Coming and Going
By the time Ellie finished all her neurology tests on Chuck, it was pretty late. She called her in-laws as they left Castle so they arrived at the apartment with Clara shortly after he and Ellie made it home themselves. As much as he loved his adorable niece, Chuck secretly wished she had stayed the night with Grandma and Grandpa Awesome. It would have given Ellie some time to talk and it would have given Chuck a better night's sleep.
Ellie had said Clara was sleeping through the night, but she seemed to have lapsed. Or something. No question the little one had great lungs. Maybe Chuck was just sleeping too lightly because his bed was so lonely without Sarah. Ellie looked well-rested the next morning, while Chuck felt exhausted. At least he had plenty of practice hiding his sleep deprivation from his sister.
They both sat down for breakfast at about the same time. Chuck's cell went off: Beckman. He accepted the call and raised it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Good morning, Bartowski. Is Dr. Woodcomb with you?"
"Yes, General, she's right here."
"Excellent, put me on speakerphone."
That was a new one. Chuck lowered his phone, and spoke to Ellie in a whisper. "It's General Beckman. She wants to talk to both of us."
Ellie nodded. Chuck found the speakerphone button and pressed it.
"Can you hear me?" Ellie said in a slightly-louder-than-normal voice.
"Yes. I'm glad I caught you awake. I'm sending a car for you and your brother. You'll be flying together to Denver where you will change planes to fly home to Chicago, while Chuck will fly to Des Moines."
"But Sarah isn't back from Argentina yet," Chuck said.
"She's in Houston right now, catching her own connection to Des Moines."
"Do you realize I am traveling with my baby, General?" Ellie asked.
"Yes, arrangements were made for Miss Clara Woodcomb's ticket as well. The car will be there in fifteen minutes."
Ellie's eyes bugged out. Fifteen minutes? she mouthed to Chuck.
Chuck knew Beckman would not want to hear anything but 'yes ma'am'. He nodded encouragement to Ellie, but she was in total freakout mode.
"I'll make sure we're all ready, General," Chuck answered.
"Very well, I need to speak to Agent Bartowski privately, Doctor, so I bid you a safe flight."
"Thank you, General," Ellie managed to sputter out.
Chuck pressed the speakerphone button again, returning the phone to normal mode. He placed it at his ear. "I'm off speaker now."
"Good. I would rather not discuss terrorists with radioactive suitcases in front of a young mother. Carlos Rodriguez was spotted in Lincoln, headed toward Iowa in a rented pickup truck, but there was no sign of a lead-lined case. The nanobots and superfungus must be coming another way."
"How do we know they're not going to hit Nebraska instead of Iowa?" Corn was grown pretty much everywhere in the midwest, wasn't it?
"All our intel suggests they don't know we're onto them. They've had no contact with Argentina, so they don't know we recovered Rodchenko. Unless you and Walker discover another plan, we're assuming they're sticking to Project Locust as it is in the Intersect."
"Still, Iowa is pretty big." He regretted saying this the minute it left his lips. Beckman was no idiot, needing a geography lesson.
"Yes it is, and that's why I'm sending my best agents to cover it. Your ride will be there in fourteen minutes."
Chuck was about to thank her for putting Ellie and Clara on the same plane with him to Denver, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he heard the dial tone. Completely typical of Beckman to hang up when she'd finished imparting information. "Bye to you too," he muttered as he put the phone back in his pocket.
"Hit Iowa?" Ellie asked. "Who is hitting Iowa, and with what?"
Chuck smirked at her and used the parental tone she had used on him all his life. "If Beckman thought you needed to know, she would have left you on speaker. You and Clara and Devon are perfectly safe, I promise."
"What about you and Sarah?"
"We're 'amazing spies', remember?" He loved trapping her with her own words.
"Yes, you are." She dropped the worried sister routine and stood, gathering her dishes. "Does General Beckman have no concept of giving proper notice?"
Chuck laughed. "No. I can safely say she absolutely does not. How can I help you?"
"Don't you need to pack for yourself?"
He placed a hand on each of her shoulders. "Yes, but I am now a pro at no-notice trips to every place imaginable. Sarah packs," his mind immediately corrected it to used to pack because she was hardly the same person anymore, "in less than five minutes. I had to learn to keep up."
Ellie muttered under her breath, "Yeah, but she doesn't have a baby."
Chuck didn't have time to hide the unexpected shock his sister's statement inflicted. The memory of his drawing of the dream house with him and Sarah and the 'someday' baby they'd been discussing always hit a sore spot.
Ellie saw his face. Her hand flew to cover her mouth. "Oh, Chuck, I'm so sorry."
A deep breath and another second lapsed, and he composed himself. "No, you're right. You have a baby. So let me help you."
Ellie managed to get herself and Clara dressed while Chuck did all his own packing and dressing. Then he helped Ellie gather up belongings and made sure everything made it inside one of the several suitcases she'd brought. He could see why the short notice had made her panic. Clara had more than just a collection of smaller clothes. There was tons and tons of stuff, some of it far too cryptic-looking to even venture a guess what it was for.
They barely finished as a knock sounded on the door. Chuck opened it to find a woman dressed in black, wearing a chauffeur hat and sporting a government ID badge clipped to her pocket. "Agent Bartowski, Dr. Woodcomb, and accompanying minor child?"
"That's us." Chuck handed her two of the diaper-and-accessory bags without any apology. "We'll get the rest and be right behind you." Ellie carried two suitcases and Chuck carried his own and another one of Ellie's.
It really was a good thing Beckman had sent a car because he really didn't want to leave Sarah's Lotus in LAX long-term parking. Alex might have been willing to drop them off with Casey's Crown Vic, but he didn't want to ask her for that big of a favor when there was no emergency.
Chuck called Morgan during the ride to the airport to update him on the mission but he was careful not to say anything Ellie shouldn't hear. Beckman was right. His paranoid sister didn't need to know about terrorist plots and suitcases full of radioactive material.
Morgan mentioned he'd got a weird text from Jeff and he'd talked to Casey. Something funky was brewing in Germany, but Morgan insisted it was nothing important and he'd tell him all about it when it was over.
After the call, Chuck played peekaboo with Clara in the car. Ellie seemed to find this almost as entertaining as Clara did.
Navigating the airport was another experience that was completely different with a baby, but they got all of Ellie's bags checked and made it to the plane in time. Chuck had hoped he and Ellie could talk during the flight, but Clara was not very happy about the whole trip and cried a lot. Ellie pretended to be asleep to try to lure Clara to do the same, but Ellie fell asleep for real before Clara did. Terrified he might have to deal with a crying baby on his own, Chuck also pretended to be asleep. Clara finally succumbed and fell to slumber.
Since Chuck was tired anyway and there was nothing else for him to do, he joined his sister and niece in napping on the plane. They all slept until the pilot announced they were approaching Denver.
The connecting flight to Chicago left first, so Chuck made sure Ellie and Clara got to the right gate. He tried not to cry when he embraced his sister, but she'd come all the way to California and stayed in his house, yet they'd barely talked at all. Not that he even knew what to say. It just felt like two ships passing in the night. Empty.
When she disappeared down the boarding ramp, he went to find his own gate for the flight to Des Moines. He had some time to kill, so he called Morgan. "Hey, Mission Control, what's up?"
Morgan's smile came through in his tone. "Sarah checked in. She's already in Des Moines, getting stuff set up and ready. She'll pick you up at the airport."
Sarah called Morgan, but not him? He tried not to take it personally. Maybe she tried and he was still in the air. He didn't have that fancy satellite phone Shaw sent on his first transatlantic flight. Normal cell phones didn't have reception at 30,000 feet.
"Did she sound upset that she's stuck with me for the mission?"
"No way, dude. She's totally cool with it. Oh, your mom also checked in. She's refueling in Hawaii, on the way to Shanghai."
Chuck knew Morgan was exaggerating on the 'totally cool' part. Sarah probably wouldn't have told him even if she was furious. She might not be resentful, but totally cool? He doubted it. No use worrying now anyway. "Thanks, buddy. Looks like they started boarding my flight. I'll call you when I get to Des Moines."
"You got it, Chuck."