*** Epilogue: California ***
Chuck sat outside the house on a bench in the little patio, looked up to the nightly sky, smelled the scent of the nearby Pizzeria and felt wonderful.
"I still can't believe it's over," he finally said, glancing to Sarah. She leaned against the tree next to him and was so close that he almost sensed the warmth of her body. "Only thirty seconds – and the intersect was gone! It was … so simple! He only pushed a button and-"
"-You had your life back, and I've lost my job!" Sarah completed. She had tried to make a joke, but the sound of her voice betrayed her feelings in this matter. Chuck didn't need a handler anymore, no one to protect the values in his brain. She'd get a new assignment. Far away, probably.
"I hope… we can stay … uhm… friends." Suddenly, his throat was dry. "Good friends, I mean, if you…" He stopped, as Sarah had bent down and was kissing him. For a couple of minutes, the world consisted only of the two of them drifting in a cloud of happiness.
Later, Sarah sat down at his side. While she thought about arranging her future, the CIA and everything, Stephen Bartowski stepped out of the door and waved to them. From inside the house, the happy laughter of the rest of the family reached them.
"I'm so happy my sis is okay," Chuck said and his father nodded.
"Me too. I should've known it, though. Roarke has always been a coward. He was able to steal other people's researches, but he isn't a killer." Stephen inhaled deeply. "He sat here and played family visit, while I already saw my little girl dead…!"
"He can think about that the next years when he's serving his time," Sarah said. "Just like the rest of that Fulcrum sect and those terrorists of project Termite."
"I heard that Stevenson guy broke down in tears when he was arrested."
"That won't help him. The charges he's facing include high treason and conspiracy to kill the President."
Again, Ellie's voice sounded toward them.
"Are we going to tell her, one day?" Chuck asked.
"I think it is better for all of us if we stick to the original version", Sarah replied.
"The 'Crazy gamer kidnapped Chuck to get the latest cheats for Combat Force Bravo'?"
"Yes." Sarah smiled.
That had been Beckman's idea; the one that had been told the authorities as they started the search for Chuck. They couldn't expose everything from the intersect to Fulcrum to every secret government operation, could they?! It was only natural that the conversation now turned to the brave NSA – General.
"How's she doing, by the way?"
"As far as I know, the President almost had to force her into vacation," Sarah said. "After what happened lately, she was even more eager to work and close the security gaps Stevenson and the Termites had tried to exploit. – However, she now has the best assistant she could wish for!"
"Yeah! But Casey didn't look too happy when he got the promotion and the new assignment!"
"Mr. Grumble is his middle name, you know him, Chuck. Of course he's going to miss the work in the field. In the end, he deserves it, though!"
Stephen strolled through the patio and enjoyed this evening as much as Chuck and Sarah. It was the first evening in years he would spend free from regret and sorrow and fear. Yesterday, he had destroyed all his remaining files from project intersect. Of course, Beckman had asked him in the name of "his love for this country" to hand over everything so it could be stored safely. But the safest thing to hinder his research from falling into the wrong hands was to delete the data. So that was, what he had done. Maybe someone else came up with similar ideas and solutions, given the time they lived in. However, Orion wouldn't be a part of this anymore. Orion was dead.
"Hey!" Ellie had opened the door and her glance wandered over the people in the patio. "Dessert's ready! Do you want to come back in or shall I serve outside?"
"We're coming!" Stephen yelled.
Arm in arm all three of them walked back to the house.
Chuck took a seat at the festive table, laughed at a joke 'Captain Awesome' made and suddenly wondered how Vincent was doing. Maybe, he thought, it would've been nice to have him here for this party. "Dad, did you hear anything from Vincent?"
"No. He has used his talent to vanish again, and this time with full cover from the government. – Oh, that strawberry sauce really looks delicious!"
The exclusive Swiss boarding school sat idyllically in a garden overflowing with flowers, the snow covered peaks of the Alps as backdrop. It was too nice, too orderly, to clean to be real – at least in the opinion of the man just leaving the cab that had brought him here. Vincent felt out of place. Like a dirty mine worker in an upper class ball room. He caught himself scanning the people busy with their daily errands and was glad to wear dark sunglasses. He had gotten rid of the intersect, but he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to skip those habits he had been forced to adopt over the last years. And there were the memories sticking to him. That other life, that other man, would always be a part of him, cling to him like a dark aura. He really felt uncomfortable, out in the open, without any weapons.
Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to come back. How on earth do you tell a fourteen-year old, that her supposedly dead father had been recruited by the NSA, then worked on his own for years to undermine a criminal organization?! Maybe it's better not to re-open old wounds…
"May I help you?"
Vincent realized he was standing at the gate of the school, and an elderly woman with a big folder in her arms faced him. For an instant, he was tempted to just ask for the town hall and walk away. He was surprised himself, when he said: "I'm here to visit one of the students, Miss Becky Smith."
"I'll escort you to the principal's office, Mister…"
"Smith. I'm her father."
The teacher frowned. Obviously, she knew about the American orphan girl with the very protective "distant relative" that had wanted to place her in this exclusive, especially secured school. Well, there were only about a hundred children here, all of them with high ranking politicians or military as parents.
Vincent had to spend over an hour in the principal's office, first, for a background check, and then simply waiting in the adjacent room, because the kids were just writing a test. More time to ponder if it was right what he was about to do…. More time to rehearse his story… He had browsed in one of the newspapers lying on the desk and was startled, when the door opened again.
"Good morning, Mr. Smith!" A grey haired man stretched his hand. "I'm Mr. Wendorff, your daughter's class teacher. She'll be here with you in a couple of minutes."
"She might react … well, maybe not as you imagined. A child needs time to adjust to new situations, please give her that time."
"Of course. I know it won't be easy."
The teacher sat down with him. "I've been told that you've been a prisoner of a Taliban group for almost six years. It must've been a terrible experience…" It was obvious that the teacher wanted to do a little check up and testing for himself.
"Something I don't wish anyone to see. That's why I wanted to complete rehab, before I come for Becky. I've bought a house in California lately and … I thought we could use the next months to get to know each other better and make a few preparations, before she joins school again. I've heard she's quite a good student."
"Nonetheless, there are a lot of changes-"
"I'll take care of her, believe me. She's all what's left of my life before - I certainly don't intend to lose her or harm her in any way." It knocked at the door. Vincent tensed. I should've left her alone… he thought one last time. Then his daughter stood in the room and stared at him. And he stared at her. Oh God, she looks so much like Valery … I could not even come to her funeral … shit. Seven years of my life, our life, just-
"Pa?" Becky made a step forward, tried to attune the faded image in her memory with the man standing in front of her and – the next moment she embraced him. "I KNEW you weren't dead! I KNEW it! I KNEW you would come back, some day!"
Vincent couldn't get a word out. He just held her close and was glad the teacher finally left to give them some privacy. He didn't like anyone seeing him cry.
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