Chapter 20

Charah vs The Green Eyes

Arrg! Thank you so much for your-by-now- much-abused patience. This chapter was supposed to be ready months ago, but I was the victim of one of those file corruption episodes on my portable drive, and lost about 5,000 words worth of work. This chapter was recreated mostly from memory. About six other important life events (all of them good!) happened as well.

Anyway – the first fanfic I read on this site was Chuck vs. The Burn Notice, by timewalker05, which I heartily recommend. I was introduced to that story and this website by the TV tropes website- which I also heartily recommend – if, that is, you have no problem burning hours at a time opening multiple pages … and as a fanfic reader, you're already qualified!

On TV Tropes I learned an interesting vocabulary quirk- something I'd managed to go all throughout high school and college without learning: "Envy" and "Jealousy" are two related, but distinctly different emotions. They're actually the opposite sides of the same coin.

In romantic relationships, it all depends on what side of the love triangle one is on. Envious people wish to be in a relationship with someone who's already taken. Jealous people are already in a relationship, and are hypervigilant, very territorial, and very hostile to even the idea of any intruder putting themselves between them and their other half.

In the show, Chuck is shown to be envious of Bryce, Cole and Shaw, all before Chuck vs The Other Guy, of course. Once Chuck and Sarah are an official item, however he's never really shown to be jealous, and is casually accepting of the fact that Sarah draws other men's attention. Indeed, he has no problem using the opportunities this presents in Honeymooners and Zoom.

Sarah on the other hand does not have things quite so easy. She's shown to be envious of Lou, Jill and Hannah before Chuck vs The Other Guy. Afterwards she's shown to have a noticeable jealous streak. She's not happy when Chuck notices Sofia in Suitcase, and also in no mood for Chuck's crush on Bo Derek on Chuck vs Bo.

Those two episodes are all the canonical evidence we have of Sarah's jealous streak. Fanfic writers, including some of my favorites take that ball and run with it. Obviously, it's a lot of fun to see Chuck and Sarah's relationship that way from a male wish fulfillment standpoint- Not only has our hero Chuck attracted a woman who – judging by their presentations in the pilot episode- is far out of his league, but said woman is actually the insecure one in the relationship, worried that she's more easily replaced in Chuck's life than he is in hers. As I mentioned in my exploration of Sarah's thoughts in Chapter 12, I like this view of Sarah. Put quite simply, post The Other Guy, Sarah is guard is up against anyone who might threaten her relationship with Chuck.

But if anyone has ever had the experience of dating someone with a serious possessive /jealous /insecure streak you know that it gets old fast. Jealousy in small amounts can be flattering – sure, it's fun if your mate thinks you're so attractive that everyone is drawn to you. … but in heaver doses, the jealous person is actually accusing his/her mate of having a pretty serious character flaw, if they're constantly berating the other for innocent conversations with people.

Note how Chuck and Sarah have different methods of attracting people. Sarah's of course is pretty obvious – and overtly sexual. Her looks and wardrobe do most of the work. Note how that once Sarah is married to Chuck, she runs the honey trap a lot less, and dresses much more conservatively. Chuck's appeal is different, and much more innocent and casual. He's a talker – to everyone – including attractive women. It doesn't even dawn on him for a while that Lou and Hannah are aggressively coming on to him.

A relationship with a beauty like Sarah will have its challenges – Chuck will have to simply get used to the fact that men are drawn to his Sarah … but he's actually been wrangling with that ever since season one, and he's well used to it by now. Poor Sarah's the one who's going to have to get used to the fact that her Chuck talks to EVERYBODY, and that since he probably doesn't really consider it flirting, he's not going to change just because he's in a relationship.

Chapter 20

Charah vs The Green Eyes

On the Metro bus, Chuck was so much enjoying the sensation of Sarah resting her head on his shoulder and clasping his hand that he came close to missing yet another Paris landmark.

"Woah! Hey! That's the Arch de Triomphe!" He hadn't noticed the iconic structure from this vector, as their bus had been approaching it from the side. From their angle of approach, it had looked like a gigantic grey monolith. "I didn't know you could drive right under it."

Sarah had decided that the most efficient way to the Louvre was not via the underground metro but by one of the city surface busses. Their route took them away from the Champs de Mars and by down the large boulevard that passed under the Arch De Triomphe, which belatedly Chuck recognized as…

"Well yeah Chuck" Sarah nudged him. "It pretty much straddles Champs Elesyee. Haven't you ever seen the end of the Tour de France? Or that newsreel where the Germans marched down it and by the Arch?"

Chuck grinned. "I momentarily forgot" After giving Sarah and affectionate squeeze. "I guess at the end of the day it's a big traffic circle."

"Mmmm" Sarah grinned back, purring into Chuck's chest as the bus continued on its way.

It was Sarah who was up first as the bus driver announced the Louvre as the stop, although Chuck did credit himself with, if not understanding French, at least recognizing the word "Louvre" when he heard it.

Chuck immediately grinned when he saw the large glass pyramid on the gigantic piazza. Squeezing Sarah's hand and nodding towards it, he said "Now I knew that that was going to be here from The DaVinci Code."

Sarah responded by squeezing his hand back – "Oh I'm sure they'll be a bunch of things in here that you'll recognize". Chuck's steps were light and springy- he was enjoying himself a lot. The afternoon was bright and sunny- if still chilly, and with him walking hand and hand with Sarah, he felt almost as if he were on a high school or college field trip with the most gorgeous girl in class.

At the ticket counter Sarah procured passes, while Chuck grabbed a large, comprehensive folding map that showed all the levels and sections of the art museum. Each section of the museum was color coded to their relevant time period and section of the world. To aid the discriminating tourist, the map even had pictures of the most famous works along the margins and borders of the map, with straight-ruled lines pointing towards the champers in which they could be found.

One thing Chuck could tell from his map right-off-the-bat was this: The Louvre was huge. Taking it all in one full day would be a tall order, much less in one half of an afternoon. Prioritizing would surely be key.

According to the map, the very building seemed to want to accommodate them. The nearest section held Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities – pots, statuary, furniture, architectural details and frescos. Logically enough, this sector was called "Greek Etruscan and Roman Antiquities".

Security guards seemed to be in every other hall, but mostly they stood politely by the doorways to various rooms, nodding to visitors and occasionally giving a stern warning against flash photography.

It didn't take them long to find the first work that they immediately recognized – the armless, topless beauty known to the world as Venus De Milo. She was slightly larger than life, and impressive. Chuck of course was familiar with the statue, but seeing it up close demanded an appreciation of the details that went into her creation.

Her hair looked as it if could flutter if a stiff breeze came thought the chamber. Her drapery looked as if it were in the very act of falling into a pool around her feet. Her skin was magnificently detailed, and so smooth that it was easy to forget that they were gazing at a well sculpted rock.

"I wonder" Chuck whispered to Sarah "If she's looking around for her clothes".

"She's probably looking around for her arms" Sarah whispered back. "She's Venus - just like Carina, she doesn't care who sees her naked."

As Chuck chuckled through his nose, Sarah elaborated – "Actually, she was a genuine seductress. It was said that when she liked a mortal for one reason or another, she'd lend that mortal her magic belt. The belt would then make anyone that mortal desired fall desperately in love with him. Or her."

"Oh. Is that why her dress is falling down? She gave her belt away? Or is it because her arms fell off?" Chuck wised.

Sarah had felt herself on the verge of giggling, but surprised herself with how loud her resultant laugh was. She slid a gloved hand to her mouth to control herself, while Chuck squeezed his arm around her.

Chuck's gaze then fell upon the information card at the goddess's feet. He advanced at step or two to read. "Huh!" he said enthusiastically. "I didn't know this – the statue is actually called Aphrodite of Milos. Milos is a place, not a person. I just always thought it was called Venus de Milo … I and always kind of thought that Milo was the guy who sculpted it."

"Huh. Interesting" Sarah agreed, stepping up to him and investigating the card for herself. Other tidbits were available, such as the name of the farmer who discovered the work, the likely creator, and likely time of sculpting.

Once Sarah had absorbed all she decided was available from Aphrodite, she stepped back and prepared to leave … but Chuck was still staring at the statue, standing in front of it and gazing upwards. Knowing her Chuck, Sarah assumed that he was studying some detail on the goddess's face – perhaps her blank eyes- but an observer who didn't know her boyfriend so well could conclude that he was checking out her bare breasts. Sarah sidled up next to Chuck and purred into his ear. "I'm pretty sure she'd be a B cup, maybe a small C" she said slyly.

Whispering back, Chuck answered "She doesn't have arms. How would she ever put a bra on to find out?" Once more Sarah had to stifle herself, or risk bursting out laughing in the otherwise quiet hall.

Chuck joined in on the snickering. "This reminds me of something Bryce said back in Stanford."

"What's that?" Sarah asked.

"It was our sophomore year, and Bryce was dating this girl named Denise. She was kind of a hardcore feminist- the annoying kind. To this day, I think he was with her just for the challenge"

"Or she was with him for the challenge" Sarah countered.

"Yeah maybe. Anyway, Bryce and I were discussing some actress or other, and Denise decided to go off one of her rants about the media showing unrealistic images of women, and Hollywood's standards of beauty … stuff like that."

"Uh-huh" … Sarah prodded.

"Bryce decided to wise off and said that he wondered if, two or three thousand years ago, there were women in ancient Greece and Rome protesting the depiction of women in ..." he gestured a hand back to the statue "the media – the 'media' being 'marble' and 'bronze' back then... And did they complain about unrealistic images of women being portrayed in marble? Did Greek women resent being held to Athenian or Spartan standards of beauty? I don't remember either Denise or Jill having a comeback for that –but I did learn that I can stop myself from laughing by biting my cheek. The inside part."

Sarah laughed through her nose, and gently slapped Chuck on the elbow. The both turned to leave the statue, but after just a step or two Chuck stopped and turn back. When Sarah noticed, she saw that Chuck had a thoughtful look on his face, and was reading the information card.

Looking again at the information card, and then once more at Sarah, Chuck got a thoughtful look on his face and said "hmm…. That's the second time in a month that that's happened."

"That what's happened?" Sarah wanted to know.

"That I found something out about a beautiful seductress." Chuck said, taking a step closer to Sarah. "That I found out that the name that everyone knows her by isn't really her real name. 'Venus de Milo' is actually 'Aphrodite' … just like you are actually 'Sam'.

Although she should have known better, there was a defensive part of Sarah that readied for a fight. Her mouth dropped in surprise at what looked like attack, and her breath caught in her throat.

But before she could say a word, Chuck just looked at her yet again with those warm wet eyes. He gently approached her and softly clasped her hand. "Sarah … I want to be with you. I don't want you to hide or wear a disguise or be someone that you're not around me. If your name really is 'Sam', I could learn to call you that."

The surge of adrenaline that pulsed through her now had no place to go, now that it was plain that Chuck didn't mean to start a confrontation. Sarah promised herself that she wasn't going to cry right there in the Louvre, and so she tried to ignore the sensation that her eyes were welling up. Despite the fact that she was still wearing her red heavy coat, Chuck's searching, intimacy-requesting look made her feel exposed and naked, as if his gaze was undressing her in the middle of the museum.

Returning Chuck's stare, and fighting to control her breath lest her words come out as gasps, Sarah simply whispered. "Sarah… It's Sarah, Chuck. That's my real name now. It's not the name I was born with, but that's my real name now."

Chuck responded with a warm understanding smile – which for most people would have masked his confusion. But Sarah could see that Chuck's eyes crinkled in slight bewilderment – as if he had a question, but didn't want to press.

Sarah decided to explain – but prefaced it with a kiss. Clinging tightly to her Chuck, Sarah asked "Chuck, why is your name Chuck? Why is it really? Is it really because it's the name your parents picked out for you? The name that's on your birth certificate? … or is it because that's the name that everyone in your life calls you – and has always called you? The name that Ellie called out when you were growing up and she was mad at you? The name Morgan used when he wanted to play video games? The name that all your teachers and professors knew you as? The name that points you out to everyone in your life that matters."

The expression on Chuck's face changed to a bit more thoughtful, as he pondered on this. Sarah continued. "Chuck, 'Sam' might be the name on my birth certificate, but I haven't used or needed my birth certificate for a long time. Nobody in my life cares about it. I haven't been 'Sam' for a very long time, and even when I was, I wasn't for very long. I've had a lot of other names since I was moving around with my dad. Any time anybody who's now in my life has been happy with me, or mad, or frustrated with me …" Sarah gently caressed Chuck's face. "Or in love with me has only known me as Sarah. Please don't try to think of me as anyone or anything but 'Sarah'."

Chuck's grin was broad as he wrapped his arms around her. "Okay" he said, before pecking her on the cheek. "My Sarah."

XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX

Again, Chuck's giant map had come in handy. Chuck and Sarah were able to make tracks towards the room where the Mona Lisa was kept.

Chuck had heard from other sources how disappointingly small Leonardo DaVinci's masterpiece was, and yet he was still surprised when they found themselves in the chamber of the Mona Lisa. The painting was less than a square yard in area, less than three feet tall, and less than two feet wide. Chuck felt that if he would put his hand up to it to touch it, his hand would cover almost a quarter of the painting. Not that he would, of course.

The both looked on at the painting, each reluctant to talk and risk intruding on the others thoughts. It wasn't until Chuck chortled through his nose that Sarah asked "what?"

"Well I was wondering how Leonardo got her to smile. I'll bet he used the same trick that Ellie used on me when we were little. When I was 4, I never liked sitting still long enough to get a picture taken, so Ellie would always tell me some joke she heard in order to get me to laugh. I'll be he was making faces at her the whole time."

This time, Sarah couldn't stifle her laugh, as Chuck patted her on the back. This was her Chuck, in, out, backwards and forwards. Not a day ago, he was preparing to confront danger- to fight a battle he had little chance of being prepared for and even less a chance of surviving. Now he was enjoying himself on a vacation of sorts, finding laughter and humor in unlikely places … and never missing an opportunity to make his new girlfriend laugh. All thoughts of threat or menace were gone and far away from his thoughts, and he was here looking only for beauty and fun … and finding it. Just like the million and one other ways Chuck was endearingly normal, Sarah relished this, and never wanted her Chuck to change it in the slightest.

Looking at her watch, Sarah whispered "We're almost out of time. We need to head back to bus stop."

XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX

Once more Chuck's trusty map was put to use when it came time to find the nearest exit. By happy coincidence, that found exit happened to be near both the rest rooms and the museum's gift shop. "Oh, neat." Chuck said cheerily, and at first Sarah thought that he had noticed some other artwork on the way towards the exit. What he had seen however was the rows of Louvre merch through the clear glass windows. Like gift shops the world over, some of it was practical, some of it tacky, all of it designed to announce to all who saw it that the wearer or holder had indeed been to the Louvre. "I'm going to get some postcards! When Ellie and Devon leave for the Congo they'd love to hear where we've been!"

Sarah fished some euro from her purse and handed it to him. "Remember" she said. "No plastic. Cash only."

"Right" Chuck said. "Hey, do you want to shop with me? They might have an Extra-Extra-large t-shirt, that'd be great for sleeping in."

Sarah's jaw dropped and she gaped in faux outrage. "Extra- Extra-large, Chuck? Are you trying to tell me I'm fat?"

"What? No! I'm just saying that sleeping shirts are supposed to be huge."

Sarah smiled, at her successful teasing. "And One XL shirts are more than big enough on me, Chuck. I'll find you in a minute" she said, cocking her head towards the restrooms across the hallway.

She grinned to herself as she walked into the ladies' room. She had no intention of sleeping in a t-shirt tonight, or any night to come in the near future, but it was sweet of Chuck to think of her comfort … and t-shirts were comfortable. Clearly, he hadn't even an inkling of what her plans were for after the museum.

It was about five minutes later when she reemerged from the ladies' room. She had expected to see Chuck waiting patiently for her outside the gift shop, but he wasn't there. Again, Sarah grinned to herself – clearly the gift shop had enough novelties and tchotchkes to keep her nerd's imagination occupied.

As she approached the glass windows to the shop and made her way to the door, she stopped short. There was Chuck, still in the store, perhaps ten or fifteen yards distant with his map once more out and open. That wasn't surprising. What was surprising was his new companion.

Sarah silently entered the gift shop, and simultaneously sized up the newcomer. She was short and petite, and looked young- perhaps college aged- and very pretty. Yep, college age all right Sarah saw, making note of the woman's red Universitie de Paris hooded sweatshirt. The hood of the sweatshirt was down, and the woman's light brown hair was in a loose ponytail that bobbed and shook every time she moved her head. The ponytail was so loose that a few strands of her hair were disengaged, and fell to frame her face.

The hoodie was also unzipped three quarters of the way down, showing off the woman's pink tank top, which in turn gave anyone who cared to look a peek at the top half of her perky bosom. A pair of dark blue leggings clung tightly to her shapely legs and rear. However young this woman was, Sarah decided, she was already skilled in the arts of getting men's attention.

Very skilled. The woman was looking at Chuck with a big friendly smile, and at times her grin grew even wider, showing a perfect set of white teeth. All that could be mistaken for someone who didn't know any better as simple friendliness, but the woman brushed back one of her stray hairs from her face, Sarah officially became annoyed – mostly at the woman, but her new boyfriend was inching his way up that list too.

Too far away to hear most of their conversation, Sarah nevertheless could pick it up when Chuck cheerily said "Oh, we've just come from there!" Looking at his map he traced a route with his finger, with all the competent pride of an infantryman orienteering a cross country route. Now, not only did Little Miss Frenchwoman smile at him in appreciation, she brushed her hair back once more, and sidled next to Chuck, the better to read the map, yes … but also to make it easier to touch him, if she so wanted.

Sarah's annoyance was now replaced with something more akin to fury- and a much larger share of it was reserved for her lover now. Chuck didn't have the easy confidence -arrogance to some- with women that allowed him to assume that most women he met on any given day were interested in him. Almost all other men in the spy world did, but Chuck didn't, so perhaps he could be forgiven for not picking up on this woman's interest. But Come on! Not only was Mademoiselle Sorbonne stroking her hair again, but this Poor-Little-Girl-Who-Doesn't-Know-How-To-Read-A-Map damsel in distress routine was a kindergarten-level seduction model that even Chuck should have been able to see through. It was literally something a kindergarten girl would do to attract the attention of a boy she liked- forget how to play with blocks or balls or Play-Doh or something, thereby allowing an interested boy to step up and play the confident hero role with ease.

When the woman brushed back a stray hair for a third time, laughed warmly at something Chuck said, and then broke the touch barrier by allowing her arm to oh-so-innocently bump into Chuck's elbow, Sarah decided that she'd had enough of her. She stormed towards the couple, the sounds of her shoes making a clicking sound on the tile floor.

As she approached, she took note that the touching made Chuck ever-so-slightly uncomfortable and that then-only then- was it dawning on him that this French minx was being perhaps overly friendly. Chuck took a step to his left, providing a small amount of space between himself and his new friend. It mollified Sarah slightly at the very last minute. She halted right next to the pair, and the young French co-ed turned to notice her.

At five foot nine in her high heels, Sarah was almost a full foot taller than the petite Frenchwoman. Had Sarah's resume and skill set as a US government assassin been common knowledge, the wee temptress would have no doubt retreated quickly, deciding it unwise to toy with a lioness's jealousies. But as it was, she simply regarded Sarah with a cool, appraising glance, not ashamed or embarrassed at having been caught in the middle of flirting - merely quietly frustrated at having been thwarted.

Annoyed, Sarah turned to Chuck and asked "Did you find the post cards you wanted? Or have you been … too busy?" She had a phony smile in place, but her diction and voice sounded the way a jagged ice floe looked – gelid and sharp.

"Well, I found out where they keep the postcards – but this lady here wanted to know where the Mona Lisa was." Chuck said. "I told her that we'd just come from there."

Like hell that's all she wants. Sarah inwardly seethed, and yet her faux smile remained fixed in place. "Did you show her where it was?" Sarah asked in a sweet chirpy voice … one Chuck had never heard her use but on a mission – when she'd be playing an airheaded party guest part several levels beneath her intelligence and sophistication level.

"Yep!" Chuck said. "We were just there about five chambers ago. It's just a left and straight. Five rooms. Or chambers. Or galleries. Or whatever they're called."

"Well then" Sarah said, fixing her icy blues on the newcomer who had been daring to flirt with Chuck. "Enjoy your day at the museum".

Incredibly, instead of leaving immediately, Petite Brunette continued to smile at Chuck, and sweetly asked in heavily accented English "Will you tell me where I can get one of those maps?"

"Oh." Chuck said. "I got mine at the front desk, but I think they're in these little slots in all the big chambers"

"Oh … merci" she chirped before finally leaving the gift shop, but not before waving goodbye with a girlish finger wiggle that Sarah had seen Carina do whenever she was being flirty. Then she was off, casually exiting the gift shop on and out of sight down the hall and around the corner.

Sarah glared at her all the way, fantasizing about searing two holes in the back of her hooded sweatshirt with a laser ability from her eyes.

Sensing Sarah's annoyance, but grossly underestimating its intensity, Chuck chirped, "Well I think I found a few possible. The Eiffel Tower, obviously, and I think Notre…" Chuck ceased and desisted when he saw Sarah's head whirl back towards him, her fluffy blonde locks bouncing as she her eyes locked on his. Clearly, she wasn't interested in giving him her input on postcards.

"What is it with you anyway?" Sarah demanded. There was now no humor or irony in her eyes, only anger and pain. It surprised Chuck, as it wasn't far removed from other pained looks she'd given him. "I seriously can't take you anywhere! Is it some sort of scent you're putting out that only brunettes can pick up on?"

"Sarah I..." Chuck began to defend.

"Get your postcards. Find me outside" she commanded before turning on her heel and storming off towards the exit.

Dumbstruck, Chuck watched her leave. Outside, at least she'd be easy for him to quickly find, a nearly six-foot-tall blur of blonde topped scarlet.

Shaking his head softly to himself, Chuck paid for his postcards, and wondered how things like this happened to him. It was as if the universe conspired to place him awkward situations that required a lengthy, uncomfortable explanation to whatever woman he cared about to clarify how the sight presented wasn't really what it looked like.

Lou had been convinced that Sarah was some sort of obsessed stalker ex. Hannah had despised the fact that Sarah had an all-too-obvious hold on him … although to be honest Chuck found it hard to fault Hannah on that one.

And Jill had just happened to walk in on he and Sarah when they had been mostly naked – immediately after they had been exposed to what they both presumed was a chemical weapon. That required a lengthy explanation – and all of it true. Chuck sighed as he collected his change. The truth can set you free … but it's not always a comfy process.

Chuck left the gift shop to catch up with Sarah. It was odd and unsettling the look of pain and jealousy that had been in her eyes. He hadn't really done anything wrong – just offered directions to someone who asked. Of course, the woman in question was very pretty, yes … but those things just happen, don't they?

Chuck grimaced with déjà vu. He positively hated comparing his courageous, devoted, passionate Sarah to cold hearted, treacherous Jill Roberts … but the look Sarah had just given him mirrored one Jill had given him years before at Stanford.

Eager to stretch out his theater wings, and to add more credits to his name then Perchik in Fiddler on the Roof Chuck had – with Jill's urging no less – tried out for Stanford's show shortly after they had gotten together. The show had been Evita … which only really had three male leads. Chuck had auditioned, but didn't get any of them. What he did get was a part in the chorus and the dance line, so he got to show up in most numbers.

Determined to be a good sport, and to have fun, Chuck had accepted his part – and the six-foot-three Chuck Bartowski was immediately paired off with the five-foot-ten-without-high-heels Colleen McCandless, the dance choreographer of the show being gleeful at the opportunity of pairing off her two giants for the dance numbers. Colleen had been gorgeous… AND a dancer AND a volleyball player … AND according to fraternity and sorority gossip, had a pretty relaxed way about her when it came to promiscuity and one night stands. This made Colleen very much a favorite amongst the men on campus, including Bryce … and very much NOT a favorite amongst the women on campus … including Jill.

Jill had never missed an opportunity to freeze out Colleen, and the closing cast party for Evita every innocent hug and peck that Colleen had bestowed on Chuck was met with a lethal looking glare from Jill Roberts – a glare not a million miles removed away from weaponized look that Sarah had just given that French girl … whose name Chuck hadn't even asked.

Chuck had been bewildered by it all. In Jill Roberts, he had found what he had been convinced was his soul mate – a fellow nerd with whom he could spend hours talking the finer points of "Star Trek Voyager", Tolkien and World of Warcraft with. And she had been beautiful to boot! How could Jill the Nerd Goddess feel threatened by Colleen the Actress-Dancer-Jock (or was it jockess? Jockette?) who liked to spend hours watching ESPN, and could not only name all the teams in the NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL, NL and AL, but also knew the names of a goodly number of the players – all things that Chuck couldn't care less about? Even if Chuck had been inclined to have a wondering eye, Colleen and he would have been the most terrible of couples – nowhere near as great and relaxed as he had been with Jill.

But none of that had mattered to Jill. In Colleen, she had seen a threat- an attractive woman spending time with her unassuming, easygoing, respectful-to-pretty-much-all-women funny nerd. When Colleen had dared to laugh at one of Chuck's jokes Jill had looked like she wanted to set her on fire – and was willing herself to develop heat-vision to do it. Chuck had been convinced that Jill's jealousy was a quirk that was signature to her.

As Chuck left the gift shop, he decided that it might be time to rethink that theory.

XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX—XXX

The thundercloud of Sarah's anger had dissipated into a self-conscious mist of awkwardness. As she exited the Louvre and stalked down the plaza, an unsettling realization dawned on her – her temper was locked and loaded and ready to give Chuck a hard time … but Chuck hadn't really done anything beyond help a stranger out with his map.

What made it frustrating was that this simple knowledge didn't mollify her anger like it should have. She was still steamed … but she wasn't sure why, and she wasn't entirely sure at whom. She was mad for almost no logical reason, knew she had little logical reason … and yet was still pissed. What was happening to her? Why was her fondest desire now to pick a fight with either Chuck for helping out an attractive woman, or for that attractive woman for making eyes at her Chuck? Was Chuck literally driving her crazy, as well as figuratively?

Sarah was now some distance from the exit, and while deep in thought, tossed glances back at it to watch for Chuck. She'd make Chuck chase her ever so slightly – not so much to play any mind games with him, but more of as a way to buy some time for her to sort out her thoughts before the inevitable, awkward conversation.

At six-three, and wearing the jacket and cap she had purchased for him, Chuck wasn't hard to spot when he came out. Sarah stood still long enough to verify that he had seen her, then began walking to the south.

Just off the museum grounds, the Quai des Tuileries made its way through the city, paralleling the course of the River Seine, and making for a beautiful river walking path. It was lower than street level, requiring Sarah to descend a flight of steps.

In the cool crisp afternoon, the Seine was beautifully shimmering in the sunlight. Tour boats and ferries chugged in both directions, the occasional vessel having a loudspeaker as tour guides gave info in both French and English. A handy bench facing the river allowed her to sit and wait for Chuck and gather her thoughts. Across the shimmering Seine, the Eiffel Tower rose some distance to her right. Sarah could help but sighing. It was only an hour and a half ago, up there on the tower when she had felt so calm and at peace and in love… now she was down here, shaken and rattled by the measly sight of another woman showing interest in her Chuck … and of Chuck making that woman laugh. Sarah blinked to herself as the realization dawned on her. So, that's it.

"Y'know if you're trying to hide, the red coat doesn't help all that much" Chuck informed cheerily, as if he remained in ignorance of Sarah's recent mood swing. Not laughing Sarah regarded him with a cool look as he came into her view and sat down on the bench next to her.

"I'm getting rid of it" she said in a clipped tone. "I got it from You Know Who". Pretending to adopt a cheerier tone she asked "You got here fast. Nobody else stopped you for directions?"

"Well" Chuck began carefully "I had my map folded up and put away. So, no, nobody thought I looked helpful and stopped me. But if they had, I would have helped."

Sarah huffed and looked out over the water. She knew that it would be of no profit to her to berate her Chuck for simply helping out a stranger with directions, even if that stranger was female, pretty, forward, and reminded Sarah that she could be replaced in Chuck's life. Just like Lou had back in that first year. Just like …

"Chuck?" she said, as they looked out over the water. "Tell me a story. Like you did when we were on our first date. Tell me our story."

"Oh…. huh." Chuck said, slightly surprised by the request. "You mean like the Sir Charles from the Echoing Park kinda thing?"

"If you want." Sarah said. "But I think I deserve a promotion from Mistress of Tapestries."

Chuck laughed, and for the first time since seeing that flirty bint in the gift shop, Sarah cracked a smile as well.

"Well then- Once Upon A Time, in the Golden Province, in the Town of Angels, Sir Charles of the Echoing Park found himself very important to the kingdom because of the … Confluence of Knowledge that had been put in his head. And the kingdom had assigned two very important people to him to watch out for him- Sir Casey the Sea Knight, and …" at this, Sarah could see Chuck turning to look at her, out of the corner of her eye. "Lady Sarah The Mysterious – a woman who was part warrior princess, part enchantress, part guardian, part supportive friend … she was all these things and more – in addition to being the most beautiful lady in all the land."

Sarah gave a smile, but it was weak and wan. She made a cycling motion with her hand "Let's skip ahead to the part where Lady Eleanor The Doctor gets married."

"Oh. Well okay. The day came for Lady Eleanor to get married … and Sir Charles of the Echoing Park was convinced that he'd never see Lady Sarah ever again. They'd completed their mission, they'd defeated the wicked Pirates of the Fulcrum, Roark the Pirate King was sent to the dungeon, and our boy Sir Charles was without the Intersect – meaning that he was no longer of any real value to the government. The wedding was a big success."

Looking out into the river, Sarah nodded "… and what happened next?"

"Well lots of awful things," Chuck said with a sigh. "Just as the wedding cake was being cut, it was discovered that the evil Ringworms were after the new Intersect, and were going to take it and kill none other than Sir Barry the Formerly Thought To Be Sleazy, But Actually Kinda Okay. Our boy Sir Charles once more went out to help Sir Casey the Sea Knight and Lady Sarah the Mysterious. It didn't go that great. We lost Sir Barry – for real this time … and Sir Charles once more found himself with The Intersect."

Not meeting Chuck's look, and still looking out into the river, Sarah said glumly. "Only instead of an Intersect he hated, this was an Intersect he loved."

"Well I don't think it's fair to say he loved it. But is true that it made him feel more confident, more special … more like a spy."

"And when did that become so important?" Sarah demanded. "Two years of listening to you … I'm not going to say 'whine' – but complain about having the Intersect and how it upended your life, and about how you're not really a spy, and all of a sudden it was the only thing you can want and think of."

Chuck furrowed his brow defensively. "It became important when I realized that it made me more than a walking, talking Microsoft Paper Clip Helper that pops up ups when there's trouble around. Intersect 2.0 made me able to do more than just say 'Looks like an international arms dealer is at the Buy More. Would you like some info on that?' That's what I felt like with the first Intersect! The 2.0 was a lot different. I mean I tried not to let it go to my head, but it felt good being able to take care of myself. I felt more confident … I felt worthy."

Sarah stiffened at his use of that word. "Worthy? Of what?" she demanded.

"Worthy of anything! Everything! Worthy of being proud of myself! Worthy of doing something huge and important with my skills – with my life! Worthy of having a genuine war hero like Casey look at me with respect and call me something other than 'moron' or 'nerd'. Worthy of going to bed every night convinced that I'm doing something great. Having Devon – Captain Awesome himself look at me with respect when he found out. Having you …"

"Don't you dare bring up anything about me!" Sarah roared. "I made it very clear that I didn't want you to be a spy! I was going to take you away and keep you all to myself – and you changed your mind on me! Do you have any idea what it felt like to hear you say that you wanted to slave yourself out to Beckman rather than be with me? I'd never been hurt like that in my entire life. Between being with me and getting shot at, stabbed at, kidnapped, tortured and blown up, you chose the danger." Sarah practically choked on her bottled-up anger, and stared out over the Seine. "I spent the entire flight back wondering what was wrong with me. Why you hadn't been looking forward to me. Wondering if you'd met someone in Prague, and wondering if I was really one of those women that men want only when they can't have, and get bored with once things get too real."

"Sarah, it wasn't anything like any of those things!" Chuck protested. "It was just like I said. It was a whole facility dedicated towards getting me to be something more than what I was. To help me do great things- things that mattered. Things that I could be proud of! Sarah, it was an opportunity I hadn't had since I got kicked out of Stanford."

"'What you were' was fine!" Sarah insisted. "It was more than enough for me! Why do you have so much trouble believing that?"

"Because, Sarah- every time I started to believe it, the rug got pulled out from under me. Every single time. It was like … I knew that you liked me, of course- ever since that time on the docks when you kissed me … but every time I was reminded that I might have some sort of shot with you, something would happen to remind me that you're a spy, and that the spy world is the only reason why we know each other, and that things would probably be easier between us if I'd been something more – like a spy."

For the first time, there was a small cynical growl in Chuck's voice. It wasn't a shout or a snarl of anger, but a tone that betrayed a grim sort of confidence in an unpleasant truth. Sarah noticed it right away, and turned a pained gaze to him.

"I mean seriously, I learn after our first date that you were a spy, and that you only came into the Buy More to investigate me, because you thought I was some sort of criminal. That alone would have seriously hurt my feelings if I hadn't just been nearly blown up and run over, and had yours and Casey's guns pointed at me. Then I spend a few months so sure that it could never happen between us, because hey- spy and asset – but then comes the docks- and you kiss me. Ok great! There's something going on between us – but then who comes back but Bryce. And I know that was weird and confusing for you, Sarah, but it was weird and confusing for me too. And I see how great the two of you are together. And that pretty much sets the pattern for the next year or so! Roan hints to me that you really have a thing for me, I decide you surprise you and oh, good! Bryce is back. How nice. We play house for a few days in the cul-de-sack, and I think about what an amazing wife you'd be in real life, and boom, right away you're back to business, right before Cole showed up. And then, Barstow… we came so close but then we got arrested, and found my dad and we beat Fulcrum and I got the Intersect out of my head, and then literally the day I do, I'm paid, I'm out, and you're off to God knows where with who else? -Bryce! I'm sorry Sarah, but I never really got a whole lot of the feeling from you that you and I could make it work while you were a spy and I wasn't. It's like every few weeks there was some hyper awesome, ultra-competent, super handsome spy guy to remind me that the only thing spy-ish about me was the Intersect, and the that you really won't be near me at all if it wasn't for your job – you'd be paired off with a Bryce or a Cole or some non-evil version of Shaw. I mean, seriously Sarah – do you have any idea how tough it is to be confident with a world full of guys who look like a more natural fit with?..."

Chuck wasn't prepared for Sarah's fury at that. "Noooooooooo, Chuck!" she roared with incredulous mockery, leaping up from the bench and whirling around to face him. "Why don't you tell me what that's all about!" For one of the first times since he had met Sarah, she was using sarcasm, and using it with surprising success – and power. "You're acting like I make you feel like you're easy to replace! Do you seriously not think I felt the exact same things anytime I saw you start up with Lou? Or Jill? Or Hannah? Or any of the women you waited on from that Nerd Herd desk? Did you ever think about how I felt having to watch you sitting down with Lou just a few hours after your fake break-up with me?"

Still slightly incensed, Chuck met her gaze and said quietly "At the time, not really. No. You had just told me that we couldn't be together. After a guy hears that, his options are pretty limited with what to do. You weren't interested. Lou was. I'm sorry Sarah, but when you tell a guy that it's never going to happen and everything has to stay professional, then he doesn't really have to worry about whether or not it hurts when he moves on."

It was deflating to hear Chuck admit that there was even so much as a moment when he wasn't fixated on her. Sarah knew, intellectually that it was true … but it still hurt. Her anger dissipated, and she was left feeling cold and vulnerable. She crossed her arms in front of her. She sighed. "It does really hurt to see any normal woman with you. You said there's some part of you that thinks that I should be with some sort of spy? How do you think I feel -someone who to use your words 'will never be normal'- to see you flirting with someone who is? I mean – I walked into that Buy More half ready to arrest you, and pulled a basic flirting stunt, pretending to have trouble with my phone … a few weeks later in comes Lou, doing the exact same thing … only for real. Meeting you for real … being made to laugh by you for real … falling for you for real." Sighing again, she slumped down on the bench next to him. "I always hated it. I just found out that I still hate it, seeing you with Little Miss Lost French Girl."

"Sarah, all I did was help her with …"

She raised her hand dismissively "I know. I know I know I know" she said quickly. "You're that helpful and sweet to everyone." Another sigh. "you know, you say that you don't consider yourself to be a natural ladies man like Bryce, but did ever notice, Chuck that the women who like you tend to like you a lot?"

"Ummm… no, I've never really thought of it that way, I guess." Chuck said.

"You know you stopped your story before an important part." Sarah said, softly. "You didn't mention the part where Sir Charles meets Hannah, the Witch-Temptress from Who The Hell Cares. She came this close to ruining everything" Sarah said, holding her fingers mere centimeters apart. "It really hurt to see you fall for her. I love the way you look at me, and I hate watching you look at anyone else the same way"

"Sarah, I didn't mean for Hannah to happen" Chuck protested weakly. "I didn't think it was going to. After all we worked together …" Chuck paused and began to smile as if he'd just thought of something hilarious. "… …and it'd be very un-professional to start a relationship with someone you work with"

Sarah didn't immediately grasp why Chuck was now smiling broadly … but the comical irony of what he said slowly dawned on her. Against her better judgement, she started smiling, and then tried but failed to suppress a snort. She put a gloved hand over her face, but her self-control was slipping. She started laughing properly now, and Chuck joined in.

"And you're nothing if not professional" Sarah said sarcastically- but much more pleasantly this time, and with a big smile.

Laughing as well, Chuck rose up from his bench, and wrapped his arms around Sarah. "Well you know … I never did like following the Stay-In-The-Car rule."

Sarah displayed a huge grin at Chuck, suppressing a laugh by biting her tongue slightly. "after meeting you, I stopped liking having to follow the Don't-Fall-In-Love-For-Your-Asset rule." At this, she gripped Chuck's head with her gloved hands and pulled herself in for a powerful kiss. "I'm sorry about back there. I'm sorry to get so jealous. I guess I don't like sharing very much" she said when the kiss broke.

"You don't have to share anything Sarah. I'm all yours" Chuck said.

Sarah allowed her knees to flex slightly, allowing herself to melt into Chuck's arms. Bringing herself up "I'm so glad we're together. Now I can be as unprofessional with you as I want" She pressed against his chest to give herself some space. "And where we're going to next, you'll be amazed at how unprofessional I plan on being" she said, capturing his look with a powerful, hungry stare.

"Where to next? Back to the train station?" Chuck asked.

"Mmm-mmm. We have a little time. We have another stop to make." Sarah answered, before preemptively silencing Chuck's follow-up question with another kiss. "You'll see where."

The bench they had been on was only a few yards away from the steps that led up from the river walkway to the roads, and even fewer yards away from the shimmering Seine. Before leaving, they shared one more kiss, one of the first, but not the last kiss they'd share by the water's edge.