August 7th, 2011
Sarah Walker paused with her hand holding the pen a few inches above the paper, hovering right beside the column that said ‘Agent Name’. Sometimes it was hard even for her to remember which name she was currently going by, between all her own aliases and the ones she used in missions. There probably weren’t many agents who didn’t go by their own name even in the office—after all, it was called the Central Intelligence Agency, which meant everyone there mostly knew nearly everything about everyone. And yet even when she was filling a mission report, she still had to sort through the various aliases and remember to put ‘Sarah Walker’, not… well, you know, her real name.
“What name do you think we should give our kid if it was a girl?” Chuck’s voice drifted from beside her, causing all her thoughts to come to a screeching halt. Blinking a few times, Sarah looked up and stared at him with a puzzled expression.
“Oh, no, no, I didn’t mean our real kid,” Chuck amended quickly. “I was just getting into the role, you know? Husband and wife who are expecting a kid?” he grinned awkwardly and pointed to the fake wedding ring on his finger. “I figured if people start asking baby names, it would be nice to have some choices off the top of my head. You know I’m not good with improvisation.”
Sarah still stared at him with an amused look on her face. “Couldn’t we just tell them we haven’t started thinking yet? I am, after all, only supposed to be six weeks along. That’s way too early to start thinking baby names.”
“Right, I know. I know. Sorry, I guess I just got a little carried away,” Chuck admitted sheepishly and scratched his likely-not-really-itchy head. “Never mind,” he threw the baby names book he was perusing to the bedside table and slid down under the cover. “Um… well, good night, Sarah.” He turned his back on her as he rested his head on the pillow and tried to sleep, mentally kicking himself for doing something so embarrassing. He knew he was head over heels in love with her and all, but… baby names? Way to get ahead of himself.
Sarah observed him for a moment, saying nothing for a long time, until she finally said, “Katherine Lisa.” It took several seconds, but Chuck turned over and looked at her questioningly. “For first and middle name,” she continued with a smile. “I’ve always liked the combination for a girl.”
“Katherine,” he repeated, a smile forming on his lips. “Katherine Lisa Parker. Sounds perfect.”
“Good night,” Sarah smiled back and turned off the lights.
December 21st, 2012
(Yes, the day the world’s supposed to end—and it didn’t. Take that, Mayans!)
Chuck fiddled with the velvet box in his hands nervously, his palms so sweaty it had nearly slipped from his hands a few times. He paced back and forth in his room, his mouth forming soundless words all the while. Ellie knocked on the door that was slightly ajar before poking her head in. “Chuck?”
“Aaargh!” he screamed like a girl, the box accidentally being tossed in the air. He quickly caught it again with both hands and stared at his sister as if she’d suddenly grown an antenna. “What?”
“What do you mean; what? Why are you so jumpy?” Ellie looked at him suspiciously. Then her gaze fell upon the box in his hands. “Oh my gosh! Is that what I think it is?”
“Ssshh!” Chuck quickly closed the door and looked around in panic. “Ellie, you can’t tell anyone, okay?”
“That you’re proposing to Sarah? Oh my gosh, Chuck, I’m so happy for you!” She enveloped him into a hug before he could even confirm what she said. “Wait, you are proposing, aren’t you? That box contains an engagement ring?” she asked, pulling back a little so she could look at Chuck’s face.
“Well, yeah,” he admitted sheepishly, and she squealed even louder.
“Sssshhhh!” he hissed again. “If you don’t quiet down the entire neighborhood will find out!”
“Can I see it? Can I see it?” Ellie bounced excitedly from one foot to the other, and it was at these times that Chuck wondered if his sister was actually indeed older than him.
“Fine,” he handed her the box and she opened it with delight.
“Ooh! It’s beautiful! I’m so proud of you! Here, give me another hug!” she practically crushed him with another bear hug, and he had to mutter, “Can’t… breathe…” a few times before Ellie finally refrained from killing him. It would be ironic that after all this time of facing various bad guys and all kinds of villains, he’d die at the hands of his own lovely sister.
“May I just remind you, she hasn’t said yes. And Ellie, please, before you get too excited… I really think the chances are more like… fifty-fifty, you know?”
“Oh, Chuck, come on, she will totally—”
Chuck made a zipping noise to cut Ellie off. “She’s still a spy, Ellie. We both are… kind of. So I’m just trying to be realistic, and not get my own hopes up too high, okay? I love you for having so much faith in us… but just let me do this my own way. Can you do that?”
Ellie still looked like she wanted to protest, but then she just hugged her brother one more time and smiled. “Of course. Good luck.”
“Thanks. I’ll let you know as soon as… I know.”
“You’d better,” Ellie patted his arm. “Well, go get her then.”
Chuck sat on the edge of the fountain in front of his home, where he and Sarah had done a lot of serious conversations—mostly about their feelings toward each other—throughout the years. Even today, their relationship was still complicated, but he figured that if he kept waiting, the time where it would be not complicated just wasn’t going to come. And he didn’t want to keep waiting forever, because he wanted to be with her, really and officially with her.
Sarah’s light footsteps echoed from the entrance, and he looked up in nervous anticipation. Soon enough she turned the corner and appeared before him, and like he’d done too many times before, he wondered if she had been a goddess in a previous life. Even after a whole day’s work, with her looking completely exhausted, she still had that effortless beauty appearance that he could swear was an ability reserved just for certain girls. And Bryce Larkin.
“Chuck, I came straight from the mission, but I’m afraid I can’t stay for long. I’m really, really exhausted and I’ve still got some reports to do,” she apologized as she bent down to kiss him quickly.
He got to his feet so they stood face to face. “It’s okay. I just have one quick question to ask.” He had contemplated picking the perfect time and setting a more romantic environment; a fancy dinner in a restaurant somewhere with beautiful scenery or something equally grand, because don’t get him wrong, Sarah Walker more than deserves something really special, but in the end, he had decided that all those ostentatious gestures were not him.
Maybe someone like Bryce—wait, why did he keep thinking about Bryce tonight anyway?—would do something like that, and it would suit him for sure, but not Chuck Bartowski. Chuck Bartowski was simple, and he was not rich or strikingly handsome, and he was clumsy and not very Charles Carmichael-like most of the time, and he wanted her to love him as he was. He wanted to start this entire journey by being honest about himself instead of creating illusions of grandeur for her, only to disappoint her later when the days after were not as impressive.
“Okay,” Sarah looked at him curiously. “Shoot.”
“You know, in our business, you really shouldn’t use that expression,” he said with a nervous grin as one of his hands went into his pocket to retrieve the ring box. His heart was thumping so loudly it nearly made him unable to hear anything else. This was not good; he needed to be able to hear her answer. He closed his eyes momentarily to try to remember all those Zen stuff Awesome seemed to be so into lately, although Chuck never really quite understood how it worked. Sitting cross-legged for hours on end didn’t give him peace of mind—it just gave him cramps.
“Here’s the deal. We have been… dating for more than two years now. There’s no more Intersect, and now I’m just an analyst, so other than your top secret missions, our lives are way less complicated than it had been back when we first met. And with everything going in quite a stable manner for the last few years, I figured it is time to do this.” He took a deep breath and looked her straight in the eye. This is it. This is the moment that you won’t forget for the rest of your life—for better or for worse. “Sarah, will you—”
“CHUCK! You’re out here!” Someone’s familiar voice boomed in the silent night, cutting Chuck off completely and successfully caused him to tumble to the ground, since he was in the process of getting down on one knee. “And Sarah, too! Wow, guys, I’m so glad I didn’t have to sneak in anywhere!” the voice continued cheerfully as if everything was right—no, positively delightful—with the world, which in Chuck’s case was definitely not. He quickly tried to stand again, and someone’s strong arm hoisted him up like he weighed nothing, putting him back on his own two feet facing a terribly gorgeous, must-have-been-carved-by-the-gods-themselves face.
“Bryce?!” he said in disbelief, quickly pocketing the ring box that had been half pulled out earlier. For the last few times Chuck had seen Bryce Larkin again in his life, he’d always gotten that awful sinking feeling in his stomach. Tonight, the feeling was worse than ever. What was wrong with this guy? How could he keep appearing at the most inopportune moments? Did he have a Chuck/Sarah important moment radar on him or something? Because it seemed every time Chuck was about to make one step forward in regards to his feelings for Sarah, Bryce always showed up. Honestly, Chuck wouldn’t put it past him to really be spying on them. Tonight was the most obvious evidence of all. No coincidence could have caused him to appear right when Chuck was in the middle of his freaking proposal to Sarah!
“Hey, buddy. What were you doing back there—trying to do some fancy spy moves?” Bryce grinned casually as if he was completely clueless on what kind of moment he’d just been interrupting.
“Actually, I was in the middle of something a little private and important,” Chuck mumbled more to himself.
“Bryce, I thought you were in Nicaragua?” Sarah chimed in, looking only slightly surprised despite her words.
“Finished work early,” Bryce shrugged. “And they sent me for you. We’ve got some important business to attend to with the Fosters. They agency wants you and me specifically to handle this because they’ve met us before, and you remember how well that mission went. We figured we’d use the advantage while we still have it. Should be another cakewalk. Won’t take more than a day or two, I’d say.”
“What, after all these years they still think the Andersons were really who we told them they were? They never suspected it was us who stole their—” Sarah threw a nervous glance at Chuck, as if suddenly remembering he was still there, “—well, you-know-what?”
“Yeah. You know we were always that good with our roles,” Bryce winked. “Word on the street is they’re even looking for the Andersons, looking to do another deal.”
Chuck wasn’t sure what to do anymore. This was not part of the plan at all. He had planned on having heard Sarah’s answer by now, preferably a ‘yes’. Instead, all of a sudden Bryce had appeared out of nowhere and now he and Sarah were busy talking about missions and doing one together none the less!
“Hey, can we discuss more of the details back at HQ?” Bryce continued, glancing at Chuck. “Sorry Chuck, but it’s really need-to-know.” And Chuck was not one of those people who needed to know, obviously. He tried to smile and shrug, but couldn’t say anything. There were just… no words anymore.
“Yeah, sure,” Sarah replied. “But as much as I love the Andersons, that’s one alias I’d wished I didn’t have to recycle at any point in the future.”
“I know, I know,” Bryce assured her even as he pulled out a pair of rings from his pocket. “But it’s not like we have any choice in the matter, is it? This time, we have to play house again. But don’t worry, Chuck,” he turned to his former college friend with his confident smile, “It’s all going to be strictly pretend for mission purposes this time.” He held the rings up to Sarah with a grin, and after looking at them for a long time and sparing a glance at Chuck, who just averted his gaze and pretended to be very interested in the fountain, she took one of them reluctantly.
“I guess I’ll have to take a raincheck,” she took a step toward him and smiled regretfully. “Can our talk wait?”
“Yeah, sure, absolutely,” Chuck nodded perhaps a bit too vigorously. “See you later.”
“Bye, Chuck!” Bryce slapped his back and left, and Chuck waved weakly at his retreating back as Sarah fell into step beside him.
And that was how Chuck watched Sarah walk away with a ring on her finger, just like he’d pictured that night would end…
Only the ring wasn’t his.
It was a Sunday the next day, so Chuck took his time curling up in his bed, wallowing on his misery. He figured he at least deserved it since the universe seemed to hate him so much. However, his temporary peace did not last long, because someone was climbing through his open window. Sitting up straight, he was surprised to discover it was Bryce. Again.
“I really should block that window with cement,” Chuck said flatly by way of greeting.
“Well, good morning to you too, my friend!” Bryce was as cheerful as ever. Chuck wondered if being happy came with having a handsome face and being a kick-ass superspy. It probably did.
“What are you doing here?” Chuck groaned and buried himself back under his covers. “I thought you’d be halfway around the world now while pretending to be married to Sarah.”
“To Mrs. Anderson,” Bryce corrected, though Chuck just stared at him expressionlessly in response. “Who is played by Sarah, sure. But it’s really just a necessity and—”
“You know what, spare me all the explanations,” Chuck cut him off. “I get it.”
“Chuck,” Bryce approached the bed and poked his shoulder because he’d disappeared under the covers again. “You’re not seriously mad because of this, are you? You know this is just work? It’s like dating an actress, really. You know you have to learn to watch her kiss other people all the time from the start.”
“I really don’t want to talk about this,” Chuck’s reply was muffled by the blanket.
“Hey, I know you were going to propose,” Bryce said suddenly as he crouched beside the bed.
That made Chuck whip the covers away. “What?!”
“I spied with my trained eyes the box you were holding yesterday,” Bryce grinned. “You were going to propose to her, right?”
“I’m neither denying nor confirming that assumption, but assuming that I was, you knew it but still walked in and interrupted anyway?”
“Whoa, I’m sorry,” Bryce threw up his hands. “I didn’t see it until I’d called you. I’ll try to be more stealth next time.”
Chuck sat up straight and faced Bryce with a serious expression. “Bryce, I know you lie for a living, but can you answer something honestly for me?”
Bryce looked at him for a long moment. “Sure, Chuck. You’re still my best friend.”
Chuck decided to ignore the statement and its questionability for the moment. “Are you still in love with Sarah?”
Bryce didn’t hesitate. “Yes.” It was the answer that Chuck expected, but the way he’d confessed it right away unnerved Chuck a little. “And I admit I’ve been trying to compete fairly with you before to win her back… but you won, Chuck. You’ve won every time. She really wants only you. And I’m backing off for good.”
“Are you really?”
“Why do you think I never stay around here for long? It’s better for all of us if I’m out of the picture.”
“So this current mission isn’t…” Chuck trailed off, unsure of how to phrase the question properly.
“Some elaborate plan to make her remember how great the old days of Bryce and Sarah were? How compatible we are for each other and what kick-ass team we make?”
“I wouldn’t have put it quite that way, but yeah, basically,” Chuck admitted grudgingly.
Bryce laughed. “No, really. It’s an order that comes from the top. You can check with the agency. Or well, maybe not because it’s top secret, but I’m sure you can find a way to be sure.”
Chuck sighed. “Okay, I believe you. I just can’t believe how insecure and pathetically jealous I sound right now.”
“Well, you have the right to be. Most guys get threatened by my presence around their girlfriend,” Bryce stated matter-of-factly. Chuck gave him the evil eye, which just made him laugh some more.
“Oh, come on. Like I said, she’d chosen you over me… what, four times now? I may not be able to understand it, but you… you are the guy she wants to be with, Chuck. And I’m glad it’s you, because I wouldn’t have given her up to anybody else.”
“She’d chosen me over you four times?”
Bryce rolled his eyes. “You really need the confidence boost, don’t you? The first time was when you all first discovered I was still alive. I asked her to come away with me then, but she didn’t pick up my call and stayed. The second was when you were taken hostage with a gun to your head, and she had a clear shot of the bad guy but she didn’t take it. She took the shot when it was me in front of the bad guy all those years ago, without hesitation. That proved how much she cared more about your life than she ever did about mine.”
“Well, that was probably just because you’re a superspy and I’m a… well… a mere nerd. Not to mention I had the Intersect in my head. Protecting it happened to be vital.”
“Being a superspy doesn’t make me invincible, in case you haven’t noticed. And that’s bullshit about protecting the Intersect. She definitely was protecting you. Do you want to hear the rest or not?”
“Oh, yeah, sure, go on.”
“You’re far too enjoying this, I can tell. The third was after we captured Roark and got the Intersect out of you, when this whole operation was finally over. She was ordered to go with me and we were supposed to work on the Intersect together and leave this city, but during your sister’s wedding she made it clear she wasn’t going to leave. She wanted to stay with you, Chuck. And the fourth time was when she finally agreed to start dating you officially, after being relieved from the role of your handler.”
Chuck considered this speech for a while. He seemed to want to believe it but not quite brave enough to be convinced yet. “I can’t believe you’re keeping count,” he said finally, but Bryce just rolled his eyes. “So… what are you doing here right now exactly?”
“I came to tell you that I’m sorry I ruined your moment last night. And that you should try again once I’m no longer around. After this Anderson mission is over. Promise I’ll bring her back for you safely.”
Chuck sighed. “I don’t know if I could try again, though. That moment took all my effort and it was a now or never thing.”
“What?” Bryce sat down on Chuck’s desk, shaking his head. “Don’t tell me that’s as far as you’re going to try for Sarah, Chuck, or I swear I will steal her back from you.”
“It’s not that!” Chuck shook his head desperately. “I just… I mean, am I making a fool of myself here? Maybe you were meant to interrupt me because I was going to make the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe she doesn’t want to marry me. And if I popped the question and she didn’t want to marry me, it would all be so awkward and then it would just ruin everything.”
“Chuck, what’s this?” Bryce pointed at the back of Chuck’s Tron poster that contained lots of his scrawny handwriting. Most of them had been crossed out after the whole Intersect business was over, except for the parts about Sarah.
“That’s private!” Chuck jumped from the bed and snatched the poster away, his cheeks blushing furiously.
“You were keeping a dossier on Sarah?” Bryce looked terribly amused and started to laugh. “On your own girlfriend! Your own soon-to-be-fiancé! How shameful of you!”
“Shut up! She’s a spy, okay? I was just trying to gather all the information I know about her!”
“Don’t freak out, I used to do the same thing,” Bryce said unexpectedly. “She is a very secretive woman. Hey, who’s Katherine Lisa?”
Chuck’s blush deepened. “Her favorite baby girl name.”
“Really?” Bryce seemed intrigued. “That’s what she said? It’s her favorite name choice for a baby girl? How did you end up talking baby names if you haven’t even proposed yet?”
“We were on a mission, okay! We were pretending to be an expecting couple.”
“Ah, so you have played house with her too. Isn’t it fun? We’re totally even now.”
“Okay Bryce, I need you to get out of here now. Before my sister finds my supposed dead best friend in my room.”
“Oh, Ellie’s here?”
“She came down for the holidays. But you are not invited to the family gathering.”
“Okay, okay,” Bryce stood up slowly, “but I just need to say this… that right there is the proof that you need that she does want to spend the rest of her life with you.”
“Huh?” Chuck said in total confusion.
“Katherine Lisa. That’s her real name.”
“Huh? No, I just said that was her—”
“Favorite baby girl name, yeah. But it’s actually her real name. She never told me what it is either, but I once managed to persuade her enough to reveal the initials. It’s K.L. What are the odds this is just a coincidence? I’m telling you; she wanted to tell you her name.”
“But, but…” Chuck stammered, his thoughts whirling around uncontrollably. Sarah’s real name had been the biggest mystery in their relationship, and definitely the one he wanted to uncover the most. He wanted to be able to say his vows to the name she was born with in their wedding, not her alias. He wanted to be able to call his wife by her real name in the morning when they woke up, not by some other random name someone had picked for her. He wanted to know just who it was he was planning to spend the rest of his life with, and now all he knew for sure was that it wasn’t Sarah Walker, because Sarah Walker didn’t actually exist. “How can you be sure?”
“Chuck,” Bryce laid his hand on Chuck’s shoulder. “I know Sarah. She wants you to know but she’s also afraid to just tell you right out. I would bet everything I have on this. And even if I’m wrong… isn’t love about having enough faith to take risks anyway?”
Chuck stared at his old friend for a moment, then suddenly felt like they were back in their college days, when everything was still normal and ordinary. When they were still just two best friends and roommates who were trying to figure out girls and relationships. Bryce had always been the more experienced in both departments, for obvious reasons. And right now, Bryce was that old Bryce again—his loyal, wise friend who would never lead him astray.
“Okay,” Chuck nodded at last, picking up his ring box from the corner of his desk. “I’ll ask her again. And this time, you’d better not show up.”
“That’s what I’d like to hear, buddy. Promise I won’t be there. Let me just get this mission done and then her left ring finger will be free once again for the real deal.” Bryce winked and left the room in a blink of an eye, leaving Chuck feeling like a thousand butterflies were flying around in his stomach.
In a very good way.
Same setting. Same scenario. Chuck just hoped it had a different ending.
“Hey,” he smiled when Sarah came through the entrance, relieved to see she was okay. “How’d the mission go?”
“Smooth,” she smiled back and kissed him hello. “Bryce and I still got it. It was just like clockwork.”
Chuck faltered a little, but he’d decided not to back off and lose the fight once and for all. “I’m glad to hear that and have you back home safely. Where’s Bryce?”
“Flew directly to D.C. He’s one busy guy.”
“Ha! Yeah, that’s him alright; Bryce Larkin, superspy extraordinaire,” Chuck laughed nervously. He twined his fingers with Sarah’s and tried to start the speech again. “So… are you ready to have that talk now?”
“Yeah, sure, I’m all yours.”
“Okay, well, what I was trying to say the other day is… we’ve… we’ve been dating for more than two years now, and I really think it’s time to make this step. I know you’re probably not ready, which is totally fine by me, but I’m just letting you know that I am. And that I’m willing to wait for as long as I need for you to be ready too. Sarah…” he slipped one hand into his pocket and looked around suspiciously, expecting to see Bryce lurking in the bushes with his spy camera.
Not seeing anything, although he knew better to assume it meant Bryce wasn’t there, he decided to just get on with it. In one swift motion he went down on one knee, pulled out the ring box, and opened it facing Sarah. “Sarah… no… Katherine,” he could see the shock flitting across her expression, one that definitely came after the initial surprise upon seeing what he was doing, and immediately he knew Bryce was right. “Katherine Lisa… Will you do the honors of being my lawfully wedded wife?”
A few seconds of silence ticked by, and then suddenly Sarah burst into tears, which was something Chuck hadn’t expected at all. He’d considered all the scenarios, from her looking pitifully at him and trying to explain why it would never work out, to her simply shaking her head and walking away while saying they could never see each other again. But tears… he definitely didn’t anticipate. He hadn’t been proud enough to consider that she would ever cry tears of joy because of him, Chuck Bartowski.
“Sarah?” he called out nervously, still frozen in his awkward position. “Are you okay? Oh my gosh, did I say something stupid? Your name isn’t Katherine is, it? I knew I shouldn’t have—”
“No!” Sarah cut him off, wiped the tears from her cheeks and smiled. “I mean, yes. Yes, Chuck, it is my name, and yes, I will. I, Katherine Lisa Reed, will marry you, Chuck Bartowski.”
Feeling like his heart might burst from joy, Chuck leapt up and swept Sarah—no, Katherine—right off her feet and swung her around happily as she laughed in delight. As he kissed her deeply, he thought that today he finally felt like he got to be her Prince Charming—her knight in shining armor. And the best part was, from today onward, he, Chuck Bartowski, former leader of the Nerd Herd, got to play those roles for the rest of his life.