He spends the first half of the birthday party that Ellie threw for him hiding in his room, going over the tactics of an escape plan with his best pal Morgan (who, apparently, was not on Ellie’s guests list).
It’s one of the most awkward birthdays he’s ever had; he doesn’t know any of the people Ellie and Awesome invited and by the end of it, he sits, dejected, by the fountain and tries not to think about how shitty this party was for him, and how it makes him think about all the things that went wrong in his life.
(not that he doesn’t think about this every day.)
Of course, what was supposed to be a temporary job at the local Buy More somewhat became his five-year-plan, chosen font and all. And yes, five years are a long time to get over someone, he perfectly knows that.
Call him a total loser, even if it doesn’t look promising, he has no energy to try and change the course of his life.
Wow, a blast from the past. Bryce remembered your birthday, dude.
Another slap in the face.
The day he turns 27, Sarah surprises him with their first cover kiss.
He’s stunned for a split second, but then she winds her arms around his neck and he remembers that Awesome, Ellie and Morgan are watching.
Ellie says something about them being way too cute, Awesome winks at him and Morgan, well, Morgan looks bored and ready to take things to a Halo gaming session so he can beat the birthday boy’s ass.
A game of Halo sounded just about right until Sarah – cover girlfriend, not real, not real, a mantra in his head – ends up in his arms.
The skin on her lower back is smooth underneath the fingers he has snuck underneath her top - the blue one with the little buttons - the smell of her perfume intoxicating and her hair ticking his face.
He forgets all about the presents and the fact he’s supposed to be the focus of attention tonight; his world narrows down to her, a tornado on heels that leaves him spinning and wanting for more, even though he knows he’s just an assignment, a blip on the radar of her exciting life as a CIA agent.
“Happy birthday, Chuck.”
She smiles into the kiss like a happy and in-love girlfriend would, and he lets himself hope she really means it.
He pulls her closer.
He spends the day holed up in his room.
Turning 28 and still living with his sister and her husband like some sort of retarded child, having quit the Buy More and being rejected from the Intersect 2.0 program is not what he had in mind for what he thought was the turning point in his life.
But this is his life, and somehow, it’s even worse than feeling betrayed by Bryce, and rejected by Jill, and being kicked out of Stanford.
Because he wanted to have everything; Sarah and the spy life and he ended up leaving the former at a train station in Prague (my God, her eyes wide with fear and love and hope and the promise of a life together) and being fired from the latter. He wanted to be a better man not only for her, but for him too; he thought being that better man meant that he had to be a spy and he lost both in the process.
He looks at his iPhone screen with a sigh; she hasn’t been returning his calls.
He browses through the pictures on his iPhone out of pure torture because, really, he doesn’t think it can be any worse. He stumbles on one he’s always particularly loved; hugging her from behind, he has his face half buried in her hair. Her fingers are laced with his.
They looked happy, and real.
What a joke.
Birthday sex is the best. Ever.
She’s all long, graceful limbs and warm body wrapped around him and he idly thinks that if he were to die right now, he’d die a very happy man.
Of course he tells her and she laughs breathlessly, her lips brushing his neck and her chest rumbling with laughter, sending vibrations down his body. She leans on his chest, her chin resting on her arm and she hums contently.
“What?” he asks, cracking one eye open.
“Cake?” she suggests. “I’m starving and there are leftovers in the fridge.”
The apartment is silent and they bother with the minimum of clothes. Morgan has made himself scarce for once, deciding to spend the weekend with his mom while Big Mike is away on one of his beloved fishing trips, so he could leave his best buddy to have some quality time with his lady, as he eloquently put it.
Chuck watches as Sarah rummages through the fridge in search of the cake box. They don’t bother with plates or forks; they stand side by side, their shoulders bumping as they eat with their fingers. He stares at her a little too long as she licks her fingers clean and she just smirks knowingly.
A few minutes later, he feels the weight of her gaze on him again. The corner of his mouth lifts in a half-smile as he asks, “is my face this funny or what?”
She shrugs and smiles. “No. I just love you.”
The deprecating half-smile blossoms into a full one and his hands find her face, his knuckles gently brushing her cheek. “I love you, too.”
She leans up and smiles against his lips, and in that moment he’s reminded of the first time she did that, and that she’s always meant it.
They throw away the remnants of the forgotten cake the next morning.
He doesn’t have the Intersect anymore, but that’s okay.
He looks around him and sees the people he loves most in the world gathered at the dining table to celebrate his birthday. He thinks life couldn’t be more perfect.
Clara pats his face with her chubby little hands and he laughs, bouncing her a little in his arms. He glances at Sarah who has that look on her face, the one she gets every time she holds their niece in her arms, and yes, he thinks that maybe it could.
Later he finds Sarah all on her own by the fountain in the courtyard holding a sleeping Clara against her chest. “Hey,” he whispers, sitting beside her.
“Hey, birthday boy,” she replies as softly, gently rocking back and forth.
He looks at the woman he loves, and the rings on her finger, and at Clara in her arms and thinks, this is a really good birthday.
The best birthday present he could have had could have gone like this:
I remember everything.
But then, that happened months ago so it’s not what’s particularly on his mind at the moment.
He yawns and blinks his eyes open, shutting off the alarm clock with one hand, while the other is reaching for his wife. She snuggles into his side willingly, puts her icy feet between his.
“Mmm,” she mumbles in his neck, which means she’s still half asleep. He lies contently in bed, decides that he can be late for work and engulfs Sarah in his arms.
Next thing he knows is that he’s alone in bed.
But then, Sarah’s bouncing on the bed, a flurry of soap-scented skin and still wet hair from the shower as she straddles him and wishes him a happy birthday. She’s holding a small box behind her back with one hand, telling him that since they’re only celebrating his birthday only the following week with all the family, she thought that maybe he could get at least one present on his ‘official day.’
She looks strangely giddy and nervous at the same time; it intrigues him. “Close your eyes,” she tells him.
He frowns. “Baby, is everything okay?”
She nods. “Everything’s fine. Just—just close your eyes, okay?”
“Okay,” he laughs, amused at the nervous tone of her voice but he complies anyway.
He feels a small package pressed on his chest, then cracks open one eye. Then the other. He looks back and forth between her and the box. “What is it?”
"C’mon, open it," she urges.
It’s a small shoe box, he realizes after he lets go of her hips to tear the wrapping paper apart, too small for a pair of adult shoes. He lifts the lid and stares.
These are the tiniest pair of Converse shoes he has ever seen in his life and, although later he won’t remember how his brain couldn’t have possibly fried, his heart stops at what it means.
Both shoes fit in his palm. “They’re so small,” he says in awe.
They’ve been talking about this for almost a year now, and even though they’ve been pretty relaxed about it and haven’t put themselves under any pressure (well, not too much because, well, he’s Chuck), he’s always relished in the fact that every time they made love, this could happen.
And now here they are; this is really happening. “We’re going to have a baby,” he breathes and his vision suddenly blurs, tears welling up in his eyes.
What he will remember later is her damp cold hair against his face, the smell of her shampoo, and the feel of her stomach underneath his hand. “We’re going to have a baby,” he tries again. It rolls off his tongue easily.
Her voice is steady and strong, all traces of nervousness gone. “We’re going to have a baby,” she repeats.
Best birthday present ever.