Even in the wee hours of the morning, the streets of L.A. County were not empty, but the traffic was sparse enough that Sarah was able to dart the Porsche in and out of the lanes with ease, even pushing reckless levels of speed. Chuck watched her silently from the passenger seat. The streetlights overhead flashed by, lighting up their faces for brief moments then plunging them into darkness again.
"There's something I need to tell you," Chuck said finally, and she gave him a quick look before returning her gaze to the road. "It's going to sound crazy but… I guess I'm asking you to trust me this time…"
She smiled a little and took her hand off the shifter long enough to give his hand a squeeze.
"The Intersect isn't actually on that USB drive, it's —" he took a deep breath and looked at his hands in his lap, "it's in my head, my brain. I got this email from…"
"I know." Her voice was quiet in the small space but it might as well have been a shout. He whipped his head up to look at her again.
"I knew the moment Lizzie showed me the email from Bryce Larkin."
"Bryce is a spy, we worked together at the CIA, but he went rogue, stole the Intersect and blew up the facility. I… stopped him… but not before he sent the Intersect to some unknown location. I traced it to California and assumed it was somewhere Jill could retrieve it. But when I got here, Jill was already dead and her apartment was empty."
"And you came looking for me," he said. She nodded. "So, Bryce is Agent Anderson? Is he still a threat? Is that why we needed to hurry away?"
"No. No, Bryce is no longer a threat."
"How do you know?"
"Because I shot him."
"You shot him? Bryce is dead?"
"No, Bryce is in critical but stable condition at a top secret, CIA detention hospital."
Chuck's eye widened. She'd said that so matter-of-factly. "Oh." He looked at his hands again then returned his gaze to her face. "Why did we need to rush away, and what about Barth-Casey, was he killed or —"
"We're here," Sarah said, interrupting him and he turned to take in their destination.
Lights were dim in the gray, nondescript building as Sarah whipped her Porsche into the underground parking garage. Chuck looked around intently, trying to take in the details. The adrenaline was starting to fade from his bloodstream and in its wake it left weariness and throbbing pain. Once they had parked, Sarah reached over and took his hand again, giving it a firm squeeze before releasing him. She reached into the backseat and came back with a baseball cap.
"Here, put this on and keep it pulled low," she said softly.
"It's very important that people see as little of you as possible," she replied in almost a whisper. "To keep you safe."
Though he could feel nervous energy coming off her in waves, she waited patiently for him to exit the car and make his way around the bumper to where she stood. The corners of her lips were turned downward and her blue eyes were intense as she watched him. He held his hand out to her and she took it, her entire body relaxing as they made contact.
They didn't speak as they hurried to the elevator and Sarah pulled out a key card, sliding it into the door before pressing a series of numbers. When they stepped inside and the elevator began to ascend, she leaned against the stainless steel wall, but didn't release his hand. They rode in silence.
The doors opened onto a sparse, but elegantly decorated hall, and Chuck looked down to see a seal embedded in the floor. 'Central Intelligence Agency,' curved across the top in bold letters. He looked back up, wide eyed to see her watching him. She squeezed his hand again and pulled him along after her. The clack of her boots seemed deafening in the dim hallway and Chuck took a deep breath, trying to keep a lid on the apprehension and anxiety that threatened to turn his knees into goo.
"Hello, Agent Walker," a tall, broad shouldered man said as they approached a set of metal detectors. His hand was firmly on the handle of his gun as he watched Sarah, his countenance not that of a friendly co-worker. Once she showed her ID and ran her card through the scanner, he smiled. She quickly and deftly disarmed herself, releasing Chuck's hand only long enough to do so. He watched as she filled a bin with three pistols, several knives and Chuck's blood soaked set of keys. "And who is your visitor?" the guard asked, looking at Chuck carefully. Chuck ducked his head.
"His name is Scooby," Sarah said sharply. "And you never saw him."
The man reacted as if she'd slapped him. His head came up and he stared straight ahead. "Yes, Ma'am."
Chuck swallowed as he stepped through the detectors but no alarms sounded. Sarah tugged once again on his hand and he followed her quickly down a succession of hallways. Chuck couldn't keep track of the turns after a while and realized, a little panicked, that he would never find his way out again on his own.
Eventually they reached a simple, wooden door with no name on the brass plate. Sarah slid her card through the scanner, the lock disengaged with a click and she pulled him inside. The office was completely empty except for a large desk and a dusty silk plant in the corner. There were no windows. She closed the door behind them and leaned against it with a sigh.
"Wait, Chuck, listen. Please?" she said, stepping forward and holding up her hands toward him. "The entire force of the United States Government is going to come raining down on us any moment and there are some things I need you to know before that happens."
He blinked at the intensity of her voice and the haunted look that flitted over her face. "Yeah, Sarah, tell me… anything."
She relaxed a little, a small smile caressing her full lips. She reached forward and took his hands. "I need you to know that I didn't lie to you about Jenny," she began. "I couldn't… I couldn't lie to you again. I really was Jenny, once upon a time. I used to be that girl. Only, once my father was arrested, instead of taking over the family business, I was recruited to the CIA. I just need you to know that. I…" she bit her lip and then leaned in, pulling his arms around her waist and pressing her head against his chest. She said something muffled and he frowned, one of his hands sliding up her back, rubbing circles in what he hoped was a soothing gesture.
"What did you say?" he asked gently. She looked up and this time when she smiled it was wide and brilliant.
"I love you, too," she said as if they were the three words that would end hunger and bring about world peace.
Chuck looked at her, stunned, before a smile as big as hers split his face. "Yeah?" he asked, and she nodded. He grabbed her and pulled her close, capturing her mouth in a fervent kiss. One of her hands fisted in his shirt, the other pulled on his tie, keeping him close and she kissed him back with equal passion. When the need for air demanded they separate, he slid his fingers into her hair and tipped her face up to look at him.
"Please tell me your name really is Sarah," he said with a soft laugh. "I don't think I can handle another one."
She bit her lip and he looked at her with disbelief. "You're kidding!"
"Actually… it's Sam. Samantha Lisa Carter."
Chuck opened his mouth, closed it and then opened it again. "Wait, your name is Sam Carter?" he asked, his voice shooting up in complete surprise.
His reaction was mostly lost on Sarah and she nodded. "Yes, but I haven't been Sam for a very long time. Sarah is who I am. Sarah is the woman who fell in love with you, and Sarah is the name I'll put on the marriage license."
"Okay… wait… the what? The what license?" Chuck asked unsteadily, certain he'd misheard. But even as one part of his mind balked at the idea, another part seemed to hum with a Cheshire Cat-like purr and his arms tightened around her.
Sarah had pulled back, opening her mouth to answer when the door burst open and John Casey stormed inside. He was big and angry and he seemed to take up all the space. Chuck stepped farther back into the room until his butt hit the desk.
"Listen up CIA, the NSA will not be cut out of this, so don't even try to pull any of your crap."
Sarah had spun around in an instant, a smooth mask of indifference slipping easily in place over her features. "I have no idea what you mean."
"Right," Casey said snidely. "I have orders to take the asset into custody and deliver him to a secured facility immediately."
"He has already been taken into custody, Major, and this facility is secure." Her words were cold and her eyes narrowed as she glared up at him. Chuck looked back and forth between them like a spectator at a tennis match.
"What do you mean, 'secure facility?'" Chuck asked, turning his attention to Casey.
"It doesn't matter, Chuck, he won't be taking you anywhere."
"The hell I won't!" the NSA agent said, leaning into her space, his features twisted into a fierce frown. "Just because you've got your girly feelings all in a twist over the asset, don't think you have any say in what happens to him. You are beyond compromised and once your boss and mine find out about it, you'll be off this detail faster than you can drop your panties."
If possible, Sarah's eyes got even narrower. "I wouldn't be so sure about that, Major. You and I are the only two people who know who Chuck is and what's in his head. Every person who is read into this only increases the danger to Chuck — and the Intersect. I don't think our superiors are going to want to do that."
"You can't be trusted to be the asset's handler," Casey spat.
"It doesn't matter," she said folding her arms and leaning back against the desk beside Chuck. She bumped her shoulder gently against his. "I'm already more than just his handler. I'm his wife."
Chuck's head whipped around to look at her. She was dead serious, smiling back at Casey with smug satisfaction. He turned back and went with it, smiling somewhat awkwardly at the other man.
"What!?" Casey demanded, enraged.
"You heard me. And that status gives me, and Chuck, certain rights."
Casey shook his head, an aggressive laugh escaping his lips. "I'll show you rights…"
Chuck's entire body instinctively tensed to step protectively in front of her, but of course Sarah could take care of herself. She was faster too, and Casey stilled as she shot forward a step and pressed a wicked looking, black knife blade to his throat. Chuck blinked in surprise and wondered where the hell the thing had come from. Casey growled and gave her a look that promised retribution. Sarah simply tipped her head to the side and gave him a business like smile.
"Ceramic blade?" Casey asked, and there was a hint of something like respect in his voice.
"Grivory, don't leave home without it," she responded, that cool smile still in place.
Casey grunted and took a step back, as Sarah held her ground, the knife blade held firmly just below where his left ear had been.
"Major Casey, you've been injured and I'm pretty sure you haven't been cleared by the medics." She glanced down at his feet and Chuck followed her gaze to see several dark spots forming on the pale beige carpet. "In fact, you're bleeding on my floor."
Casey answered with another growling sound in the back of his throat.
"You need to get back to the Buy More, let the medics finish with you, and oversee the cleanup. Chuck," she said, her voice firm, "will stay here with me until the briefing at 0900 tomorrow." She lowered the sharply serrated blade, satisfied to have his attention.
"You'd better be here, Walker," Casey said, pressing his hand to his side and moving toward the door. "The NSA doesn't take kindly to being kept out of its own business."
"We will be here, Casey. We have no intention of cutting out the NSA." She glanced sideways at Chuck and gave him a little smile. "Right?"
"Right!" Chuck affirmed and then turned back to Casey, holding his hands up placatingly. "I know this information is important and that you guys will need to access it somehow. I'm going to work with you guys until we can figure out how to get it out of my head and back into your computer."
"As if you have a choice," Casey grunted and Chuck tensed his jaw angrily, like hell he didn't have a choice, but then the NSA agent was gone. The door closed behind him, and Sarah relaxed back against the desk with a sigh.
"That could've gone better."
"We really have to work with that guy?" Chuck asked.
"I'm afraid so," Sarah said. She chewed her lip a moment. "I don't know a lot about him, and what I do know… well, I know he's not Fulcrum and that's about the best we can hope for in these circumstances."
Chuck examined her profile, his eyes glancing over the soft curve of her cheek and the length of her neck. "And… what about that… other… thing?" Sarah turned her head quickly and looked at him, and a little smile played across her lips. "Wife?" he asked, eyes wide.
"Oh, yeah, that…" she gave a little shrug of her shoulders, "I lied." Then she turned toward him, and her fingers began toying with the hem of his white dress shirt. She looked up at him from beneath her lashes and all Chuck could think about was kissing her. "I guess you'll have to make an honest woman out of me."
Chuck blinked as her words registered. Did she just…? Did he…? He looked into her eyes, her face now so sweetly familiar to him, and felt the same intense pulse of desire along with the settled sense of belonging that he had felt with her since the moment they'd met. It was crazy, he knew that. He'd only known her for a week and it hadn't exactly been under the best of circumstances, but then he'd known Jill for seven years and look how that had turned out.
When he seemed to take too long to answer, her face fell and she looked at him uncertainly. "Unless… you don't…"
He smiled at her, the corner of his mouth quirking up on one side. "How fast do you think that little car of yours can get to Vegas?"
Her worry fell away and she grabbed his hand as a bright smile lit up her face. "Let's find out!" she said, and he laughed as Sarah pulled him from the room behind her.
So that's it. That is the end of my tale. What happens next is up to your imagination. :) I'd like to give some credit to the creators of Chuck for giving me these characters I love so much and to the creators of Charade, a great movie I hope you will all go watch now, if you haven't already seen it. After this I have the thing memorized.
I want to be clear how much I used that movie. I rewrote it nearly scene for scene. Every twist, except the ones involving Pierre and Jill keeping Chuck, belong to that movie. Just credit where credit is due. Without it, this whole thing would've floundered around the middle. I have trouble with middles.
Now, you know how in movies these days they like to surprise you with little scenes hidden inside the credits? Well:
The thick soles of her serviceable shoes made little sound on the linoleum as she strode down the long hallway. They were sturdy, supportive and ugly as hell. Every morning she lamented their atrocious appearance but every evening, as she slipped them from her sore and swollen feet, she loved them more than her one and only pair of Louboutins.
The next room on her rotation was guarded by two very large men. It wasn't an unusual sight and she took it in stride, showing them her ID and standing still as the bigger one used a device to scan her body. It was all part and parcel with working for the CIA. She waited for them to let her pass and nodded when the big fellow opened the door for her.
As she entered the room, she was greeted by the steady beep of machinery that said her patient was still stable. She looked down at the chart in her hand, scanning over the details. Whoever this guy was, he was a big deal, because he didn't have a listed name. Not so much as a John Doe. Instead, he was just a number. She looked over the readouts and displays, taking note of any inconsistencies.
It wasn't the first time she'd dealt with this particular situation. She'd looked after several number-named prisoners in her time, but none of them had been as easy on the eyes as this guy. She leaned in to take a long look at his handsome face, his chiseled features obscured slightly by a week's worth of stubble.
As if on cue, every machine in the place began beeping in complete madness, and the patient's hand shot out and seized her around the throat. She tried, uselessly, to gasp for breath as she clasped her hands around his wrist and looked down into the most intense blue eyes she had ever seen.
His voice was hoarse from lack of use and the breathing tube that had only been removed that morning. "Where is Chuck Bartowski?"
I finished writing Charade in an ER examining room while my daughter and I waited for her overnight room. I brought the laptop down for her to use but the I.V. in her hand made it difficult. So my laptop sat there, Charade four lines from being finished, (four lines I had been carrying around since I first started writing it), but I had other things to worry about. She looked up at me and said, "Mom, you should finish your story!" So, I did. When she asked me what was going to happen next, I told her I didn't know, but if it was a movie I'd stick a little scene in the credits that went something like this:
Michael Tucker, a.k.a. Big Mike, made his way across the Buy More parking lot. In one hand he held the newspaper close to his face, his eyes fully focused on what he was reading. In the other hand, he balanced a mug full of hot coffee and a large donut - pink frosted, with sprinkles. He grunted low in his throat, disgusted with the score of his favorite team's recent game. He was so caught up in what he was reading, that he didn't notice much else that was going on around him, so it wasn't until he felt the crunch of glass beneath his shoe that he pulled his gaze from the sports section.
He looked down at his feet with a frown to find the ground sprinkled with tiny pieces of glass that sparkled in the light from the early morning sun. His head snapped up and his jaw dropped as he took in the sight before him. His coffee cup fell to the ground and shattered. His poor donut slipped from his grasp, bouncing on the asphalt and rolling away in a mad break for freedom.
The front doors of his beloved store were shattered, glass everywhere, and inside… inside it was like a bomb had gone off. Not one TV was left intact. Every display was destroyed, cheese balls littered nearly every inch of floor, and off to one side, a Roomba was vacuuming in little circles, turning each time it ran into a piece of larger debris. Strange men and women were wandering around with different tools and instruments.
"Ooo, that… that is not our fault."
Lester Patel and Jeff Barnes came up to stand on either side of the manager. One smelled like fish, the other like exhaust fumes and stale beer. Lester's hand came to rest on Big Mike's shoulder and he shook his head, making a 'tsk tsk' sound.
"Wow," Jeff said. "I haven't seen this level of destruction since the last time my mom came home to find her boyfriend in bed with my Aunt Darena."
"Really, your aunt slept with your mom's boyfriend?" Lester asked peeking around Mike to look at his companion. "That's cold."
"Well, he was her husband."
Big Mike turned first to Jeff and then to Lester, and a low growl began to sound in his throat. Lester jerked his hand off his boss's shoulder and moved away.
Looking around quickly, Lester pointed over to the other side of the parking lot. "Oh, Jeff, hey isn't that… isn't that your Aunt Darena now? Hey, Darena, wait up!" Lester called nervously.
"Oh, maybe she's got some beer," Jeff commented. Smiling he began to amble off in the direction Lester had pointed.
"We, uh, we gotta go, Big Mike, really, really sorry about the store." Lester made a face and then took off after Jeff.
Big Mike turned back to the scene of destruction and the anger on his face melted into sadness as he began to sob.
My daughter is fine BTW. No permanent damage. Later, when she found out I was posting the story, she pretty much insisted I put that scene in. I wasn't going to but, well, I love her, so you have her to blame for all of this...
Thank yous! I want to say a special thanks to Indigogold for stepping forward and being someone I could share my work with. You were a friend in the Chuck world when I needed one, thank you so much for that.
I want you all to know that I appreciate every review, even the little ones, the things that let me know I'm not just putting this out into the universe for no reason. But I want to give special thanks to those of you who did more. I am blessed and humbled by getting to hear your thoughts because I'm not always the best at reviews myself. Not only were they rewarding, they also let me know how I did in crafting the story.
I have had so much fun sharing this story with you guys. I thought I was crazy but I'm glad it has been received like it has, because it was so much fun to write, even when it was hard and I wanted to give up.
Now, has anyone ever seen the movie Innerspace? In the ending, Tuck and Lydia are off on their honeymoon, Tuck has the chips on his cufflinks, The Cowboy is their driver and the two shrunken, evil scientists are hiding in their luggage! Jack yanks off his tie and heads off to save the day. But Innerspace has no sequel and neither does Charade, and these epilogues are a bit like that ending. ;-)
Morgan tugged the black, Buy More jacket more snugly across his chest and finally zipped up the front as the temperature began to drop below comfortable for the California native. He sighed, shoved his hands in his pockets and continued to shuffle along, kicking rocks alongside the stretch of highway he was walking. He knew, of course, that Chuck hadn't abandoned him. He wasn't sure where Chuck had headed on his bike but it was reasonable that he hadn't been able to come right back. After all, the guy was dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. Morgan hadn't quite understood it all but he'd seen those creeps hanging around Chuck's hotel room and they were scary.
He took another deep breath and exhaled sadly. He was just about to pull out his phone and let his mom know he was going to be late when a sleek, silver Astin Martin pulled up beside him. He stopped, waving away the dust and bent to peer inside as the window rolled down. His eyes stared at the beautiful redhead in the driver seat.
"Hey, you need a ride?" she asked and Morgan pulled back. He looked to his left and then to his right before turning to her and gesturing toward himself with his thumb. He watched in stunned silence as she bit her lip and nodded.
"Heck yeah, sure!" Morgan said before quickly climbing inside. He shut the door and smoothed his hand over the leather seat. "Nice ride."
"Thank you," she said and slammed the car into gear. She spun the tires in the dirt of the roadside before squealing onto the black top, and Morgan yelped and tried to find something to hold onto. "What's your name, Traveler?"
"Uh," he squeaked before clearing his throat. "Mor-Morgan."
The car wove in and out of traffic, taking dangerous chances with oncoming traffic, and through it all the redhead was smiling. Meanwhile, Morgan was pale as a ghost, both hands gripping the door with white knuckles.
"So, Martin," she asked as she zipped the car around a tight corner and accelerated onto the freeway. "Tell me about yourself."
Morgan gave her a look at the name, but let it go. If a gorgeous woman like that wanted him to be a Martin, he'd be a Martin! "Oh, um well, I work at the Buy More. Just sales staff right now, but I'm working my way up to assistant manager," he lied. "I like video games and um... actually my home is, um, that way." He pointed behind them indicating the opposite direction.
"Well, I never said anything about taking you home," she said playfully. She reached between her legs, just up under her short skirt, and pulled out the most enormous pistol Morgan had ever seen in his life. His eyes flew open wide as she pointed it at him.
"What!? Not again!" He turned and tried yanking on the door but it wouldn't budge. He banged both hands against the passenger side window a few times before pressing his face against the glass as the car continued to speed away. "CHUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!"
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you all so much for reading! Now that we are finished, and there are no spoilers left, I'll try to reply to your reviews and you can feel free to chat me up about the story. :)
Angus MacNab. Are there even words? Thank you so much for allowing me to use your little request to go over a bit from Lost Years to completely hijack you as a beta. You are so much fun to talk Chuck with as well as 'shop' about writing and such and everything else. I'm just really glad I got to know you. Without you, I'm pretty sure the intimidation of the fight and action scenes would have stalled this story out long ago. I know you kind of wanted the wedding in Vegas, but I hope this will do.
Sarah looked down at the glint of gold on her left hand. The sun coming in through the hotel room windows was reflecting off of the band around her finger. Her wedding band. She was married.
She'd really gone off the deep end this time.
The agent in her made excuses: Chuck saw things, knew things about her, understood her in a way that no one else did. Safer to keep him close. But she knew that's all they were, excuses – or, as a very wise person once told her, a lie in the skin of a truth. The truth was, (the real truth), she needed him.
"As soon as I get the chance, I'm going to buy you a real one of those, I promise." His voice pulled her attention away from the band of gold and she looked up at the man standing just inside her bathroom door. Her husband. She felt something swell and shift within her chest and she smiled. That feeling - whatever it was, she didn't have a name for it - should've scared the hell out of her, but it didn't. Instead it reminded her of having a belly full of really good wine and not a care in the world to worry about.
Which of course wasn't true. She had a lot to worry about: her job, the fact that she was, in a way, holding the United States Government's most valuable asset for ransom, how to be married, how to share herself with someone, how she could ever earn her husband's trust back… Chuck himself.
He was brushing his teeth now, and there was a bit of foam at the corner of his mouth when he turned to smile at her. It should have been disgusting but instead she found it completely adorable.
If she was smart, if she had any sense of self-preservation at all, she would declare herself compromised and run like hell in the other direction. But she couldn't do that. Chuck was far too valuable to her, and not because of the Intersect but because he was Chuck. As crazy as it was, she didn't want to live the rest of her life without him. She couldn't. If just last week anyone had told her such a thing were possible, she would've laughed in their face — and then probably punched them. Now, here she was, married.
The future was precarious at best. Fulcrum would still want him, and the information he had. The government would want to bunker him, use him… or worse. But she would do whatever she could to protect him. She had no delusions that she wasn't being selfish about the whole thing. She needed Chuck and she didn't intend to lose him. If they bunkered him, they'd better make it a double bed. If they used him, she'd be right at his side for every step, and if they tried to… well, she sure as hell wasn't going to let that happen.
Whatever the future held, they would face it together. She just prayed that someday, he could trust her again.
"I can't believe you had this fancy hotel all this time," Chuck said as he turned and leaned on the doorframe leading into the bathroom. His curly hair was damp about his head and he had a towel slug low on his hips. Her eyes roamed his lean and toned form. He wasn't especially muscular but there was some definition that drew her gaze. She bit her lip as her eyes roamed over his chest and stomach to the place where the dark hair disappeared beneath the towel. Heat and need curled low in her belly and she sat up in the huge bed, allowing the white sheet to fall to her waist.
Chuck's smile fell away, and his eyes darkened as they looked her over. A small, naughty smile played over his face as he too pulled his lower lip between his teeth. When his gaze returned to hers, he moaned. "Sarah, it's eight o'clock."
The need must be showing on her face. She grinned like a hungry cat as she crawled out of bed and stalked toward him, naked except for her ring. "So?"
"We have to be there by nine, right?"
"It only takes twenty minutes to get there from here." She ran her hands over his chest and up to caress the back of his neck. She pulled him in for a deep, needy kiss and he moaned low in the back of his throat as he returned it.
"I just don't want you to get into any more trouble than I know you're already going to be," he said, pulling back just far enough that he could look into her eyes.
She pushed up on her toes and kissed his chin. "I can get anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area in twenty minutes," she murmured against his throat, and her tongue darted out to lick him. His hands on her hips flexed instinctively.
He grinned down at her, his eyes sparkling with humor. "My wife is a speed demon." The way he said 'wife' made her tremble.
"Well, my husband is neglecting his duties." The look on his face was perfect. His crooked little smile somehow equal parts self-assured and disbelieving at the same time. Damn him and those smiles. He had a million of them and every one of them made her heart trip. The first time she'd seen him smile in that coffee shop she'd been a goner. She just hadn't known it yet.
"And what, may I ask, is at the top of this 'Honey Do' list you've already made for me?"
She smiled, her hands sliding down his torso, and his grin broadened when her fingers grasped the towel clinging precariously to his hips. She gave it a tug and it fell to the floor with a 'flump.'"
"That would be me."