CHUCK VERSUS THE CGI (Chuck 6-03)

Concluding the third episode of an imaginary sixth season of Chuck.

Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck, but I'll do what little I can to help keep it alive.


EPILOGUE

Fifth day, not long before dawn

Sarah enters the empty living room, alert and with her weapon drawn.

"Saaaaaarrraaaahhh…."

This man, this monster, is dead—and still, he wants to be in control… to manipulate her…to take everything from her: her memories, her life, her future…her Chuck. She doesn't hesitate; she aims her pistol and pulls the trigger—and Nicholas Quinn vanishes from sight, leaving no trace.

"N-no! Don't! Don't do it!"

On the floor—oh God, it's Chuck—he's alive! Sarah drops to her knees by his side. His face is pale, his lips are blue, and there's a terrible, gaping wound in his chest. Fearfully, delicately, she reaches her fingers into the wound, to remove the evil—to try to undo the pain she herself inflicted on the very man she loves.

Chuck's eyes are closed, but his body tosses about at her touch. "I've got to get it out," she murmurs, trying to reassure him. "Got to save you."

"No, no, no…not there baby. My back…it's sticking in my back…."

And they both jolt awake at the same instant. They're in bed. Sarah is lying on top of Chuck, with her head raised and both of her hands clutching his chest. For a moment, they look straight at each other, surprised and bewildered—then both emit long, deep, troubled sighs—and Sarah flops limply down onto her husband.

Chuck wraps his arms around her and they lie still for a while, until Sarah says, "If we stay true to form, neither of us is going to go back to sleep."

"Uh huh. So…coffee?"

"My turn to make it." Sarah pecks Chuck on the lips and gingerly eases out of bed, favoring her sore ribs.


Minutes later they're together at the kitchen table in the quiet predawn, with hands wrapped around their coffee mugs for warmth.

"Clearly," begins Sarah, "we both have unresolved issues."

"And now would seem like a good time to work on resolving them," Chuck adds.

Sarah's face brightens. "Great—I'm so glad you agree! Let's talk about your dreams first, okay, Chuck? Because I have this idea…"

"Sure, babe…shoot."

"All right. So…over the past two days you said you've had two spontaneous flashes that helped you get out of trouble: one while escaping Pfeffer's goons, and the other was the survival breathing earlier tonight. It's as if you're accessing the Intersect on a subconscious level when you're in serious danger."

Chuck nods. "Interesting thought. Go on."

"Okay—so here's the thing—last week you uploaded all the data on Juanita Saldana's iPad to the Intersect, so you could figure out how to bust us out of Deep Skillet."

Chuck's eyes widen. He puts his mug down and snaps his fingers. "The same iPad she used to program and control her nano-drone moths! I must have uploaded all those files too!"

"Exactly, sweetheart. So your insect dreams—what if they're not just some post-traumatic memory of the attack like we thought? What if Saldana's drones did more than just tranq you? Could the Intersect be sending a warning through your dreams?"

"Of course!" Chuck slaps his forehead. "I even saw Juanita herself in my dream this time—at least I think it was her."

"Better have another look at the scene of the crime." Sarah puts her coffee down and comes over to her husband's side of the table. "Take off your T-shirt." But instead of waiting for him to comply, she just peels it off him herself.

"Sorry—I guess I just enjoy doing that too much!" she confesses, then starts running her fingers over Chuck's left shoulder and back.

Chuck laughs. "You didn't hear any complaints from me, did you? And you know, babe—now that I think about it, this sort of thing happened to me once before."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. The Intersect deduced that Daniel Shaw was still alive, even though we all thought I'd killed him."

Sarah looks at him quizzically. "Shaw? I remember that name from some of our old files, but I haven't the slightest recollection of him personally."

"He was trouble in the past," says Chuck with a subtle smile, "but he's best forgotten."

Sarah eventually locates the tiniest of bumps near Chuck's left shoulder blade. "There. I can barely feel the welt that itched you last week. It's almost invisible now but it's still there."

"Devon told me it might be an allergic reaction to…to…" Chuck shudders as another thought occurs to him. "Babe….you don't suppose I've been—"

And Sarah is suddenly all deadly seriousness. "Let's get dressed—now."

"Awesome also said he'd recommend a dermatologist."

"No time for that. We're going to the nearest all-night urgent care center."

"But—but—we haven't talked about your nightmares yet, babe!"

"One mission at a time, Chuck."


Half an hour later, in an examination room at the nearest urgent care center

The young physician assistant keeps apologizing to Chuck—over and over again—for having to dig so deeply.

"No prob," Chuck assures him, "Long as that lidocaine holds out, I'm good."

Still, Chuck's face is somewhat pale, and he's clearly trying hard not to think about what's going on behind him. Sarah holds his hand and occasionally squeezes it for reassurance. She looks on from the side with a strange mix of sympathy for her husband and professional curiosity, as the PA works busily with a tiny scalpel and forceps.

"I've never seen an insect stinger go that far in," the medic says.

"But there's definitely something in there?" Sarah asks him.

"You bet—and ah! Here it is." The PA delicately reaches into the incision with the forceps, and pulls out a thin, curly, wiry object with about the same dimensions as an eyebrow hair. He dunks it in a vial of alcohol to rinse off the blood, then holds it up under the examination lamp so that all three of them can look at it. The mystery object is grey and has a metallic sheen.

"Wow," says the PA. "Weird. Never seen anything like this. Do you know what it was that stung you—a wasp, or a bee…maybe a scorpion?"

"Actually, I think it was a moth," Chuck replies—dryly, although his face is paler than ever.

"Hah—funny!" The PA turns to drop the curly object in the biowaste bin.

"Wait," says Sarah. "Umm…d'you think we could keep that? I…uh…know somebody…who'd be interested—and who could probably tell us where it came from."

She expected a shocked or even a disgusted look in response to her request—but this PA has obviously seen plenty of the bizarre already in his line of work, because he simply shrugs, slides the curly object into a thumb-sized sealable plastic bag, and hands the bag to Sarah without comment.

Then he swiftly bandages Chuck up and sends the couple on their way.


"You feeling a little freaked out?" Sarah asks Chuck, as they emerge from the urgent care center into the faint early-morning sunlight, and walk back to the Lotus.

"More than a little." Chuck takes the tiny plastic bag out and stares at the mystery object for the thirteenth time since the medic extracted it. "I can confirm it once we can get into Castle, of course. But I'm pretty sure I—we—already know what this is about."

"Saldana microchipped you."

"Like a pet dog. And who knows what other intel this thing was collecting for her."

Sarah's expression darkens. "I could so easily kill that woman right now for what she did to you. This action wasn't sanctioned by the CIA...I'm sure of that."

"And I wasn't supposed to know it was even there," Chuck muses. "Never thought I'd be grateful for my allergies."

"What do you plan to do with that thing, now that it's out?"

"Figure out some way to turn it against her, I guess." Chuck abruptly stops and turns his head to give his wife—dressed in sweats and hoodie and still frowning—the once-over.

"You know, babe—we're going to have to make sure this same thing didn't happen to you."

"I don't think it did. I'm not the one with the Intersect."

But Chuck pulls Sarah to him and murmurs into the back of her neck, "Still, I think you will require a very…very…thorough examination…."

Sarah squirms and laughs; her mood is improving quickly. "Mmmm—I probably will. But first you have to take me out to breakfast."


That afternoon, at the new offices of Carmichael Industries

"Down just a little on the left side," says Alex, indicating the direction with her finger.

"Whoops—that was down too much—back up a little!" Sarah adds.

Chuck and Morgan struggle with straightening a 72-inch high-definition monitor screen, just installed on the back wall in their new conference room. After a few minutes of mixed signals from the ladies, and hefting and grunting from the guys, all four members of Team Carmichael eventually agree that the screen is as level and straight as it's going to get.

The two men take a step back to admire their work, as Sarah and Alex look on from their swivel chairs on either side of the new cherry wood conference table. The top of the table is littered with empty cartons, crumpled napkins, and discarded chopsticks from their first official corporate lunch meeting—held over take-out sizzling shrimp—a short while earlier.

There's a loud knock at the front door. Alex checks the time on her smartphone and says, "Oh—that must be the delivery from Large Mart—the office supplies. Morgan, would you be a honey and help me stack the cartons in the storage closet?"

"Of course—lead the way, my dear," says Morgan with exaggerated gallantry as he follows his girlfriend out of the room, leaving Sarah and Chuck alone.

Chuck looks skeptically at the monitor. "After all that, I really hope this thing works."

Sarah rifles through the clutter on top of the table until she locates the remote control, and tosses it to Chuck. "Try it out, sweetie!"

Chuck ceremonially extends the remote in the direction of the monitor, and hits the ON button. The big screen shimmers into full brightness—and there, considerably larger than actual size, is the face of—

"General Beckman?"

Almost without thinking, Sarah jumps up from her seat and closes the conference-room door. At the same time, Chuck points the remote toward the windows and taps another key, which lowers the blinds. Then they both take seats at the table facing the monitor and sit attentively, trying to regain their working composure.

"How'd she know I was gonna turn it on?" Chuck whispers in his wife's ear.

"She's Beckman," Sarah whispers back.

Amused at having taken them both so completely by surprise, their former boss is smiling benevolently at them from her usual perch—behind her desk at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington.

"Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Bartowski," Beckman begins. "I expected it wouldn't be very long before we crossed paths again. You're well, I see…and back together—just as I'd been briefed. Nice to get a visual on that."

Chuck and Sarah, who have serious expressions on their faces but are obviously holding hands underneath the table, nod and blush.

"To what do we owe this visit, General?" asks Chuck. "Is this a social call?"

Beckman's eyes narrow. "Hardly. I wanted to congratulate you after your successful mission at the FlixPix studio. We've analyzed the contents of those hard drives you disabled—and I can tell you that if Roark's…uhh…his…assobots—"

Chuck grins as Beckman's face wrinkles in distaste at the word.

"—had they been released to infiltrate our networks, the damage would have rendered the Omen virus trivial by comparison. So once again, the two of you have done your country a great service. Casey too, of course. Where is the Colonel?"

"He's off to intercept Gertrude Verbanski again," Sarah says. "He left before dawn."

"General, what about Pfeffer?" Chuck interjects. "And Hamilton Su?"

"Pfeffer won't be seeing the light of day any time soon," replies Beckman. "And as for Su, he's already been released—right after he got a dose of X-13 gas to erase his memory of the past 24 hours."

"That will come as a relief to moviegoers everywhere," notes Chuck.

"I hope he still remembers to pay us!" Sarah moans.

"I'm sure you can jog his memory, Sarah. At any rate, you'll be happy to know that there is still a sizable bounty on former Fulcrum agents, dead or alive—so Carmichael Industries will also be collecting on thirteen of them."

Hearing this, Chuck and Sarah smile excitedly at each other. Meanwhile, on the screen, Beckman has tilted her head and is touching her ear—apparently receiving a message through an earpiece.

"I've just been informed that we won't be able to keep Colonel Casey's civilian daughter distracted much longer—so I'm going to sign off. Give my best to Morgan Grimes. And take care out there, both of y—"

"Just a second, General!" Chuck interrupts, while frantically waving his hand at the screen. "Before you go—I—we—wanted to say thanks for helping us with finding these offices and getting back into Castle."

Beckman looks thoroughly puzzled.

"You know," continues Chuck, a bit hesitantly. "You sent Agent Cliff—"

"I did no such thing," Beckman curtly replies. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

The conference-room door starts to open.

Click—Beckman taps a key at her desk and is gone—and now Chuck and Sarah are the ones who are puzzled.

Alex enters the room, saying, "That was kinda strange, what just happened out front—and hey, why are the blinds down?"


Team Carmichael spends several more hours in the office complex, moving in: unpacking boxes, moving furniture around, hanging pictures, and setting up their computer systems. Excited about the new place, Morgan and Alex chatter incessantly while attacking their tasks. Sarah works steadily, but quietly—lost in thought. Chuck notices, but he refrains from making any comments or asking her about it.

Then, all of a sudden, Sarah cheerfully announces, "I think it's time to call it a day! Morgan and Alex, you've done well…take the rest of the day off."

"Are you sure, baby?" Chuck asks her. "There's a lot more we can—"

Sarah shoots him a look that unmistakably says: Shut up, sweetie.

As soon as Morgan and Alex leave, Sarah puts her arms around Chuck.

"I think I'm finally ready to talk about dreams," she tells him. "Come with me."

As they head for the door, Sarah stoops to pick up the unopened envelope with the mysterious gift from John Casey, and slips it under her arm.


A little while later, on the north slope of the Hollywood Hills

Sarah parks the Lotus at the curb in front of the house with the red door and the white picket fence. She slowly emerges from the car, carrying the envelope from Casey, and Chuck is even more hesitant than she is to leave the vehicle.

(Music: "Fix You," by Coldplay)

"Surprised?" Sarah asks as they stand together on the sidewalk in front of the house.

"Yes…very."

"I brought you here because now I understand what my nightmares were telling me, Chuck. It's that I won't—I can't—evade my guilt over what I did to you, simply by forgetting about this house and everything—good and bad—that it represents for us."

"But babe—there's nothing for you to feel guilty ab—"

Sarah gently puts her fingers to his lips. "Hush. I know what you always say—and I hear you, Chuck—I really do. I'm working on that…I promise."

"Time can fix a lot," he replies.

Sarah nods yes, and after a moment says, "It's so peaceful here…and so pretty."

Indeed, the dwelling could hardly look more perfect. The flowers growing just inside the fence are throwing off a sweet blend of fragrances, birds are singing in the trees, and the house itself is glowing in the yellow-orange late-afternoon sunlight. The FOR SALE sign is still posted in the middle of the lawn, and swaying slowly back and forth in the gentle, warm breeze.

"C'mon, Chuck. Take me inside before I chicken out." Sarah swings the front gate open and starts along the salmon-red brick walkway toward the front door.

"Sarah…I don't have the key with me."

But she does, and holds it out to show him. Her hand is trembling. Chuck takes hold of it to steady her, and they walk alongside each other, up to the front porch. She's calm, but tense, and Chuck is acutely aware of the conflicting emotions grappling within her.

At the front door, Sarah stops, and holds up the envelope.

"I'm dying to know," she announces. "You?"

"Sure, babe." Chuck knows she's trying to ease the tension—unless she's stalling—losing her nerve? He resolves to be ready for any response.

Sarah reaches beneath her dress for a knife, and slices the top of the envelope open. The surprise gift is a small blue-and-white metal sign, shield-shaped, emblazoned with:

Home security ensured by

VERBANSKI CORP

Intruders, turn around NOW

This is your only warning!

And Chuck and Sarah burst into hysterical laughter.

"What," Chuck asks between guffaws, "he thinks we can't take care of ourselves any more?"

Tension broken, at least for the moment. Sarah props the sign against the wall, then unlocks the door. Chuck looks intently into her face—making absolutely sure she wants to do this—then holds the door open for her and follows her into the house.

The interior is completely vacant and unlit, except for sunbeams streaming in through all of the windows. It's spotless—not even dusty—and there's no scent of any kind.

"No monsters," Sarah murmurs, seeing no obvious traces of any terrible past occurrences.

"I took care of that while you were…still away," Chuck replies. "It's all good in here now."

They continue over to the doorframe where the two of them had carved their names together: 'Sarah + Chuck.' The inscription can barely be discerned in the shadows, but Chuck and Sarah run their fingers over it, and it feels as fresh as ever.

"I changed my mind last night," Sarah says. "After I knew you were going to be all right and I was crying all over you on the floor."

"After you saved me, Sarah—for the umpteenth time since we met."

"That's just it, Chuck. I've saved you—but more and more I've been remembering all the ways that you've saved me. Like when you brought me here that awful night. I know you did it because you were trying to save me—to save us. And it worked. That's what I'm going to remember about this house..."

She turns to him with moistening eyes.

"...I love you, Chuck."

"I love you, Sarah. And I think we can still have this…if that's what you want."

Sarah takes Chuck's hand and presses it against the carving on the doorframe again. "I do. I want this for us. This is how we marked this place as ours, the first time we were here. I think we need to do it again. Right here, right now, we have to do something spontaneous, and defiant, and beautiful, Chuck." She gives him a soulful, longing look through her tears. "Got any ideas?"

"How about this?" he asks—and before Sarah realizes what he's doing, Chuck races back out through the front door and grabs the FOR SALE sign with both arms. He shoves and tugs the signpost back and forth, until he has wrestled it out of the ground and dropped it to the grass.

Sarah stands on the front porch, shaking her head but also smiling with delight at her Chuck.

"That was sure spontaneous and defiant, sweetie—but not what I had in mind."

Chuck turns on his heels, and sweeps his wife up in his arms. "Maybe this?"

"Much better." Sarah kisses him as he carries her back into the house. "Upstairs, please. I think I remember there's a nice thick shag carpet in the master bedroom…."

(Closing credits and Chuck titles theme, by Tim Jones)


Chuck and Sarah Will Return in Episode 6.04, "Chuck Versus the Amber Alert," which you can also find here on FF dot net!


A/N: As always, I am deeply grateful to all of you who've sent in so many encouraging reviews, and/or followed and/or favorited this story. Thank you! As long as you keep telling me you want more, I'll try to keep this imaginary Chuck Season 6 going!

… anthropocene