A/N: Just a little somethin' somethin' I came up with the other day.
Thanks to dettiot for building my confidence during the process coming up with the title! Writing buddy fist pound! Yess.
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck. And it's a damn shame.
Sarah Bartowski blinked against the sunlight as she emerged from the darkness of the wooden shed, maneuvering the push mower down the brick path she had laid herself. She shut the door behind her and admired the small shed for a moment.
She and Chuck had built it together last week in preparation for when they finally moved into their new home. It was an eye opening experience, spending a day in the shade of the old coral tree in the backyard that would soon be their backyard, hammering away and sanding down and miraculously managing not to argue. It was perhaps the most domestic thing she had ever done. And it had cemented the realization that this was it—this was her life now.
Building a shed with her husband. Guiding their new push mower out into the front yard through the side gate. Which reminded her: she and Chuck would have to sand and paint this gate once they actually moved in. For now, their efforts were focused on painting the inside of the house, which was where Chuck happened to be at this very moment.
At least she hoped that's where he was. She spotted his PSP in the front seat of the Evora when they drove down from the Echo Park apartment complex where they were still living until they finished the house. She had an image of him sitting on the floor in what he called his "painting pants" which were a pair of torn up jeans that looked straight off the Abercrombie and Fitch racks, his ratty In'N'Out t-shirt, open paint cans around him, an untouched paintbrush, unpainted living room walls, his PSP in hand, his face scrunched up in concentration.
Sarah shook her head and pushed the mower out into the front yard and looked at the expansive lawn. This wasn't the exact house Chuck had promised her at the beginning of their marriage, with the white picket fence and the red door. But it was a beautiful two-story white house with an olive green door, matching shutters, a dark gray sloped roof, and a comfortable front porch. The house was situated further in from the street, which meant they had a nice large lawn to take care of. Chuck had groused a bit about it, but it had been a non-issue once they saw the half-acre back yard with trees and a small pool that left plenty of extra room in the yard for them to play with once they moved in. Sarah had dreams of a raised garden, or maybe a koi pond surrounded by stones and vegetables. Or…
Realizing she was idling in the middle of the yard, she shook her head at herself and set the mower at the edge of the lawn to study the contraption.
Sarah loved the thoughtfulness in her husband that caused him to go to the hardware store in the nearby shopping center and buy her a brand new lawn mower. He'd brought Morgan with him, as if Morgan would be any help picking anything out that wasn't a martial arts film or grape soda. The next day, Chuck brought her back to their house and presented it with a giant blue bow that he must have tied himself, since it was a bit wonky. The fact that he'd tied a bow to it in the first place was already enough to melt her heart, but then he reminded her that it was the first thing they would put into their newly built shed. He promptly had her push it into the shed herself and they laughed together at how anti-climactic it was.
But Chuck Bartowski was a computer guy, through and through. And this was not a computer. Hence why she'd come out to mow the lawn herself. Her guy was certainly handsome, and strong, and dashing, and smart—but there was no way he'd know what to do with this push mower.
She was about to lean down to turn the thing on when she heard the sound of a door shutting behind her. One of their new neighbors, no doubt, as she knew it wasn't her own front door. Whoever it was probably saw her through their window and thought they'd introduce themselves. It was nice, she supposed. And nerve-wracking.
It was such a strange feeling, knowing that this suburban stereotypical situation was about to happen to her. Making friends wasn't Sarah Walker's strong-suit, and to be honest, even Sarah Bartowski found it difficult. Even now. Being a spy taught her to be whoever people wanted her to be, say what she needed to say to achieve her objective. But she wasn't on a mission when she was at the store and someone struck up a conversation about California avocados. She wasn't on a mission when she went to her weekly yoga class and her teacher tried to strike up a conversation. And those were the situations Sarah found she was completely out of her element. Just being herself around people who weren't Chuck. Or Morgan, Ellie, Devon, Clara…
Perhaps living in a suburb and having nice neighbors would help her come into her own skin a bit more. Make her comfortable sharing bits of herself with others instead of withholding everything just in case they might use it against her later.
Yes, this whole having neighbors thing might be nice for her and Chuck.
She heard what sounded like a larger man's footfalls approaching at a slow stroll—a strut, rather.
"Uh, 'scuse me? You're my new neighbor, aren't you?"
Sarah turned, tucking her hair behind her ear and smiling politely. He was a young man, maybe a few years older than her, his black hair slicked straight back from his forehead. He was muscled as though he'd played a college sport once upon a time. Baseball maybe. He had a weight bench in his garage, too, she imagined. He had his arms crossed over the key lime green polo he wore. And in one hand he held a can of Coors Light.
It was barely eleven o'clock in the morning. Was he seriously drinking a Coors Light at eleven o'clock in the morning? Sarah fought off the judgmental part of her, a voice in her head telling her to be nicer. This was her new neighbor after all. Maybe he was a nice guy.
"Couldn't help but notice you trying to start that mower of yours," he said, flashing her a cocky grin, one eyebrow arched. When she saw his eyes slide over the tight work out shirt she wore and the black shorts she always put on for yard work, before running up and down her long bare legs, she grit her teeth.
Or maybe he isn't a nice guy at all.
He lowered his arms to his sides, then gestured to the mower. "That looks like a pretty rough mower. Might wanna use mine. Oh, name's Keith, by the way. Keith Monroe. I live right next door." Keith made a move to shake her hand and she begrudgingly let him, before stepping back again.
"Oh? With your wife?" Sarah pointedly asked, leaning her arm on the handle of the mower and putting her other hand on her waist.
He pursed his lips and his eyebrows bounced to his hairline. Then he ducked his head in faux-embarrassment that she'd caught him out. "Heh. That's right. Dharma. My wife." He let out a put upon sigh that made Sarah want to punch him for this Dharma woman. Then again, she was the fool who'd married him.
Nice, Sarah. Be nice.
"I'm Sarah Bartowski."
"Nice to meet you, Miss—"
"Mrs. Bartowski," she cut in. "My husband's name is Chuck. We haven't moved in yet. We're just prepping it. Finishing up the inside."
"Huh. It was finished when the Browns lived in it."
"Wallpaper," Sarah said, as though that explained everything. He seemed confused, and Sarah wondered if Dharma would have understood. Then she wondered when she'd become this person. Graham's wildcard enforcer, standing on her front lawn, meeting her new neighbor, and inwardly scoffing at him when he didn't understand the infinite number of things that were wrong with wallpaper. Even Chuck had at least wrinkled his nose at the stuff when they first walked in to tour the house. He'd slung his arm over her shoulders and shrugged a little. We can fix it.
Keith Monroe was definitely staring at her in a way that went beyond friendly neighbor and she meant to put a stop to it immediately, when he interrupted her preemptively and leaned down in front of her to look over the mower. "Hm. Did you get this at Home Depot?"
"It did come from Home Depot, yes," she said slowly, stepping back a bit to make sure he wasn't looking at her legs again.
He made a little sound in the back of his throat and took a swig of his beer. "Figured." He began to rattle off all of the issues that came with Home Depot mowers and Sarah found she began grimacing. She caught herself and schooled her features, repeated the Be nice mantra in her head.
"So yeah. While this machine is new and shiny," he said, causing her to grit her teeth again, "you can't go by looks. They've got ones where all you do is push a button, too, which might be more your thing. But those don't work as well. Nothing like feeling that motor start up when you give that pull string a hard tug."
He stood up again and she felt a spike of annoyance. Chuck had bought this mower, and maybe he wasn't the best judge of a good mower, but he also understood that she didn't care about whether it looked new or shiny. And he knew she didn't want something where all she had to do was push a button. Who the hell wanted that?
"A button, huh? Wow, that sounds really easy. Right up my alley. Something easy. I love when things are easy." She tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice. She really did. And she didn't think she was successful, but Keith Monroe didn't seem to notice.
"Yup! Just a button! A friend of mine manages the hardware store that's a couple miles south from here. I'll put in a good word. He'll get you a better mower. If your husband can't work it, I'd be happy to learn ya. It's the only thing us guys are good for, huh?" He chuckled.
Maybe that's all you're good for…
"I'm fine with this one, thank you." Go away.
"Oh? Well, okay. How about I teach you how to work this one, then? I've got nothin' but time, today! The missus isn't here. She's over at her sister's for a shower."
"Does yours not work?"
He crossed his arms at his chest and gaped for a second, and then he broke into loud laughter that sounded a bit like Awesome's, but less sincere and more grinding on the nerves. So basically, it was nothing like Devon's laugh after all. "So you're funny." He appraised her openly and it felt really gross, especially when he followed it by gulping down more of his beer.
"Ha." Her smile was less than genuine. "Not nearly as funny as my husband."
"Mm," he nodded, still swallowing his beer. "Right. That guy."
"Yep. That guuuuy," she drawled, turning for a moment to squint in the living room window. She could just see his silhouette in the window, and she knew he was watching the scenario and knew exactly what was happening. He was definitely laughing at her. She glared, then turned back to smile wanly. "So I'm gonna go ahead and mow the lawn now." So go away.
"Well, let me turn it on for you."
No. Go away.
"Actually, as nice as that is for you to offer, I think I'm good. I've got this. Uh…"
"Keith," he helped her. She hadn't forgotten his name, but it made her feel good that he thought she had.
"That's right. Keith. Sorry."
"S'okay. I'll just help you start it then. If it starts. Ha!"
"Oh. No, please. I don't want you to spill your beer."
"Nah, I'm a pro at multitasking." He winked and bent down to eye the mower. "Let me just rev 'er up for ya."
God, his head would make the perfect football right about now. If I kick hard enough, maybe I can get it between those two trees across the street. Field goal!
"I don't need you to rev anything up for me, thanks." She wished she hadn't left her knives inside with Chuck because Keith Monroe needed to learn some things. But stabbing her neighbor might not start things off on the right foot in the neighborhood for them. And she and Chuck really liked this house.
And she really liked not being in prison. She had no idea what sorts of conjugal visits she'd be granted, if any. Which made taking Keith Monroe out totally not worth it.
She heard the front door of what was to be the new Casa de Bartowski open and close, then Chuck's footsteps on the porch, down the front steps and shuffle through the grass. She watched Keith Monroe's eyes lift and settle over her shoulder at her husband as he approached, most likely with a giant, laughing grin on his face.
Chuck slid his arm over her shoulders and tugged her against his side. Only then did she give him the satisfaction of looking up at him. His brown eyes flicked down to meet her gaze and she knew immediately that he was laughing, the big jerk. "Honey, is this one of our neighbors?"
Cheeky, handsome jerk.
"Yes, sweetie. This is Keith Monroe."
"I live right there." Keith lifted his arm to point at the house to his left and their right.
"With his wife, Dharma," Sarah added, wrapping her arm around Chuck's torso and snuggling a little. She spotted a smear of paint on the back of his hand and warmed with affection. He had been painting after all.
"Well it's nice to meet ya, Keith." Chuck lifted his arm from around her shoulders to reach out and shake their new neighbor's hand. "I'm Chuck Bartowski."
"Uh. Hi. Yeah, nice to meet you, Chuck."
"So did you see my Sarah from your window and wanted to introduce yourself?" Chuck still hadn't removed the wide grin from his face and Sarah tried hard not to snigger. He knew exactly what Keith had come out here to do.
Chuck was being a stinker.
"Uh, yeah." At least the guy had the decency to wince a little.
"That's mighty nice of you, Keith."
"Well, just doing my neighborly duties. You know." Was he actually flushing? Oh, this was priceless. But it served him right for trying to hit on her when his wife wasn't home. Not the best first impression.
But two could play that game.
"He was trying to help me with the lawn mower, honey," Sarah said, looking up at her husband and musing at the genuine confusion blossoming on his face.
"Can you not work the lawn mower?" he asked, dropping the act. "Did I buy you a crappy one?" The concern on his face was incredibly adorable and it was all she could do not to reach up and ruffle the curls he'd recently grown out a little.
"Wait, you bought the mower?" Was that…? Was Keith Monroe—a thirty-something year old ex-athlete, muscles turning into flab in the next ten years, trying to pick up a woman in her front yard by telling her he'll rev her lawn mower—Was he really mocking Chuck? Because if he was, this was not going to be a good day for him.
"I did. It was a gift."
"You gave your wife a lawn mower for a gift?"
Yes, he did, you jack ass. Are you even listening?
"Better than a toaster, am I right, honey? HAHA!"Sarah Bartowski was trying so hard not to laugh that her jaw muscles were literally aching.
Chuck must have felt it, because he pressed his hand gently against the small of her back. She rolled her shoulders a little and let out a sigh, having reclaimed an outwardly sober demeanor again. For the moment.
"Well, I know it's weird," Chuck continued. "A guy buying his wife a lawn mower, but I'm a computer programmer. Definitely don't know the front end of a mower from the back end. And Sarah here is a whiz at this sort of thing."
"Your wife mows the lawn…?"
"She sure does." Chuck kissed the side of her face and she felt a spark of pride. Not just for her own sake, but for her husband's as well. Here was this guy not-so-subtly attempting to dress Chuck down for letting her mow the lawn instead of doing it himself, and Chuck didn't bat an eye, even going so far as to confirm it with a happy smile on his face.
Sarah wanted to kiss him. Sometimes his superiority to other members of his sex was so apparent it was almost shameful.
And honestly, Sarah had only mowed the lawn a handful of times, when she was a teenager and did yard work for the neighbors to earn money when her dad went away for a con. She had no doubt she could pick it up again. It was what she did. She learned quickly.
And Chuck hadn't argued when she told him she wanted to do it. He hadn't even been baffled.
Keith, on the other hand, looked completely baffled. "They've got mowers, you know," was all he seemed able to say, "with buttons."
"Huh." Now Chuck seemed to be laughing again, his eyes sparkling, and Sarah thought of the perfect thing to tickle him pink. (Then of course she thought of how hard he would laugh if he knew she had just thought the phrase 'tickle him pink'.)
"So, uh, you do the cooking then, Chuck?" Keith smirked, extremely pleased with himself as he sipped his beer.
Sarah's jaw clenched. The douchebag wasn't even attempting to be subtle now. Was this how he intended to welcome his new neighbors?
"Actually!" Chuck grinned at her, cutting her off before she could tell Keith where exactly she wanted to shove a cooking utensil right about then. "That's why I came out here, honey. I've got your lunch all fixed."
"Baby, really?" She tilted her head and pouted a bit. "You're so sweet. Thank you."
"I even wore the apron you bought me for my birthday." Sarah almost lost control and had to cough into her hand as Chuck turned to Keith Monroe and continued excitedly, "She bought me an apron for my birthday. And I wear it whenever I cook for my lady." He capped it with his infamous Bartowski eyebrow dance.
Oh my God, I love you, Chuck Bartowski.
Their neighbor looked as though he didn't know what was going on, but she was almost certain he was taking them seriously. We're going to hell. But at least we'll be together.
"You know what, Chuck?" Sarah chirped, wrapping an arm around him again. "I think I'll just do this tomorrow."
This guy had hit on the wrong ex-CIA agent. And while his wife was at a shower. What a louse. He wouldn't be talking about revving anything up for a while.
"You sure?" Chuck asked.
Time for the coup de grâce.
"Yeah, I think I'd rather go in and have sex instead," she said nonchalantly.
She felt Chuck jolt just as Keith Monroe choked on his beer. She turned and looked at her new neighbor, ignoring Chuck's wide brown eyes and how cute he was with his nostrils flared like that. "You okay, Keith?" she asked calmly and completely unconcerned.
His eyes were watering as he nodded, thumping himself on the chest. "I'm," he rasped, taking a deep breath. "I'm fine."
Sarah was incredibly impressed by the bored look Chuck quickly plastered on his face, even though she could see he was biting his cheek and his ears were a little red.
He suddenly clapped his hands together. "Welp! It was nice to meet ya, Keith Monroe." He reached out to grab Keith's hand and pumped it enthusiastically a few times.
"You need anything, don't be shy, huh? You just pop on over and ring that bell, okay? Okay." He clapped Keith on the back with a grin and a wink.
Sarah wrapped both arms around Chuck's torso as they walked back to the house. She was biting her lip hard to keep from bursting out into a loud guffaw of laughter. The man was positively purple in the face.
Chuck looked back over his shoulder, pulling Sarah tight against his side. He waved and grinned again. "Bye, neighbor!"
Sarah went a step further by reaching down and grabbing a handful of Chuck's ass. He acted like it was the most natural thing in the world even though she saw his Adam's apple bob up and down.
The door shut behind them and Sarah fell back against it, her laughter bursting out of her, complete with a stream of unladylike snorts.
He was laughing too, though much quieter and he held a finger to his lips. "Shh. He's probably still out there," he chuckled gleefully. "Wait, wait, wait. Watch this."
He snuck over to the living room window and, looking like quite the spy again, peeked around the curtain. He quickly pulled back again. "He hasn't even budged. Watch."
Chuck reached up and pulled the blinds so that they shot down to cover the window, as though whoever had done it was incredibly desperate and rushed.
They both burst out laughing again, grasping at each other and feeding off one another's mirth. "I can't believe you said that," Chuck squeaked between peels of giggles. "Hot damn, woman. Ohhh…oh, man," he sighed. He wiped at a tear and snorted, breaking into another fit of laughter.
"Couldn't quite believe it myself," she giggled. "I'm proud of you, though. Playing it off like you did."
"What'd he even do to you? I mean, obviously he's a misogynistic jerkwad, but…" He shrugged. "They exist."
Sarah rolled her eyes and pulled away, walking to the section of the living room wall Chuck had been painting. She was thoroughly impressed by how much he'd already gotten done. "He told me he would rev my lawn mower."
He choked a little. "You're kidding."
"Nope. I mean, he was probably just…talking about my lawn mower. But he'd been hitting on me and leering the whole time. And he has a wife. Poor woman."
"Well, I mean, just looking at you, a guy could go a little crazy." The slow smile that grew on his face, and the way he was leaning against the unpainted wall, his head tilted, left Sarah a little weak-kneed.
"I'm your husband." He pushed off the wall with his shoulder. "It's my job to tell the truth."
"Didn't think I was gonna go that way with it, didja?" He grinned cheekily and she let him wrap his arms around her from behind and hug her tightly. His lips brushed her temple and she beamed, covering his arms with hers.
"So. Need a painting partner?" she asked.
"Naaah, I've got th—Yes. Yes I do." She giggled. "I gotta say, when we decided to strip the wallpaper, I was like 'okay, this will be fine'. Didn't quite know what we were getting ourselves into with that whole situation, did we?" She shook her head. "No," he murmured, nibbling her cheek with his lips so that she squirmed a little. "And now the painting…"
"You don't like painting?" She tilted her body away a bit so that she could look over her shoulder and catch his eye.
"It's alright. And then it gets old really fast. Maybe it's the color, you know? Maybe instead of painting the walls this not-quite-tan-but-still-not-quite-white-either color, we should go with, like, fuchsia. Or cerulean. I love cerulean. And then it would feel like we lived in the ocean."
Sarah laughed and pulled away, shaking her head. "This isn't The Little Mermaid, Chuck. It's our home."
He chuckled and walked to the supplies piled near the wall, kneeling down next to the can and unsealing it again. Then he looked up from where he crouched and bounced his eyebrows once. "So, Mrs. Bartowski. How about we do somethin' a little…naughty…" he drawled, picking up a paint roller and pursing his lips. "…And paint us a living room. Hmmm?"
Sarah watched him smolder, knowing he was teasing her, but she was suddenly overcome with an incredible amount of affection for the nerd and his giant excited grin as he dipped the paint roller in the pan.
There was something else, too. Something she'd wildly and inappropriately (and not so subtly, it had to be said) suggested to Keith Monroe. She wanted to have sex with her husband.
Not that she would ever forget, but she was hit suddenly with the realization that she was absolutely the luckiest woman on the planet. Because Chuck Bartowski was hers. Husbands like Keith Monroe existed, but she would never know the hell it was to be married to someone like that. Chuck was the best man, the best husband, and someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, he would make the best father.
Never a time like now.
Sarah walked to her husband before he could ask her which brush she wanted. And just before he opened his mouth to speak, she knelt down, took his face between her hands, and kissed him.
The brush fell from his fingers with a wet slap and her back was suddenly against the plastic tarp they'd strewn over the floor to keep paint from staining the wood, Chuck hovering over her with a giant smile. As they undressed each other, rolling along the tarp, getting paint on their skin and in their hair, there was a lot of laughter, a few sighs and gasps…
They clung to each other in the aftermath, their panting breaths the only sound breaking the silence in their unpainted living room.
A peace settled over both of them, and Sarah smiled against Chuck's shoulder, reveling in the warmth of the moment, the love that settled over them like a soft blanket. There had been a time, a short time, after she'd first had her memories suppressed, that this hadn't seemed possible. Starting a life with someone, with Chuck in particular. She hadn't even wanted it.
It sent a momentary chill through her and she snuggled ever closer to her husband. They'd fought for each other, though. Both of them. And they had made it out together. Certain things from those five years were still foggy, but it didn't matter. They would eventually come back like the others had. And if they didn't, oh well.
Sarah Bartowski knew that this was the beginning. And as Chuck swiveled around to stare into her eyes, she smiled a smile that held all of the admiration and adoration and respect and warmth she felt for him. Because Chuck had worked so hard to give her this beginning. And that had really been the crux of what finally led her to this moment of intense contentment and happiness.
Suddenly Chuck growled and swung on top of her, earning a squeal from Sarah, followed by peels of giggles.
Yes, this was definitely a new beginning for the Bartowskis. And there wasn't a thing in the world that would take this away from them again.
A/N: Review or I'll sick Keith Monroe on you. I MEAN WOT!