sarah's joke, and Sarah couldn't help but laugh at her adorableness.
"Morgan just texted me," Devon's voice interrupted. Ellie and Sarah jolted, and Sarah cursed herself. They couldn't afford to get carried away at any time; even less so in the presence of the CATs. "They're on the way. He says to start the barbecue. I'll get Casey to help me out."
"I'll get him!" Carina said.
Devon traded a look with his wife, who shrugged.
Zondra smirked, and went to Devon as they watched Carina head out the door. "I'd be happy to give you a hand," Zondra told him, "Captain. It is Captain Awesome, isn't it?"
At that, Devon's eyes widened and he looked at his wife again.
Ellie appeared a lot less Zen for a second, before breathing deeply and covering it with a smile.
– 06:42 PM
"Babe!" Devon shrilled, when he spotted Ellie and Sarah stepping out. He cleared his throat, and sidled next to Ellie, placing his wife between Zondra and himself. "Should we go get Casey? What's taking Carina so long?"
Sarah glanced towards Casey's apartment. "I'm not going in there."
Steps outside the apartment complex' entrance resonated on the pavement. "Hey guys!" Morgan's voice said. He and Alex appeared, walking hand in hand. Morgan cast an eye at Casey's door wearily, then across the courtyard, and his shoulders relaxed. His eyes immediately grew rounder as he really noticed Zondra.
"It's nice to meet you," Morgan said once introductions had been made. "Putting a body—face! Putting a face on Carina's tales."
"Oh," Zondra said, increasing the gusto of her smile, "she's talked about me, then?"
"Well, I mean," Morgan scratched his beard, "we kept in touch." Alex's eyes narrowed. "A little," Morgan amended. "I mean, she was my best friend's…" Probably sensing that he was digging himself into a hole the more he went on, he changed the subject, "Speaking of, where is Carina?"
"She's fetching your dad, Alex," Sarah replied. It probably wouldn't stop Zondra if she decided to go after Casey, but it was worth a try to mention it.
Alex shook her head. "I could use a drink," she told Sarah.
Sarah gave her an understanding smile—Carina and Zondra would probably make Alex's evening interesting as well—and led her and Morgan into the living room.
"I could have some more Sex on the Beach, myself," Sarah heard Zondra say. "How about you, Captain?" Devon coughed again. "Ellie?"
Sarah looked over her shoulder to see Ellie grinning back at Zondra, amused. She said something that Sarah couldn't make out, and which made Zondra laugh, before the three of them moved to refill their glasses. Sarah would have made a mental note to keep an eye on Ellie and Zondra, but it wasn't as if she had to force herself to be aware of them.
"I was just surprised, that's all," Morgan was whispering to Alex when Sarah turned her attention back to them. "I didn't even notice she was pretty before you mentioned it."
Alex rolled her eyes.
– 07:04 PM
A grunt marked Casey's arrival. He nodded to each person in the room as he walked to awkwardly hug his daughter, even letting slip a stiff curling of his lips—one of Casey's versions of a smile.
Carina appeared behind him, and offered his daughter her hand. "You must be, Alex." She beamed and slid her other hand playfully through her hair, balancing them over her shoulder. Carina probably wanted to see if she could complete her father-daughter set.
Alex shook Carina's hand, but she didn't return the smile. "Hello."
"I've heard so much about you," Carina started, enthusiastically.
"Yes," Alex said in a no-nonsense tone. "I did too." A line appeared between Carina's brows. "So much."
Casey smirked at Carina.
"Here he is!" Ellie said as Chuck, a bag of groceries in his arms, passed through the door left opened by Carina and Casey.
Chuck walked to hug his sister, and waved at Alex and Zondra. On the way to the kitchen, he fist-bumped Devon and Morgan, who had retreated to the table, away from the women. Then, finally, Chuck kissed his girlfriend.
Sarah grabbed his collar, a little bit more forcefully than she usually did, in order to let her lips linger on Chuck's longer than he had intended. She could use the relaxation. "Hi," Sarah said afterwards. "You're late."
"Sorry. Jeff and Lester." It was all Chuck needed to say. Sarah didn't care to hear about what the Nerd Herders' latest creepy attempt to waste everybody's time was. "Also, I stopped at Casey's when I heard screams." Chuck placed the grocery bag on a counter. "I'll go change. Everything okay, here?"
"For now," Sarah said, and she sighed dramatically.
Chuck laughed. How the Bartowskis seemed to be so calm about this evening was beyond Sarah. Did they not realize who their guests were? "It's gonna be fine," he said and wrapped his arms around her.
When it had been Sarah's turn to come back to Burbank, things hadn't gone as smoothly for her as they had for Ellie—not that it hadn't been understandable why not: Sarah had disappeared without explanation, she'd let everybody think she was dead, and Chuck had found out the truth about her other relationships. It'd been bound to be a little tense between them.
Her cover story hadn't been that far off from Ellie's. After her coma, Sarah had been emotionally shaken, physically exhausted, and so very tired of hiding from and fighting the Ring, as well as risking the lives of the people she cared about. So, she had left; and to protect everyone, faked her death. Ring problem solved.
To be fair, it actually was a sound explanation. Chuck had been so relieved to see her again; that she was alive, standing on his doorstep. He'd hugged her so strongly, Sarah had felt as though she could still experience the embrace days after it had happened, that it had been imprinted on her body. He'd been glad, he told her and showed her so, but he hadn't forgotten what Sarah had done. The "You didn't tell me. You let me think you were dead, and you didn't tell me" reaction and anger had settled; not to mention the awkward "You've been seeing Carina all along. Carina!"
Sarah hadn't tried to shy away from her actions. If Ellie and Sarah were to pull off their plan, Sarah needed to be as honest with Chuck as she could. She'd told him how confused she'd been in the months that had preceded her disappearance, how things hadn't been right with Carina either, how she'd eventually chosen him after her encounter with Zondra—too late. Sydney Prince had tried to blow her up, then. Sarah had been patient, she'd come back for him.
And one day, she had witnessed the shift happening before her eyes. One minute Chuck was grumbling, and suddenly he was…nervous. Still wary, not certain that he should take a leap of faith, but oh-so-willing to. Sarah had decided to tell him how much she loved him, then; decided to show him how much she loved him; decided that it was time to let Chuck in.
Literally. They had sex for the first time that night.
Since then, Chuck and Sarah had been enjoying happy days. Ellie and Devon were enjoying happy days. Ellie and Sarah were secretly enjoying happy days. Everybody was happy…until tonight.
"How are things with Carina?" Chuck asked.
Sarah inhaled slowly, taking in Chuck's smell and warmth. "It was a little overwrought when she arrived," she said distractingly. She wondered if anybody would notice if she slipped out to help Chuck out with his clothes. "But it seems to be fine now."
Chuck waited for Sarah to stop playing with his grey tie and look up at him, before asking, "Do you want me to talk to her?"
Sarah moved out of his embrace to empty the bag of groceries. She didn't mind that Carina and Chuck had been some kind of item. She'd been glad, even, that they had found each other when they had. Now that Sarah was back, though, and that Carina and Chuck were friends, it changed things.
"I don't mean to interfere," Chuck said defensively. "I just mean that Carina's my friend—"
Sarah interrupted him when she found a bottle of gin in the paper bag. "What's that?"
"The gin you needed," Chuck said in an obvious manner. "Carina texted me that you forgot…" Chuck trailed off at Sarah's stare. "You didn't need gin."
Perception was Chuck's strong suit.
Chuck winced. "See? That's what I mean. Carina's my friend, and it's normal to expect that she behaves civilly with my girlfriend when she's a guest in our home."
"And I can handle it," Sarah replied, shoving the bottle at Chuck's chest.
It wasn't that big of a deal, really, although it was annoying to have been played by Carina that way. The real concern was that "no gin" had been one of Sarah's preventive measures. Ellie didn't handle gin well—or at all. Sarah remembered how loaded Ellie had been the night she'd showed Sarah just how gin affected her. Was it a simple coincidence, or did Carina know about Ellie's weakness? Was Carina onto them?
"Aw, c'mon," Chuck said. He randomly thrust the gin bottle into a cabinet. "It was well played." He chuckled. "You've got to give her that."
Sarah rolled her eyes at him. "I'm not sure Carina's the one to be worried about anyway."
"Zondra?" Chuck asked. His eyes scanned the room in search of the agent. "Where'd she go?"
Ellie, in conversation with Alex, Carina, and Morgan, threw a meaningful look Sarah's way. "I think she went back outside with Awesome and Casey," Sarah said. "I better go give them the plate of meat."
Chuck stopped Sarah to give her another kiss. "This dinner will be fun, you'll see. Good food, good booze, and good company, c'mon! What can happen?"
A/N: "What can happen?" Found out in the next chapter on Wednesday!