A/N We now continue with last episode's flashback.
"Chuck, what were you thinking?"
"Orion gave me his wrist computer before we left."
"It frightens me that you know this."
"Duplicity just isn't in his nature."
They pulled off at a scenic overlook in the mountains, the lights of Las Vegas glowing in the blackness of the desert surrounding it. "Almost there," said Sarah.
"Las Vegas spaceport," said Chuck. "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
"Don't be silly, Chuck," said Sarah. "There's lots more hives of scum and villainy more wretched than this one."
"No, Sarah, you're supposed to say-you know what, just forget it." He tapped her binoculars. "Can you really see anything through those?"
She took them away from her face and rubbed her nose. "Of course I can. You know all those blobs of light you see down there?"
She put them back up to her eyes. "Well, with these they're little individual specks of light."
"But are they evil Ring specks of light? That's the question."
"You think I can tell the difference between organized crime specks of light, and evil Ring specks of light at this distance?"
Shooting it out with the Ring while dodging Mafiosi. "Suddenly I'm rethinking my father's clever plan."
"Don't be such a baby, Chuck. We follow orders, and we stay within mission parameters. As long as we stay away from the clerk's office we should be perfectly safe."
"Uh, Sarah, sweetie, I hate to break this to you but we need to get a license first."
"I know that, Chuck, but from the clerk. It doesn't say anything about the clerk's office, which is good, because that's the first place I'd stake out if I were laying a trap for me."
"But where are you gonna find a clerk at this—oh no, Sarah! You can't do that!"
"Can't do what?" asked Carina, already guessing the answer.
"Can't do what?" asked Ellie, completely bewildered.
"Find out where the clerk lives, or clerks, I suppose, and ambush one of them in his own home." General Beckman shrugged in the face of Ellie's astonishment. "It's what I would have done."
Carina burst out laughing. "You kidnapped a county clerk to get a marriage license?"
"We didn't kidnap him," said Sarah, her voice muffled.
Chuck raised her head, lifting her face from where she'd buried it against his chest. "Sweetie, you broke into his house, woke him up, and forced him up out of his own bed at badgepoint—"
"He was a loyal American citizen! He was happy to help out a Federal Agent in the performance of her duties!"
He silenced her lips with his. "And a good thing that was true, too, or we'd've had quite the gun battle on our hands trying to drop the thing off afterward."
"I said I was sorry!"
"Sooo not the point."
She pouted. "It made sense at the time."
He grinned, running a finger over her lips. "If this is your idea of a proper response to sudden marriage-related crises, I going to have to keep more careful track of our anniversary."
"I can see it now," said Carina. "Sarah running along the tarmac, throwing her badge at the cockpit. 'Federal Agent!'" She waved her hands in the air hysterically.
Sarah turned her head, stuck out her tongue, and flopped down on her husband's chest again. They both let out simultaneous 'Hmmp!'s as Carina laughed at them.
"She's awfully mouthy for someone just off of Death Row."
Beckman sniffed. "You don't know Carina very well, do you?"
"On the other hand," said Chuck, "It's not as if he didn't get his revenge."
Sarah pulled the blankets over her head.
Carina leaned in reeaall close.
Sarah stood on the sidewalk, in shock. He'd seemed like such a nice man. "The Oceans of Elvises Chapel of Love?"
Chuck waited patiently for the laughter to cease, the writhing on the floor to end, the coughing to stop, and the hand that reached up shakily to grab the railing of his bed. Carina dragged herself up, red-faced, and whimpered, "The what?"
Chuck patted the blanket-covered, shivering lump on his chest, and grinned at her with hideous glee. "She missed most of the joy of it! It was Oceans o' Elvises and Chapel o' Love. The Os weren't even Os, they were little Mars and Venus symbols, interlinked. And 'love' was spelled L-U-V. And that was just the sign! It had to be the cheesiest, tackiest, most tawdry excuse for a chapel in a city famous for sleaze. It was beautiful, like a train wreck frozen at just the perfect moment! I saw it and just…fell in love, we had to go in."
"I told you I'd kill you," came Sarah's muffled voice.
"You said you'd kill me if I told anyone," Chuck said to the lump.
"Which you just did!"
"I can see why you told everyone it was a small border town," said Carina, patting the lump's head. "I was all set to go out and find out which one, in case I need to get married again."
"See? The secret would have been out soon anyway," said Chuck."And it's not even like we used our real names."
Carina looked up in shock. "You didn't?"
The blanket flapped down. "Of course we did," snapped Sarah. "On the license. But I think the only person who actually read the license was the clerk, and I think he was the clerk because he was the only one who could read."
Chuck leaned his head back against the pillow. "Oh, God, that clerk. Where the hell did he get that accent?"
"Texas, I thought."
"Certainly big enough."
Suddenly Sarah draped herself over him. "We do ever'thang big, in Texas."
Carina blinked. "What the hell kind of an accent is that?"
Sarah turned her head and snapped, "What the hell are y'all doin' in mah room? Mah husband is gonna kick y'all's behind!" She looked up at Chuck, batting her eyes. "Show her, Charlie baby."
Carina looked at Chuck too, not batting her eyes because, hey, once you get off Death Row is no reason to go back on. "And they had this guy at the front desk, Charlie baby?"
Chuck closed his eyes. "She was like that all the way up to the ceremony…"
Sarah drooped. "Only way I could walk through the door. I never needed to be a different person so much in my life."
Carina recalled the reigning champion. "Not even during that wet T-shirt contest?"
"Tequila's a false identity all its own." Still, Sarah shuddered in hazy memory. "I had to go through this cold sober, God help me, so Sarah Walker, Southern dingbat, got married in my place."
"To Charlie-baby Bartowski?" She couldn't see that one flying under anyone's radar.
Chuck sat bolt upright. "Hell, no," he said, oozing Southern…something. "Mah name is Charles Charles and this here is Mrs. Charles and we are the Charleses."
"The Charleseses," echoed Sarah, sounding six drinks in.
Carina sat back. "No wonder they didn't read the license."
"I'd be looking for a camera. I'm shocked this isn't up on youtube."
Chuck leered at Sarah. "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, ain't that right, baby?"
Carina held up a hand in protest, or supplication. "Please don't do that anymore."
Chuck and Sarah sank back down onto the bed, appallingly comfortable.
Carina looked up when she thought it was safe, found them looking at her. "Was everyone like that?"
"Nah. They were Elvis impersonators from all over."
"Even the bridesmaid?" That was her job!
Sarah shook her head. "Nope. He was Priscilla impersonator."
"I think the vows were lyrics from 'Love Me Tender.'"
"You don't know?"
He took his place in front of the officiant, guided along by the steady hand of someone used to guiding dumbstruck grooms along.
He was here. She was here.
She stood in front of him in a black combat suit, wearing a plastic tiara with a veil and holding a sprig of plastic flowers in her hand. God she was beautiful.
She smiled at him, for him, and the sun rose.
"Will you, Charles…" The man kept talking, but somewhere between his lips and Chuck's ears it all turned into the beat of his heart, the sound of his breath. Love conquered all other sensations.
Until the officiant coughed and the best man gave him a gentle nudge. They were used to that, too.
"I will," he said, forgetting the accent. "Today, tomorrow, and forever."
"Amen," said the best man, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Great song."
"Yo, Chuck! You in there?" prompted Carina.
Chuck shook off the pleasantly hazy memory. "I have no idea."
"I hope you mean about the lyrics," said carina, eyeing him dubiously. "Sarah?"
She kept her cover intact, playing the ditzy blonde until her 'bridesmaid' put the tiara in her hair, draping the veil across her face. A mask in front of a mask. Too many masks. She was stifling under the weight of them.
'Priscilla' put a piece of plastic in her hands and her fingers closed around it as she stepped out in front of the officiant.
She was there. He was there. It was all real.
The veil was real. No need for masks, or desire. They all came tumbling down, behind the impervious shield of that veil. She could be herself in his eyes, whoever that happened to be. So long since she'd been that person.
"Today, tomorrow, and forever."
Her soul rang like a bell. She missed everything the officiant said. Every word. "I will. I do," she said, when she realized no one was talking. "Yes."
Then the veil was gone, and the husband was kissing the bride. Mission accomplished.
"Hello! Earth to Sarah!"
What now? Sarah came out of her trance. "Huh?"
Carina rolled her eyes. "You got a live one there, tiger."
"You have no idea," said Chuck, and Carina–Carina!–blushed.
And here I thought the sprinklers going off was the worst wedding day of all time. Ellie looked around. "Is it just me or is it hot in here?" She really, really wished Carina would get the hell out of there so she could release her patient. She really, really needed to get home to her doctor.
"So where'd you honeymoon, Graceland?"
"It…was a hotel room…"
"With room service," added Sarah. "Lots of room service."
"We each only had the one set of clothes, we had to save them for the trip back." That's our story and we're sticking to it.
Carina smirked at the pair of them. "Which you did by not wearing anything at all, for three days. Did you guys manage to see any part of Las Vegas at all? By daylight?"
Sarah shook her head. "Remember, we had to lay low." Which this was, for Vegas.
"You had to lay—" Carina stopped, clenching her fists in her lap. "Nope. Not gonna do it."
"On the third day the room service guy told me they had a dining room in the hotel, but then Casey called and we had to come back," said Chuck mildly.
"Just like that?"
Sarah frowned. "What are you implying?"
He eyed her dishevelment-the flushed cheeks, the hair-uncertainly. "You okay, Boss?"
He was so considerate. "I'm fine, Manoosh. My sides are sore, that's all. Sometimes something happens that makes this whole stupid job worth it, and we were listening in."
He loved his job. "We?"
The monitor was dark, Beckman disconnected when the door first started cycling open. At least, that was her excuse. "North Star and I."
"Oh." Above his pay grade. "I was looking at those records you asked me about…?"
"What? Oh, that." She waved a hand in dismissal. "You can forget that, I was just blind-sided by the General and had a panic moment. I think I have all the records already."
"Most of them, it seems." He could have hacked her private files and made sure, but he wasn't about to take that risk. Only the Piranha could have done that undetected, and he wasn't the Piranha. Sometimes he wondered if anyone was. "But I found a reference in these interviews you did, to a Mr. Colt?"
Ellie nodded. "Charles Carmichael's first appearance. Unrecorded, since they were planning to murder the Host and that's not something you want to have on disk when the trial starts."
He shook his head. She was so innocent. Like there would ever be a trial. "You know we can get that back anyway, right?"
Morgan Grimes got out of the car when the Secret Service agent opened the door for him. "Your agenda for tomorrow, sir."
He took the paper automatically. "Thank you."
"We'll come for you at ten. Be ready."
"I will." The agent got back in the car and Morgan, being Morgan, waved goodbye to men who wouldn't respond if their mothers waved goodbye. As he walked up to the front door he studied the list of events laid out in fifteen-minute increments. Who could live like this?
He pushed up on the knob so the door wouldn't squeak as he opened it, and tiptoed past Mrs. P's office door. Even with the Secret Service backing him up she still wasn't too happy about him skipping out on breakfast duty. Avoiding the creaky steps, he went up to his room on the next floor. He slipped inside and grabbed the towel nearby, laying against the door so no light would show. Only then did he flip the switch. "Gah!"
"Hi Morgan," said Alex quietly. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure," he puffed out. He checked his own pulse. "I've heard heart attacks can take quite a while to kill you, so you might want to talk fast, though."
She walked up to him and put her hand on his. "I need to tell you about my father."
A/N2 The Honeymoon is over!