Chuck, spoilers through “Chuck Versus The Ring”, Sarah (Chuck, Casey)
Nothing here belongs to me, as much as I would love to say otherwise. Characters property of Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, and Warner Bros. Television. Title courtesy of The Weepies.
In the aftermath, Sarah mourns what’s lost.
Standing at Chuck’s shoulder, before Beckman’s talking head, she can almost feel him without contact – his energy hums in the air, bouncing out of his skin. The General wants tests, assessments. Answers.
Sarah only wants one. But it’s pointless to ask when she knows all too well, when the why is already screaming in her head. When the question says more about her than him.
It’s Chuck. He only knows how to do the right thing.
The monitor goes dark, and Chuck squeezes her hand and sends a smile her way, his eyes wide and warm and wired. When Casey thumps him on the back like a proud papa, cigar and all, it’s hard to believe that it’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened tonight. Her partner ducks into the armory, and it’s starting already – combat drills. Weapons training. Things that should remain heavy in her hands, squarely on her shoulders.
Casey barks for Chuck, and there’s a tremor in their woven fingers before he slips away. She can’t tell if it’s her or him, but the question fills her lungs again. She chokes on it, smiles back and lets him go, feeling foolish for allowing herself to hope.
She should know better by now.
Afterward she walks him home, her hand back in his, though his sister’s on her honeymoon and his father knows the truth, so she doesn’t know who she’s covering for. His practice rounds echo in her ears, fall in with their steps, and his first target is rolled in his waistband – a Chuck-like spray outside the lines, a spy-like black hole in the center.
Everything’s changed, and Casey’d thought he should have a souvenir.
They stop at his door, stand silently. One finger finds tiny trigger treads in his skin, and for a second, he feels wrong. But his thumb sweeps over her wrist, rubs the gunfire from her pulse, and he’s Chuck again, grinning down at her, hope in his eyes, heart on his sleeve.
Nothing has changed.
She pulls free, something falling from her lips – goodnight, goodbye, good god Chuck, why – and pretends not to notice his confusion. He hasn’t processed, hasn’t thought it through. Hasn’t realized that the right thing is still the wrong thing for him. Always will be, as long as this is his reality.
He doesn’t call out, doesn’t come after her, and she’d like to think that she’s walked away enough for it to hurt a little less.
After all, that’s why she never looks back.
She’s only been here a few minutes when he finds her – she doesn’t even need to turn around for confirmation. Chuck is the only one who’d think to look for her here. Who’d care to. She’d driven around for an hour before pointing the Porsche in this direction, so he’d been on his way well before she had. Someday she’ll have to ask him how he knows her so well, when she doesn’t really know herself.
For now, she’ll file it away with all the other somedays.
There’s already been a funeral. A cold stone marker, an empty casket. He’s only been dead a day, but there’s grass on his grave, thick beneath her knees. Chuck hangs back as she presses a palm to the earth, makes her peace with dry eyes and a whispered apology. Bryce had been all adrenaline and opportunity, safe even with all the risk, but she had loved him once.
He doesn’t speak until they’re in the car, flying from the cemetery. Fleeing. She laughs on the heels of his heartfelt condolences, shifts into third as the wind rips it from her lips. He watches her with careful concern, always. Even now, when she’s saying goodbye to the ghost of both their pasts.
She blows through a yellow so late that it’s orange, plastering Chuck to the back of his seat. When he catches her, fingers curling over her fist before she can hit fourth, she’s not sure if it’s his new reflexes or his old instincts. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
Either way, she downshifts. He moves along with her, uncharacteristically fluid, guides her hand while she clutches until they’re stopped on the shoulder. She turns on the headrest, meeting his eyes. Waits for the understanding to melt away, so she can apologize and act as if this none of this ever happened. But he only winds his long fingers through hers, keeps them there.
When the tears come, she lets him think they’re for someone else. It’s better that way, for him. For her, it’s just cowardly, and she’ll hate herself tomorrow.
But there’s nothing safe about Chuck.
Casey puts her on combat duty, reminds her with a smirk that she’s outranked. But there’s something shrewd in his eyes, his nod, that says he sees too much. Knows more than he’d ever admit, than she’d ever give him credit for.
She circles carefully, wound too tight, Chuck an easy target on her twelve. He’s geared up, long and lean and loudly protesting. Lamenting what Ellie would do to him if he ever hit a girl. Unbidden, she feels herself smile.
He keeps up the litany until her first strike, still no, no, noing even as he blocks. On the sidelines, Casey crosses his arms and instructs him to man up. She regroups, realigns, rethinks her plan of attack – I’m the enemy, she chants to herself, letting it ricochet between her ears. I don’t care if I hurt you. I don’t care.
She moves in for a roundhouse, takes a flat hand to the chest, and goes sprawling. Chuck, horrified, stumbles over and reaches down for her, and she grabs at his hand and flips him to the mat, air pushed from his lungs in a rush. She scrambles to her feet, brushing off Casey’s snort and the thrill that races down her spine. The satisfaction.
This isn’t punishment, isn’t payback. She has her orders. Chuck is her job.
I don’t care.
Her whole life is a lie, but that’s the biggest one of all.
He catches up with her in the parking lot, worry dark between his brows and turning his mouth at the corners. She mumbles that she’s fine, that she’s impressed, that she just needed some air, and it all sounds like I’m sorry.
It’s only when he glances down that she realizes she’s still barefoot.
She tries to laugh it off, chalk it up to endurance training, but his frown just deepens. He stares at her, through her, until she blinks and looks away – she can withstand hours of torture, days, but can’t handle two seconds of Chuck Bartowski’s troubled face.
Head high, she starts for the door. He’ll follow, and they’ll get back to work, and she’ll do what she has to despite his resistance, his reluctance, his I really don’t want to hurt you, Sarah. But he has, in spite of himself. Neither of them will ever get what they want.
And that hurts more than anything.
Showered and sore, she swipes a hand through a blanket of steam, catches her reflection in the mirror. Blonde hair, blue eyes, all fuzzy-familiar. Like a dream, a memory, back when she still knew who she’d started out as.
Once upon a time, her father had told her there was freedom in choosing – picking a new name, a new identity, a new life.
She’d stopped the second time they’d locked him up, with his own face and fingerprints and name on a court docket. Swapped her choices for orders, pawned her free will for penance. And a decade later, she’s still the same chameleon, conning for her country instead of her blood.
There’s a knock at the door, and only one person can be on the other side. Crossing the room, she can almost picture him standing there – serious, second-guessing, and trying to wipe it all away before her hand hits the knob.
She doesn’t bother with a robe, just clutches the wrapped towel to her chest, over the faint red blur that follows the shape of his fingers, slightly purple at its center. That’s where his eyes go when she swings the door open, losing their plastered-on pleasantness to zoom in on his handiwork, and only Chuck would stammer mortified apologies when faced with a half-naked woman.
Reassurance doesn’t help, so she ushers him inside and sits him down. He drops heavily to the mattress, face in his hands. Her heart lifts all at once, fluttering until she’s breathless and has to sit, too– his body is catching on fast, but his brain isn’t quite up to speed.
It’s still an assignment, still her duty, but maybe she has more time than she thought. Until he doesn’t need her anymore.
Her breath catches at that, and he looks up sharply. Reaches out to lay his palm over the etching in her skin, shifts until it all lines up. Her hand comes up to cover his, holds it there.
Chuck was supposed to be her choice. Her first real choice since she gave up the luxury.
Her name tumbles off his tongue, a plea, a prayer, and for a long moment she wants to throw it all away – Jenny Burton, Agent Walker, all the people in between – and be who he thinks she is. Slip into the skin of the woman he sees when he looks at her. See what it’s like to deserve it.
The only time she’s ever felt like Sarah is with him.
She moves before he can speak again, presses her lips to his to swallow the words before they spill out, whatever they were going to be. It’s stupid and selfish and she’ll only have to fall in line tomorrow, but it’s Chuck, and she’s the closest she’ll ever be to herself, and she can’t let go.
He tastes too much like freedom.