Author's Note: Ok, guys, so this is going to be a relatively long AN, and hopefully it will be the longest on this story, but I figure in order to set this story up, its necessary. First of all, blanket general disclaimers, I don't own Chuck, bla bla bla. English is not my native language, in fact its my third language, and I learned Queen's English in school, so writing in the American terms for things can sometimes be hard for me. So if I get soemthing wrong just let me know and I'll do my best to fix it.

Okay, so I was re-discovering/binge watching Chuck over the past couple of weeks, and I'm glad that I did. Of course, that led to reading a lot of Chuck (Charah) fanfiction, particularly of the fluffy variety because let's face it, that show was brutal in throwing down the gauntlet in terms of will-they/won't-they and other types of relationship angst, amirite? I mean, we get it. Especially that finale, I just can't describe. Urgh. Anyway, that said, this time around, at least, I had the outlet of fanfiction and not only as a reader, but I decided to write as well (up until this point I've only published stories for Harry Potter and Glee, though I've also written as-yet-unpublished Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones stories as well), and this is the first chapter result of that.

This story is not going to feature relationship angst. At least, not a lot of it, certainly. I don't really like writing relationship angst, because I don't like reading it. I'd rather my stories get their drama/suspense from other means. Which is what this story will (Attempt to) do. This story's premise is what would happen if they both wised up and decided to act on their feelings earlier (i.e. early/mid series 2). What would happen if Sarah began to question her loyalty and attachment to the CIA in favour of Chuck? How would things pan out, how would things change, etc. Its AU because I don't feel like going in and going episode by episode and writing it like that, as it were, if you get what I mean, but I will make sure there's plenty of spy action and twists and turns with plenty of drama. But this story will be primarily a story about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, and their wider circle of friends/family, and I'm hoping to have a nice mix between cavity-inducing sweet fluffiness, external drama, and humour/comdey. Also, one thing I'd like to note that is that I am not opposed to readers suggesting ideas for furthering the plot – I may not use them, but even if I don't, feel free to make suggestions, maybe your suggestions will inspire something else, etc.

Some readers will I'm sure point out the similarity of this idea, and this first chapter in particular, to BillAtWork's story "the real relationship", and this is true. This is intentional. BillAtWork is one of my favourite Chuck fanfic writers, and I hope that this story will be seen as an...homage, of sorts, to that story/story arch, but I'm sure it will be unique enough and different enough in the coming chapters to be read on its own merits, firstly, and not be taken down by the mods, secondly. And yes, before anyone says anything, I know that I've altered the S2 timeline a bit to fit my story. That's one of the reasons why this story is AU. Deal with it.

Also just a quick content note: I write stories containing adult themes, indended for adult, or at least appropriately mature, audiences. That is why they are rated M. I'll never write smut, so you don't have to worry about that, but if curse words, sometimes gratuitous amounts, frank, adult perspectives on sex, drugs and alcohol use, then perhaps this story isn't for you.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story, happy reading, and remember: comments are love.

Rescue Me

Chuck vs The Decision

It was practical, she told herself. If one, or both, of them didn't end their mutually self-imposed misery, and soon, it would end. Badly. For both of them. And that would put a damper on the operational efficiency of Team Bartowski. But really, it was so much more than that. She was finally ready to be happy. To allow her some semblance of normalcy, of happiness, of something resembling the life she had wanted when she was a little girl, because damn it, she deserved it. But mostly, she was sick and tired. She was sick and tired of waiting around. Sick and tired of the longing, the desire, the hiding behind walls of professionalism, of the heartache and the jealousy. She was also sick and tired of being used as a weapon, of The Company seeing her as a pawn in a chessboard, as little more than a pension ID number in an office server in Langley, and not a person, and she was sick and tired of seeing them trying to do the same thing to Chuck. Her Chuck. She was sick and tired of being sick and tired. And for good or bad, whether the outcome was the one she was hoping for or not, it was going to end. Tonight. He had brought her gardenias, after all. She was in love with Chuck Bartowski, and she knew exactly what she was going to do about it.

It was strange, to say the least, the situation she found herself in. A little over 18 months ago, if anyone had even hinted at the suggestion that she would even entertain the thought of doing what she was going to do – or even half the things she and Chuck had already done – for anything other than a cover, or a mission in someway, she would have thought of some very inventive ways to inflict pain. She was hard-as-nails, Agent Walker, Director Graham's Enforcer. She didn't get sentimental. She didn't get attached. She would never emotionally comprimise herself or the mission – that's how missions failed and how spies wound up dead. And she was a spy. The consummate professional, married to the job, giving up her happiness for the greater good. It was an important job that needed to be done, even if it wasn't always the most savoury. But she didn't have a problem with that.

That was, until she met Chuck. To be honest, she didn't know exactly how or when it happened. It certainly wasn't some instantaneous lightbulb moment or anything. Yes, there were some "lightbulb moments" where, a different version of her, in a different time or a different place might have gone weak in the knees. Even that first day, when he told that little girl that all real ballerinas were tall, just to make her feel better. He was so kind. But she was Agent Walker. And she had a job to do.

But he wore her down. It wasn't something that happened consciously, she thought. She didn't even think he knew, consciously, what he was doing. Yes, he found her attractive and wanted more than she was giving him – especially at first when they were trying to find a professional rhythm – that was certainly true, and not even he would deny it, she was sure. After all, she was certainly not blind, and he wasn't subtle. But he hadn't set out to consciously wear her down, he wasn't trying to actively seduce her, to get in her pants. That was part of why it worked so well – he was just being himself. He was just trying to honestly, legitimately get to know her. As a person. Whatever he did, it was honest and sincere; even after she had made herself clear that their cover was just that, and building up her defencive walls, her professional distance, he still tried.

Even though he ostensibly knew, for all intents and purposes, she would never be able to give him what he really wanted, he didn't shut down. He didn't become a different person behind closed doors, when their covers came down. Well, that wasn't completely true; behind closed doors, if that was even possible, he became even better. Sweeter. Kinder. More attentive. More open. He not only noticed, but remembered her preferences: vegetarian pizza, no olives; when they ordered chinese, he knew she preferred noodle based, rather than rice based dishes, and preferred shrimp and pork to chicken or beef; she liked French white wine, and Argentinian reds, but was actually a simple girl at heart and preferred beer to wine when she didn't have to keep up appearances; he knew that gardenias were her favourite; he remembered her tastes in movies, books and tv, and even helped to expand her horizons; he cared about her thoughts and values and opinions, who she was as a person.

To him, she wasn't just Agent Walker, nor was she just a pair of tits in a dress. He tried to get to know her as human being, which was something not a lot of people had ever done, and nobody had even tried to do in a long, long time. He treated her like an individual. He treated her like a person who had value; whose opinions, ideas, likes and dislikes, and most importantly, feelings, were important, and which he made the effort to learn and know.

He made her feel welcome, both in LA as a whole and in his world. He invited her into his world, his weird, entirely-too-nerdy and strange world with which she was wholly unfamiliar and in many ways, she thought, woefully unprepared to navigate safely. But, figuratively at least, he never left her side. He had helped her navigate in his world – the real world, a world where things weren't ruled by shadows and deceit and never being able to trust anyone but yourself. It was a world where people had roots. They trusted each other. They had emotional attachments: families, friends, coworkers, social groups. It was a world she had been so far removed from for so long that she had forgotten, almost, that it had existed, let alone how to a part of it. Yet he stood by her the whole way, holding her hand, leading the way; and she had let him. Now, she had been accepted his friends, by his family, by Ellie and Awesome. By Morgan. By the Buy Morons. She had forgotten what this kind of life, this kind of existence felt like, let alone the fact that she had, buried deep in the deepest, darkest corners of her heart, buried under all her father's cons and her CIA training, the fact that this was the kind of life she had once hoped for. Normal, and happy.

She had also gotten to know him. Him, for who he was, the real Charles Irving Bartowski. Not as the intersect, but as a person. She had gotten to know his likes and dislikes, his opinions, his values. Even some of his hopes and dreams. She had been regailed about countless stories of his and Morgan's adventures growing up, as well as stories about when he was younger, growing up, especially when it was just him and Ellie. Sometimes, even, the occasional Princeton story, though they were both wary to breach that topic because of the wounds it tended to open when they did. Though when he did tell her stories of Princeton, regailing her about how Bryce and he spent two months speaking to each other only in Klingon, it certainly showed a side to both of them that she had not previously expected, and it made her happy that he let her in. And the music. Ever since joining the CIA, she had had very little time to just sit, and relax, and listen to music. She had thought she had lost that part of herself, but Chuck being Chuck had refused to let that be the case and had reintroduced her to music with that nerdy, over-excited fervour that only he had. He had re-introduced her to something she had loved, and lost, and now found again, in the process introducing her to musical tastes and experiences she never would have had otherwise. Arcade Fire's first album. Nina Simone. So many others, as well. It was just one of the many reasons why she loved him.

He let her know him, who he really was. In her world, the spy world, everything about a person's past was either a liability or a fabrication, so she wasn't used to knowing much about people. Even some of the people she was closest to, in that world, she knew precious little about, in terms of who they were as people. But not Chuck, not in Chuck's world. Chuck was open with her more than anyone else had ever been; he answered her questions, let get to know him, who he really was, as a person. She learned the things that made him tick, his likes, his dislikes (the top of the list included Bryce Larkin, brussel sprouts, and people that wore their phones on a belt clip like they thought they were some kind of big shot), his fears, his desires, what made him tick. He let her in, and he was honest with her, about who he was, and let her in as much or as little as she wanted. And for some reason, with him, she constantly wanted more.

She could never be accused of being too communicative, or too clingy, or too emotional. She was never the touchy-feely, I-want-to-know-everything-about-you type of person, even for someone...well, someone who she felt about like she felt about Chuck. No, the criticisms that could more easily be hurled in her direction were cold, uncommunicative, distant, detached. But for some reason, with Chuck, she always wanted more. Always wanted to know more, to see more, to be included. Of course, she couldn't say she knew everything about him, or even really anywhere near it. In the past 18 months that they had spent together, she had just scratched the surface of getting to know more things about him, but she could say, with some confidence that, even after only this span of time, she knew who he was.

And then there was his eyes. Those deep, warm, friendly brown eyes that were so expressive that she continually found herself getting lost in them. To the point where it was starting to be problematic, and was having to avoid looking directly into his eyes when they were briefing, or working on mission stuff. Or the way his hair curled around his ears and she just wanted to run her fingers through it. Or the way his nose crinkled when he smiled, which, speaking of, was just so uniquely Chuck, she thought if she ever saw anyone else give her the same crooked half-smile that he did, she would think of suing for copyright infringement. Or the way that when he smiled at her, he made her stomach do uncomfortable loop-de-loops as it filled with butterflies and his touch, no matter how slight, could set her heart on fire, even for something simple and platonic, like when he brought her to the beach in Malibu and they sat cross-legged facing each other playing the hand-slapping game, and making simple, pleasant conversation, until the sun went down.

No, all of these were certianly things that, not very long ago at all, Agent Sarah Walker would have scoffed at the very idea of any of it. But 18 months was a long time, and Chuck had gotten to her. He had worn her down, even if – especially because – he had not actually intended to do so. She was in love with Chuck Bartowski, and she knew exactly what she had to do about it.

Of course she knew she shouldn't be doing this. All her spy insticnts were telling her – yelling at her even – to stop. To run away. To patch up all the holes in her walls which had been tumbling down into barely more than rubble over the past five hundred or so days. Ask for a reassignment, even, if necessary. They told her she needed to remain professional, that she can't get attached. She shouldn't let him get attached. That hurting him – hurting them – a little bit now would be preferrable to them both being hurt, so much worse or even worse, killed, later on down the road. That it would be cruel to get either of their hopes up. And she knows that, from a spy perspective, they're right. Her instincts as an agent are highly tuned after intensive training and years in the field, coupled with her own natural instinct which she developed over years and years running cons with her father. The problem is, they're just that. Spy senses. But she doesn't listen to her spy senses, because she doesn't want to think about this like a spy. She doesn't listen to her spy senses because, she doesn't want to look at this from the perspective of Agent Walker, CIA Operative; she wants to look at it from the perspective of Sarah Walker, the person. And besides, even if she wanted to, she knew she was in far too deep now. He brought her gardenias. Her favourite. She had to stop pretending. They both had to stop pretending. And she needed to do it soon before Bryce Larkin could get his clutches into him.

And it wasn't like she wanted to just stop being an agent and run off or get married or anything. At least, not yet. She still had a lot of demons in her past, a lot of past to confront, a lot of growing to do. She still was nowhere near ready to be so completely open and vulnerable with anyone yet, even Chuck. She needed to be able to take things slow, to ease into this whole "commitment" and "normal relationship" thing. But she hoped that someday, with time, she would be. She knew that if she was going to be able to do that with anyone, it would be with Chuck. She also knew herself well enough to know that she was well past the point of no return here. This was no silly infatuation. She wouldn't even consider doing what she was considering, let alone blur the lines to the point which she already had, for some silly infatuation. She knew what she felt, and she knew it was real, and she knew – she didn't know how she knew, but she did – that it was love. She wasn't saying she wanted to hop on the next train to Vegas to elope and get married by some Elvis impersonator or something; she knew that she still wanted to go slow...ish, and not rush into anything too fast. But she also knew how he made her feel, and that she couldn't go back to the way things were before. The Rubicon had been crossed. The die had been cast.

Of course, she was still an agent, and she liked being an agent. Mostly. Yes, she was recruited by Graham before she was even legally an adult, essentially under duress, and in a comprimised emotional state, having just seen her father getting arrested. It was a textbook recruitment. And yes, in her nearly ten years of service, she had done a lot of very unsavoury things that she liked – no, needed – to keep separate from who she was, as a person, in order to stay sane. She, as Agent Walker, had done a lot of very bad things in her past. But the thing was, as much as they haunted her, she knew that she had also done a lot of good – even if sometimes in order to do that good, she had to do bad, unsavoury things – for the greater good just like it had been drilled into her since her recruitment. She had done dirty work in the shadows that others might live without fear. And she had done good, and done it well. She had helped to prevent countless terrorist attacks, foiled numerous arms deals, and broken up so many drug and human trafficking rings that she had lost count. Those were all very, very good things, she reminded herself.

And before she had met Chuck, that would have been enough. More than enough, even. The personality she had cultivated first with her father, and then through spy training had made her the perfect agent; cool, detached, professional. It would have been enough to know that she had done well protecting innocent people for the greater good. But now, after she had met Chuck, after he had gotten under her skin and re-awoken something inside which she had thought was long, long gone, it no longer seemed enough. Wasn't she also a person? Wasn't she also deserving of some small shred of happiness? Of normalcy? She had sacrificed so much for her country, for the greater good, hadn't she earned a chance of a little happiness for herself? What good was the greater good if she didn't feel any of it? If she got no chance to enjoy any of its benefits? If she lost all of her humanity by letting Graham and the CIA turn her into little more than a weapon, was it really enough? Before she had met Chuck, she would have absolutely answered that yes, it was. That was what her duty was, her role in life was going to be. Now, though, things had changed. Now, she wanted her life to mean something beyond a string of highly successful missions that no one could ever know about, and her death to mean something more than a few key strokes by an intern in the bowels of Langley to stop funds being paid into her pension. Now, that answer was very much different.

She did still want to be agent. At least for now. If for no other reason than Chuck still needed to be protected and who better than her to protect him? But the Company had been good to her. What 28 year old from a broken home in San Diego could say that by age 25 she was fluent in six languages, and had been to most of the countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East? Granted, she had usually gone to these places to kill someone, and that haunted her, but she had been doing her duty, what she had been trained to believe was the most important thing.

But now, things were much more complicated. And her feelings for Chuck – well, their feelings for each other, after all she wasn't blind; she knew, or at least had a very good idea, that her feelings were definitely reciprocated despite his attempts to pretend otherwise – was the cause. It had gotten to the point where they were starting to affect their work.

He hated being told to wait in the car, helpless when she put herself in harms way. She knew that was why he never stayed in the damn car when she told him to. She, likewise, hated that he needed constant protection because people were willing to kill him for the secrets that were downloaded – without his knowledge or choice in the matter – into his brain. She also hated the way everyone referred to him as "the intersect". He was a person, after all, not a machine. She smiled, laughing to herself, remembering when she told him how much she hated hearing people refer to him as just "the intersect". She had even showed how much she hated it by appealing to his geeky side, crying out, "I'm a person, and my name is Anakin!". She remembered his eyes bugged out of his head slightly before he regained his composure enough to reply, "Agent Walker, did you just quote Star Wars to me?". She had surprised him further by replying, "No, Agent Walker did no such thing. But Sarah did just quote the worst of all the Star Wars movies, for the first and only time, so I hope you enjoyed it". And Chuck, amazing, sweet, wonderful Chuck told her that he barely even noticed, let alone cared anymore, that they referred to him as the intersect; but he did care that it bothered her.

She hated how their covers were starting to be almost cruel, to both of them, at this point. Having to pretend to be in a relationship with the person they both actually wanted to be, but knowing that it was only a cover and having to maintain a professional distance was probably one of the hardest things she had ever had to do, and she knew it was even harder on Chuck. He didn't have the training or the years cultivating the proper personality to be able to handle it like she did. If it was hurting her, it was killing him. In addition to the fact that she never wanted to be the source of his pain, it was leading to confusion. The lines had been blurred too much already. It was getting hard for either of them to be able to separate what was real and what was cover; were they professional colleagues who kept professional distance with a cover of being in love? Or were they lovers who maintained a cover of a professional handler-asset relationship? It was getting hard to tell sometimes. True, they hadn't done anything – well, not much, anyway, and certainly not more than making out and heavy petting – to blur those lines physically, but emotionally, those lines had been blurred a long time ago.

She, at least, was a professional. As much at hurt her – and it did – and as much as she hated to see him during missions where he had to be Charles Carmichael, the suave, debonair personality that he used on missions when he had to get close to – to seduce – female marks, she could handle it. Barely. And she did hate it. She hated seeing him like that. She hated seeing him cozying up to rich, well connected bad girls, running his fingers through their hair, running his hands over their shoulders and arms, and leading them to the dance floor or hotel rooms with his hand gently on the small of their backs; running his fingers through their hair and whispering sweet nothings in their ears; she hated it. She hated it all. And she was supposedly a professional. She knew that he didn't mean any of it, that it was just a character, and he was just playing a role, turning a mark, getting what they needed. She knew. Hell, most of the time it was her idea to put him that situation – which she also knew he was extremely uncomfortable in – in order that they could get what they needed. She was a professional, and she knew better, and she still hated it. But more than hating it, it made her jealous, and she was most assuredly not the jealous type. But seeing him – even if it was Charles Carmichael, and not Chuck who was doing it – do those things to those women when he couldn't do them with her, made her angry, and made her jealous. And that would not do on a mission. In the past most recent missions where it had been necessary, it had taken all of her willpower and professionalism to not march up to them, smack the little bitch in the face, and call her a homewrecking slut.

And those had been her thoughts. The thoughts of a supposedly professional CIA Operative. It was really no wonder why it was so hard for him, when he was on the receiving side of the same form of torture. Which was just as frequent, if not moreso, than she was. She knew how difficult what he had to do, almost constantly, was. But Agent Walker did have a job to do, namely to protect him from all the bad people who wanted to kill him for what was in his brain. And in order to do that, she needed missions to run smoothly, and him to be professional by not nearly blowing their cover and dropping thousand-dollar bottles of wine. Which is why all of this had to end. Tonight. If for no other reason that it was phsyically putting his life in danger. She knew of only two possible fixes to their problem, and they were definitely mutually exclusive to each other. She also knew which one she preferred, and which one she hoped that he did, as well.

"You need to either man up and put yourself out there, like you both clearly want," Bryce had said earlier that week, zeroing in on the tension between the two, like the trained spy that he was, "or you need to cut him loose. Permanently. Its cruel, to both of you, not to. Chuck's a good guy, Sarah, and if you're not going to man up, then you need let him find someone else who will. He's been through too much already"

Of course, she knew what Bryce was trying to convince her to do. Drop Chuck, get reassigned, and come on the road fighting the bad guys with him. And, if he had told her that a year ago, maybe even less, she might have. She couldn't even be mad at Bryce, not really. He didn't know how much her leaving would destroy Chuck. And, in his own way, he was still looking out for his nerdy, Klingon-speaking fraternity brother. So, as much as she wanted to be furious at him, she couldn't. Not really. She couldn't find the energy to care, really, it was that unimportant at this point. She just knew that she had to get to him, tonight, immediately after the debriefing. Before Bryce or anyone else could get to him. One way or another, this dance they'd been doing was going to end. Tonight.

"...If there are no further questions," General Beckman said, pausing slightly to make sure there weren't any, and seeing none, continued, "then you are dismissed. Great job, as always, Team Bartowski. I will debrief Agent Larkin separately. Dismissed."

As soon as the screen went blank, Sarah turned to Chuck

"Can I talk to you for a minute Chuck?"

"Sure, I gue...whoa!" Chuck said, as she grabbed him by the hand and practically dragged him through the corridors, deeper into Castle.

"Sarah, couldn't this wait? Or couldn't we do this in the car? We have to be at Ellie's in 45 minutes"

"No, Chuck. This can't wait," she said, ominously – perhaps more ominously than she had intended – as they arrived outside the interrogation room – because it was sound proof, and private, away from the prying eyes of Casey and Bryce. She continued,

"And I already called Ellie and told her we were going to be a little late"

"O...Okay," Chuck said, nervously as Sarah placed her hand up to the fingerprint scanner to open the door to the interrogation room.

"Did...Did I do something wrong, Sarah?" Chuck asked, nervously as she motioned for him to enter the room before her. "Look, I mean, I know I kind of dropped the ball today with my cover, and I'm sorry, its just...I...I..."

Before he could even finish making up an excuse which he knew she wouldn't believe anyway, the door to the interrogation room had sealed, and she shoved him brusquely against the wall. She immediately followed by closing the admittedly close space between them before he even knew what was happening; in what could have only been a few seconds, she had her entire body pressed against his, one leg wrapped around his for support. One of her arms snaked around his neck and she ran her fingers through the hair on the back of his head, as her other hand grabbed desperately at his tie and shirt; clinging, grasping, desperately pulling down so that his face met hers, and then, in one fluid motion, she crashed her lips against his, kissing him hungrily. It was a hungry, desperate kiss, full of longing, and passion, and desire. She was not usually very good with words, preferring to let her actions speak for her: she was pouring everything she had – every hope, every desire, every truth – into that kiss, hoping, for both their sakes that he would get the message.

When she pulled away, many minutes later, she briefly rested her forehead against his, simply smiling happily and catching her breath. Once she caught her breath, however, she straightened up, and slapped Chuck across the face. Hard.

"That was for almost blowing our cover, Charles Irving Bartowski," she said, her jaw set firmly showing her clear displeasure. "If we hadn't been as lucky as we were, we would all be dead right now, and Fulcrum would have the intersect data"

Chuck was still stunned from both the whopper of a kiss and then the slap to be able to coherently form words, let alone string them together to form a functional sentence. She took advantage of this fact to grab the sides of his face in her hands, and kiss him, hard, again. Though perhaps a bit less intense than the first one, it was still far from quick or chaste.

"And that was because I hate seeing those sluts all over you, even if I know its an important part of the mission, and you're playing the role of Charles Carmichael, and they're just your mark, I still hate it, and I hate them," she said as she pulled away.

Chuck opened his mouth to speak, finally, after what must have been several minutes, but Sarah raised her finger to indicated that she wasn't done speaking. Chuck knew Sarah well enough to know that if he wanted to hear what she had to say, it was now or never, and he had better keep his damn mouth shut, or else she would probably never open up to him like this ever again. So he kept his damn mouth shut, and waited for her to finish.

"No, Chuck. I need to talk, and I need you to listen to me right now. Please just shut up until I'm done, please?"

Chuck nodded, apprehensively, his acquiescance.

"Enough is enough, Chuck," she began. He began to make noises of protest, but one death glare from her shut him up so she could continue.

"Enough is enough. We can't keep going on like this. I know its hard. Going on like this, pretending this cover isn't killing us, pretending we're okay watching each other using these sorts of tactics when we need to get close to somebody, pretending that we haven't smashed through the barriers of professional, or even simply platonic, ages ago"

"Hell, Chuck, its killing me. Its making me jealous and angry, and I'm a trained professional. This is my job. I do this for a living, Chuck," she continued, pacing the room, not fully noticing the dejected look that was starting to creep onto Chuck's face.

"I can only imagine how much worse it is for you, and I hate that. I especially hate it because I know, from an operational standpoint, this isn't going to be the last time, either, and I can't bear the fact that I'm causing you pain," she said.

"Something's gotta give, as they say," she continued. By this point, Chuck was staring at the floor, doing all he could to avoid looking at her face when she delivered the death blow he knew was coming. She sat on the desk in the interrogation room directly opposite him in the chair, and softly held his face in between her hands, forcing him to look at her.

"Which is why," she said, making sure she looked at her face, as she half-smiled at him, "we've got to figure this out. The way I see it, we have two options," she continued.

"The first," she said, trying to remain business like, despite how much she disliked the first option, "is that I report to Graham and Beckman that I have become emotionally attached to my asset, and have comprimised the mission, and get reassigned. Which of course, you know, would mean,"

"I would never see you again," Chuck said, hollowly.

"No. We would never see each other ever again," she said, emphasising what she saw as a very important differentiation, that she hoped he would pick up on as she let it hang in the air before continuing.

"Or, second option, which is my personal preference," she said, "is that we can try to actually be together, for real. Like a real relationship, a real couple"

Chuck's eyes lit up and his head snapped up so fast, with that smile that made her heart do flips in her chest, that she thought it was going to make her head spin. Before he could say anything, she continued,

"Whoa, there. Slow down, tiger. Before you say anything, you need to really understand what that would mean – what we'd be getting ourselves into"

Chuck nodded his head vigourously, urging her to continue.

"First, and I would think obviously, but I'm going to say it anyway, is that I'm not promising anything beyond the fact that I want to give us a shot. I'm not saying let's go to Vegas and elope, and I'm not saying that we should have some suburban house with a red door and a picket fence," she added, thankful that he didn't know that she had just described to him the house she had always secretly thought she would want, if she had been able to have that kind of life.

"But I'm also saying that I don't want to lose you, Chuck, and I'm willing to see where this goes. And who knows, maybe someday..."

"Yes" Chuck said, immediately, jumping up from his seat and wrapping his arms around Sarah, not needing or wanting to hear anything after that. He had a real chance of actually getting the girl, the girl who we was crazy about and who, it turns out actually kind of liked him back.

"Whoa, slow down there, tiger," she said in response, but she was smiling broadly. "I have some other conditions"

"Conditions? Sarah, what do you mean 'conditions'. 'Conditions' makes this sound like you're trying to negotiate a cover, or trying to pull some spy stuff on me," Chuck said, noticeably hurt. "Are you trying to negotiate something with me, or are you trying to tell me how you feel and ask if I feel the same?"

Sarah took a deep breath before speaking.

"See, this is one of those things. I guess I mis-spoke," she said, gathering her thoughts. "I've never been really good with words, or talking about – or even really been completely comfortable with – my feelings. Especially after I joined the CIA. I know that you're a much more vocal, communicative person than I am," she continued, "but its something I'm willing to work on. Because I care about you, and I want to make you feel how special you are to me. But you're going to have to be patient with me. You're going to have to realise that I'm going to mis-speak. And say the wrong thing, and sometimes even do the wrong thing. I'm not very good, or even very experienced with relationships, Chuck, and I need you to be patient with me, and not spiral out of control on me," she said.

Chuck chuckled and smiled happily.

"That was actually a concern of my own," he said. "By the way, I think 'concern' is a better word to use here than 'condition', just for future reference," he said, trying to inject a little levity into their conversation, and Sarah cracked a smile, however small. "I don't exactly have the best track record in relationships, or spying, or anything, really, in general. Though I am the world champion at duck hunt on Nintendo, but that doesn't really count for much in this context, I realise," he said, nervously. "I'm so afraid that if we get together, I'll do something to screw it up, or even that I'll just do something to make myself think I've screwed it all up, and then one day I'll just wake up and you'll be gone, and I'll never even know if it was ever real or you were just playing me for your job"

"What are you saying, Chuck? Don't you trust me?" Sarah asked, hurt.

"No. No, of course not. Sarah, I do trust you. I trust you with my life, and I...I trust you with everything else, too," he added, shyly. "I do. Its just, I guess, what I'm saying is this. If we're going to do this, we should be clear with each other. If we're going to do this, its going to be a real relationship, with real feelings, real emotions, our real selves. No hiding. Okay? We'll promise to be patient and understanding with each other, and always be truthful with each other. Use our real emotions, not tell each other what we think they want to hear, pretend everything is okay, and secretly stew. No smoke and mirros stuff, no spycraft. Okay? If you're angry at me, tell me. And I'll tell you the same. But at the same time, I need to know that if you care about me, you won't be afraid to tell me, either. And that when you tell me, you'll mean it. Okay? I promise that. Do you?"

Sarah looked into Chuck's eyes and smiled a watery smile before she added,

"I promise, Chuck," she said, kissing him tenderly for a quick moment before pulling away, and continuing, "But I have another major concern. Well, two related concerns, Chuck. I am a CIA Agent, and for the time being I have no inention to quit my job. Which means that sometimes there are going to be things that neither you or I are going to particularly like, but will both have to accept as part of the job. Especially considering the fact that you still have that damn intersect in your head, which means a lot of really powerful, really bad people are still out there, trying to kill or capture you. My job is to keep you safe. And I intend to do just that. But in order for me to do that, sometimes that will mean me, or you, or both of us, doing things that make us uncomfortable and don't like, in the field, without blowing our covers. Yes, sometimes the jealousy is a little cute, but in the field there is no room for cute, or jealous. Especially when the result of blowing our covers could mean one, or both of us, dead. Do you understand?"

"I think so," Chuck said, drawing out his response in order to try to phrase his follow up question in as neutral a way as possible. "But, I'm not sure I understand what, exactly, that entails or what, um, boundaries, there are"

A flash of recognition of what he was asking her swam across Sarah's face, but it was gone in an instant. It hurt, a little, that he would ask her that particular question, but it was a fair question. Especially given the stories about her reputation that Carina and Casey both implied – wrongly, but that is neither here nor there – about her past. And if they were going to do this, and if they were going to have this conversation, it had to be a serious and honest conversation. He certainly deserved to know where he stood. She knew that she would probably ask the same thing were the roles reversed.

"Ok, Chuck, first of all, we promised to be honest and open with each other, so I'm going to tell you that I'm proud of how you're actually asking questions like this, but at the same time, I'm very hurt that you would think that I would do that to you. Maybe at one point I would have, but if we are together, no, I would never. Even if a mission called for it, I would find another way. The CIA doesn't really agree on this, of course, but they also don't agree with their agents having real relationships with people, either, so we're in uncharted waters here. But no, there has to be some kind of clear boundaries for us, I agree. And at some point, in the future, if it comes to that, that is a conversation we would need to have, but no I would never cheat on you in order to get information out of a mark. Ever. If we establish a line somewhere, between us, that is not something I would cross. But that's not what I'm talking about. I mean things like posing as a married couple with a male agent, or dancing, sometimes seductively and letting them get a good look or maybe even cop a feel, if a mission required it, in order to maintain our covers and complete the mission. Is that something you could handle, Chuck? Remember, we promised that we had to be honest with each other"

Chuck inhabled deeply to calm his nerves before speaking.

"I won't pretend that I like it. But I know enough about this business, I think, now, and enough about you, that I trust you to know what you're doing. I'm not going to pretend that I'd like it, or even that it wouldn't hurt, or I'd be completely on-board with it, and I'd rather you do those sorts of covers with me, if at all possible, but, I think as long as we both understand that there are uncrossable boundaries, and what those are, and that, at the end of the day I know its me that you actually care about and want to come home to...I think I could find a way to deal with it"

"I'm not expecting you to like it Chuck. I would seriously question how you felt about me if you did," Sarah replied. "But I need to be able to do my job, and know that you would at least be able to deal with it. I need to know that, should the need arise, I can do my job as necessary. Especially considering that my job, right now, is keeping you safe," she added, before continuing.

"Besides, Chuck, its not like that dislike doesn't go both ways. I don't particularly enjoy seeing Charles Carmichael seducing ladies who aren't me at these fancy galas, but I know that it needs to happen, sometimes, for us to do our jobs and complete our mission. Understand?"

Chuck nodded. Perhaps not as enthusiastically as she would have hoped, but he nodded.

"Remember, Chuck, just because you can get over it, doesn't mean you have to be okay with it, or even that we can't talk about these sorts of things. But I just need you to be okay with it happening, occasionally, if there are no other effective ways for us to complete our missions, understand?"

Chuck nodded again, smiling his trademark half-smile that always got her.

"You said this concern was a two-parter, though, Sarah. What else is bothering you?"

"Chuck, if we're going to do this, I need to be able to trust that its not going to affect our operational efficiency. Which is why, if we're going to do this, you need to be able to separate girlfriend Sarah from Agent Walker. Just like I'm going to have to try to separate Boyfriend Chuck from Asset Chuck-slash-the Intersect. I know its not exactly going to be particularly easy, for either of us, but the best way to prevent the brass from finding a problem with us, and finding out that we're breaking like every regulation in the book, and immediately and permanently separating us, is for us to be able to be professional when on missions, understand? When we're out in an operational capacity, I can't be your girlfriend, Sarah, I have to be your handler, Agent Walker. And you can't be my boyfriend Chuck, you have to be my asset, The Intersect. Okay?"

"Again, I don't particularly like this, Sarah," Chuck said, "I'm trying to be honest with you, here. It will be very hard for me, but if that's what it takes for us to be together, I'll do my best. I can't promise any more than that, but I do promise you that"

"That means, Chuck, if I tell you to stay in the car, you stay in the damn car. If I tell you to stay at Castle, you stay at Castle. If I tell you to run away, you run away. Understand?"

"Yes," Chuck said, smiling happily, an expression which was enthusiastically matched by Sarah.

"I guess that leaves just one thing left," Sarah said, coyly. Tell him, Sarah. She told herself. Now or never. He's waited so long to hear it. And its not like you'd be lying, because you do. He deserves to hear it, and you made him a promise. Are you going to start hurting him already? You're doing this so that you can both stop hurting. She scolded herself.

"Oh yeah, and what's that?"

Sarah took a deep, calming breath, before replying.

"Chuck, I love you"

"I love you, too, Sarah"

It was like a dam broke. It only took about a half a moment of hesitation before they both, seemingly at the same time, flung themselves at each other, smashing their lips into each other, kissing passionately, desperately; trying to pass as much understanding, and comfort, and longing and desire, and all the other emotions that had been building between them over the past year and a half, into one kiss, their tongues teasing, playing, begging entry.

Before they knew what was happening, Sarah's legs were wrapped tightly around Chuck's torso, as they were hastily removing as much clothing as fast as they possibly could, quickly discarding the offending items.

As they continued with their mutual ministrations, revving their respective partner's engine, Chuck nibbled sensually at Sarah's neck, at a place which, he now knew, was sensitive and erogenous for her, as she moaned softly, her shirt unbuttoned all except the last one, falling limply at her sides, as she attempted to help him remove her bra, whilst moaning in pleasure.

"Chuck...Chuck...," she gasped out between heavy breaths. "We...we shouldn't...have sex...in the interrogation room..."

"Does that...mean you don't want to? Do you...do you...want...me to stop?"

"Not a fucking chance," she gasped, moaning as he caught her earlobe between his teeth. "It just means that we shouldn't do it"

With that, everything ceased but the sounds and sensations of their mutual pleasure as they enjoyed being together in a way they had not yet experienced.

"I meant what I said earlier," she said, some time later, as they finally began to dress themselves again. "I do love you Chuck"

"I know. I trust you, Sarah."

"But I also meant what I said about the other things, too"

Chuck sighed, unsure whether he should be excstatic with happiness or exasperated that she didn't understand that he understood.

"I know, Sarah. I don't particularly like it, but I know."

"I don't particularly like it, either, Chuck, but its just the facts. The fact is, this isn't a fucking video game, Chuck – and before you say that you know, I know that you know, but I just...I need to say it anyway. I don't mean to be that nagging girlfriend already, but its that important. These people are bad people, and they are willing to do anything to get the intersect. Let's put it this way...if they captured you, well, when they finally did kill you, it would be a mercy," she said, soberly.

"And if that happened, do you have any idea what that would do to me Chuck? Do you?"

Chuck opened his mouth to answer, but closed it again, when he realised that he had none. She had never opened up to him like this before, ever. He had had his hopes, his assumptions, but he never knew, and as serious as this conversation was, it helped him feel so much closer to her – and, he hoped, the feeling was reciprocated. So, instead, he just waited for her to continue.

"It would destroy me, Chuck. I...there are no words," she said. "It would literally kill me, and that's not hyperbole," she added. "I am willing to do anything necessary, short of breaking our own boundaries, to keep you safe and alive. I will kill each and every single person who sets their sights on hurting you, if I have to, if it will keep you safe and make sure that no one is going to take you away from me. Losing you like that would absolutely destroy me, which is why its so important that you listen to me, and that we are able to function well, as a team, on missions, Sweetie. Because if we can't, I can't keep you alive."

"Sarah," Chuck said, softly rubbing her shoulders and upper arms tentatively in an attempt to calm her nerves, before he continued. "Baby," he tried, tentatively testing the waters of the pet name, and meeting no resisitance, continued, "Shh, you need to calm down, I would never..."

"No, Chuck, I need to get this off my chest," she said. "I was serious when I said that these were our only two options. Either we try to make this work, for real, which, for what its worth I'm glad we've decided on," she said, "Or else, I was willing to break both of our hearts and get reassigned, in order to keep you safe. Because that's what it would take. And I would be willing to do that, if it kept you alive, because I love you that much, Chuck. And its crazy, because up until I met you, I'd never felt anything remotely close to this, and now its all hitting me so quickly and its scaring me a little, but at the same time I love it and its amazing, and I just...I just need to know that you understand, Chuck"

"I do, Sarah. Really. I understand. And I also understand just how hard it was for you to tell me, to talk to me like this," he said, smiling, as he kissed her chastely as he re-did his tie. "And I can't tell you how much I appreciate that you did. I mean, besides the obvious," he said, continuing, "the fact that you trust me enough to let me in like that, to be as honest as you have been, well, it makes me feel really good," he said, finally deciding on how best to phrase his idea. He continued,

"Do you think you can promise me something, Sarah?"

"Hmm"

"Don't close on me"

"What?"

"Don't close up. I really like that we're able to be this open with each other. And I get that there are some things that you can't tell me, and that's fine. Just say that something's classified, or you can't tell me because its spy stuff and above my pay grade, or whatever, and I'll let it drop. And I also get that there are a lot of things in your past that are very difficult for you to talk about, but I want you to know that I'll be here. I promise I won't judge you or think any less of you, especially for something that happened in the past, before we knew each other, that had to happen in order for us to get to where we are now. I also promise that I won't push, or pry too much, as long as you don't close up or push me away. The only reason I ask about your past is because I want to get to know you, the real you, as best as I can."

"But in return, I want you to promise me that you're not going to close yourself off, and not tell me things, or push me away, or whatever. I get that its hard for you. Really, I do. It's hard for me, too, believe it or not. I know you think I'm some kind of chatterbox, and maybe compared to you, I am. But talking about my feelings – open, honest, healthy communication like I see with Awesome and Ellie – that's really scary for me, too. But the thing is, that's what I want. That's what I want us to have. And I know its going to take some time, maybe even a lot of time, to get there. And we're going to fight and have arguments and misunderstandings and all sorts of those things real couples have, and I'm okay with that. But what I'm not okay with is you closing yourself off to me, or telling me what you think I want to hear, nor not being truthful – especially with our situation being what it is, we need to be able to trust each other. So I'll promise you that I'll try my best, if you promise me you'll try yours. Deal?"

She was like putty in his hands. That was the sweetest speech she had ever heard and it made her heart melt. She couldn't deny him anything, after that.

"I promise, Chuck," She said, smiling, leaning up for one more kiss before they left the confines of the interrogation room. "So, Sweetie," she continued, liking the sound of the pet name she'd landed on, as she stood up, and grabbed his hand, and linking it shyly with her own, "I know this is just a bit of a formality at this point, but I take it that means you want to be my boyfriend for real?"

"Only if you want to be my girlfriend for real"

"There is nothing I think I'd want more," she said, happy enough to burst, as they walked, hand-in-hand, out of Castle, out of the Buy More and towards the Nerd Herder.

They were greeted warmly as they entered the apartment by Ellie and Awesome; Ellie was holding a bottle of wine which she happened to know was Sarah's favourite and kept in the house just for her – she was always so considerate like that – and were both hugged warmly as if they had been away for ages, even though Sarah had been over a few days ago, and Chuck was there that morning since he still lived there. Morgan was also there, as well as a few others whom Sarah remembered worked at the hospital with Devon and Ellie. The event was certainly celebratory and happy, in that it was a celebratory dinner in honour of Ellie and Awesome's recent engagement, it was far from one of the more raucous parties which the Bartowski household seemed to be reknowned for. It was relatively simple, just drinks, a good meal, and nice conversation, but it was very nice. And after the highly emotional situation she and Chuck had just recently been in, Sarah found it very relaxing to just sit next to Chuck, have a nice meal, drink her favourite wine, and make pleasant conversation. It was so mundane, so domestic, so absolutely normal and she loved it. Smiling, she looked around the table and took in what she saw; with the exception of Ellie and Devon's doctor friends, these were the people closest to Chuck. His own little self-made, non-normal family. Morgan, his best friend whom he had known since they were six years old, whom both had told her, on multiple occasions they were more like brothers than just friends, best or otherwise. There was Devon, the kind-hearted man who loved Chuck's sister the way that she and Chuck loved each other – at least, that's what she hoped, at least some day. He was kind, and funny, and yeah, definitely more than a little strange with his frat-boy nature well beyond it being age-appropriate, and with his adrenaline-junkie athletics it was hard to place him in this family, this goofy, silly nerdy family of people who were much more comfortable ordering pizza and watching movies than rock climbing or parasailing, but they had made him welcome. He had made the effort to insert himself in their lives, to make their lives his life, and in return, they had let him. They had opened their homes and their hearts to him, accepted him, made room for him in their weird little self-made family. And it warmed her heart, how accepting, big hearted, and quick to love these Bartowskis were.

And then there was Ellie. Ellie was an enigma to Sarah, and their relationship was a complicated one. To say that she was in awe of Ellie Bartowski soon-to-be-Woodcomb would be an understatement. She had practically raised Chuck herself, once their mother disappeared, and then certainly after their dad disappeared as well; starting at the age of fourteen she had to be not only Chuck's older sister, but also his mother and his father as well. And she did an amazing job. Whether it was just inherent in Chuck, or due to Ellie's kind, yet slightly overbearing nature, or some combination of the two, Chuck had grown up to be the single most amazing man she had ever met, and to say she was thankful to Ellie for helping and supporting her brother to the extent she had, well, there were not enough words in any of the language she spoke to sum up just how thankful she was. And the fact that she had done all of that whilst putting herself first through university, and then medical school and residency, and still having time to raise her little brother, and be there for him after what happened at Stanford, well, she was well and truly in awe of Dr Eleanor Bartowski.

And that was to say nothing of her personality. Ellie had been nothing but friendly, open, and welcoming to Sarah from the moment they had met, which had been only after three dates with Chuck, on her own insistence. From the very first moment they had met, she had been friendly and open with the blonde, and had tried to make her feel as welcome and included as possible, even inviting her to things which, to Sarah's perspective at the time, she had no business being invited to; family events: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays. And she had done it all out of the goodness of her heart, because she wanted Sarah to feel welcome. Because Sarah was with Chuck, and Ellie loved her brother and wanted him to be happy. If Sarah was being honest with herself, despite her being a trained, professional CIA Operative, she found Chuck's sister to be one of the most intimidating people she had ever met, if only because of what a geniunely good person she was, and how much she cared for Chuck, making her wonder if she would ever be able to live up to the good Doctor's standards.

Which was part of the reason why her relationship with Ellie had always been a bit weird. Of course she had always been kind, and warm and welcoming, and she bent over backwards to make her feel accepted and welcome, and yet...Sarah always got the distinct impression that it was for Chuck's benefit. That Ellie treated her the way she did for Chuck. Not that she minded or blamed her at all; after all, the doctor barely knew her from Adam, especially in the early days when they had just started dating – cover or not; she was glad that not, at least in her internal dialogue she didn't have to make a distinction between cover dates and real dates anymore. Were the roles reversed, she certainly would have done the same. And she still would. Sarah thought she could be friendly to just about anyone, if it would make Chuck happy – in fact, she thought that was the primary reason why Jeff and Lester were still alive. No, Sarah couldn't fault Ellie for the distance, however subtle, there was in their relationship. But to deny that it wasn't there would be a lie. The twinkle in her eyes that reminded her so much of Chuck's own eyes lost some of its lustre, the smile that constantly graced her face in these social situations didn't quite reach her eyes like it did with the others.

As much as she might claim otherwise, especially after Jill and before Sarah, when she desperately tried to hook her brother up with as many of her single friends and colleagues who would tolerate it, Ellie sometimes had a very hard time seeing Chuck as anything but her baby brother who would tell people that he wanted to be a "big boy" when he grew up. Which was why sometimes she had a hard time acknowledging that her baby brother did "big boy" things with his "big boy" girlfriend. "Big boy" girlfriend like Sarah. Sarah was an amazing catch. Beautiful, smart, down to earth if perhaps a little shy, friendly, kind. She had shown time and time again, in just the relatively short time they had known each other that she was willing to accept Chuck and all the crazy family shenanigans that came with him for exactly who he was, and didn't try to change him. She was good for him, Ellie knew. And that was both from a professional opinion, as a doctor, and from a maternal opinion as the big-sister-who-raised-him. Chuck was crazy about her, which was a good thing, because Ellie saw the shy, coy way she looked at her brother when she thought nobody was paying attention. Sarah Walker absolutely adored her brother and it made her so happy. They were so good for each other; bringing out the best qualities in each other, and balancing out their respective negative traits.

But there was one thing that had always bothered her about Sarah, and that was the fact that she didn't seem to ever be able to be completely comfortable, completely open and relaxed in the apartment. It was like there was an invisible barrier about certain topics, certain things that she wouldn't – or couldn't – allow herself to breach, and it was like an invisible barrier making it impossible to completely let others into her life, or be completely within others. Ellie hated to think of people, especially people so important to her – Sarah was important to Chuck, and that made her important to her, it was that simple – but she couldn't help shake the feeling that those barriers didn't have anything to do with herself or Devon, and she was almost positive they existed when it was just her and Chuck, as well. And she hated that thought. And not just for her brother, but for Sarah, too. She hated to think poorly of the girl, since she and Chuck clearly both adored each other, but she couldn't help thinking that maybe, at least subconciously, Sarah was stringing her brother along. And she couldn't let that happen. Chuck couldn't withstand another Jill. And whilst she knew, just by the way Sarah looked at her brother when she didn't think anyone noticed, that she would never do such a thing intentionally, still, she was worried.

Every time she had talked to her brother – or rather, tried to talk to him – about it, Chuck had shut her down. He had told her she needed to mind her own business, and that things were fine. Sarah was just shy, and that Ellie knew she was shy and he didn't want her pushing or prying, because it would scare her, and it might do more damage than help. Ellie didn't know why Chuck was always running so scared around his girlfriend, as if she were a temperamental colt that might bolt the paddock if she got spooked; yes, she was a shy girl and on the quiet side – at least until she got comfortable with you – but that trait just made her more endearing. And yes, she was a bit more hesitant to talk about her feelings, or, especially, her past than they would have expected – and both she and Chuck knew somehting about bad pasts – and on the rare cases she did open up about her past, she revealed that her past, much like her's and Chuck's own was not very happy – but he acted like if he said the wrong thing, or did the right move, he'd wake up the next day and she'd be gone. And she knew that she was probably punishing the wrong person for this. She knew that this probably had more to do with Chuck's lack of self-confidence than anything that Sarah had herself done, or for that matter, not done. But he was her baby brother, and she had practically raised him, and she couldn't stand to see him act or think that way about his girlfriend, of all people. And yes, she was ashamed to admit, it had probably affected the ability of her and Sarah to really get as close as she wanted them to be – after all, with as serious as they clearly were about each other, she could really see Sarah being Chuck's last, and best, girlfriend, and she wanted to be close to her. But until whatever was holding them back was resolved, she couldn't help herself. Which is why she had resolved to talk to Sarah about it soon, if it didn't seem to work itself out.

Luckily for her, when her brother came home for dinner that evening, with Sarah in toe, something was different about them. Something had passed between them, and whatever had been holding them back, it was as if it had never existed. She couldn't put it into words, but the way they looked at each other, smiled knowingly at each other, both – including shy Sarah – were throwing themselves into the conversation around the table with vigour; the way they laughed freely and easily with each other, the way he and Sarah seemed to be constantly seeking some kind of physical contact with each other; whether they were holding hands, or Sarah was hanging on to his arm, or he draped his arm around her shoulder and softly played with her hair, it was adorable, and it made it abundantly clear that whatever had been impeding them in recent months, whatever had been there issue, was no longer. Ellie smiled at the thought. A full, bright, Dr. Ellie smile.

After dinner, as all the guests were mingling in conversation and settling in on couches before, as was inevitable, the after-dinner-party board games made an appearance, Ellie was in the kitchen opening a fresh bottle of wine, when Sarah approached her shyly.

"Ellie?"

"Oh, hey Sarah, I was so glad you could come," Ellie said. "When you called me and said that you guys were going to be late and that you might be stuck working an extra shift last minute, I was really worried. So I'm really glad you were able to make it," she said, her smile finally reaching her eyes. "Could you hand me that second bottle of wine, please? Between you and me, we seem to go through this stuff like water"

The smile did not go unnoticed by Sarah, who reciprocated gladly, and they shared a laugh.

Ellie, however, noticed there was still something on the shy girl's mind. Smiling, and placing her hands on her hips, she turned to the face the blonde and said,

"Ok, Sarah. Out with it."

"Do you think we could maybe talk in private, Ellie?"

"Sure, sure thing," Ellie replied. "Is something wrong?"

"What? Oh, no, not at all. Its just...I wanted to talk to you about something...and well, I just...don't want..."

"Say no more," Ellie said, leading Sarah out of the main area of the house, towards her and Devon's room. "Honey, Sarah and I are going to have a little girl talk for a little bit, do you think you can keep everyone entertained until we get back?"

Devon's reply of "Sure Babe" and everyone else's good-natured ribbing of Chuck was the last they heard as they disappeared down the corridor, into Ellie and Devon's bedroom. Without preamble, Ellie took a seat on the bed, cross-legged, and drank her wine as she waited for Sarah to do the same so they begin. Once they were both seated, and Sarah had also taken a drink, the younger girl began without preamble,

"I told Chuck I loved him today"

Ellie shrieked in happiness, smiled a big, broat, 1000-watt smile, and pulled Sarah into a bone crushing hug.

"Oh my god, that's so amazing! I'm so happy for you, Sarah!" She cried, not loosening her embrace in the slightest. "That's such a big step, I'm so happy for...wait," she said, suddenly serious, and pulling their embrace apart so she could look into Sarah's eyes before she continued.

"You told him that you love him...? Did he not...no, he couldn't...he wouldn't...that's not why you wanted to talk to me, is it? Oh, honey, you know he absolutely adores you, right? My idiot brother is clearly very stupid if he didn't tell an amazing girl like you he loves you back, but believe me, he does, more than anything...he's just a bit thick sometimes...don't you worry, I'm going to put the fear of God into him..."

"Ellie! Stop!"

"What"

"I know he loves me, Ellie. He said it back, don't worry. That's not what this was about"

"Then...what...I don't understand"

"This is about you and me, Ell"

"What do you mean"

"You are definitely one of the most important people in Chuck's life," Sarah began. "He adores you. Honestly, for a long time I was jealous. I still kind of am. But not so much because, well, I'd rather be able to do non-sibling things with him if you get what I mean," she said, giggling conspiratorially, even though, as a general rule, Sarah Walker did not giggle. She continued,

"But you're such a huge part of his life. And he loves you. And because he loves you, then I love you. Because you're always going to be an important part of his life, which means that you're always going to be an important part of my life," she said, ignoring the fact that Ellie's eyes got as big as saucer's at her inadvertent admission from the slip of her tongue, which she then proceeded to staunchly ignore and both girls mutually agreed to not delve into that particular conversation for now, for which Sarah was eternally grateful.

"I guess, what I'm trying to say is this: as long as I'm going to be with Chuck, you're going to be a part of our lives, and I like that. And I want us to be closer, friends, maybe. And I know that you try to hide it – and you've been pretty good at it, I don't think Chuck caught on – but I noticed over the past couple of months, you've been...I can't say cool, because you couldn't be anything but warm and friendly to anyone if you tried, I don't think," she said, smirking slightly, before continuing, "but definitely...not as friendly to me as you were when we first started dating. At first I thought it was maybe you were just excited that Chuck was dating again, and it wasn't me per se, but Chuck told me that wasn't true. So I was stumped for a while as to what I did, but then, I think I finally figured it out. And so, I wanted to tell you, I told Chuck that I love him. I'm not stringing him along, and I'm going to do everything I can to never break his heart."

Ellie was shocked, not only by the frank admission, but also from the shrewd observation and no-nonsense way she had dealt with it. It was not something she was expecting at all – not that she didn't think Sarah capable of those things, she was sure Sarah was more than capable – but from the mere fact that most of those things she described were so base and subconcious on her own part that she barely even consciously was aware that it was the case.

"Sarah, please, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean..."

"No, Ellie, please. Its okay. You had every right to be distant," she said, cutting off the older girl. "You were protecting Chuck. Its the same thing I would have done. And you were also right. For a while I was stringing him along," she said, her face downcast, taking all of her energy to fight the urge to bury her head in her hands and cry.

"I'm...I'm not very good at relationships, Ellie. Or at communicating about my feelings, or my past, or letting people in past a certain point. So I kept shutting down. I would string him along, even if that wasn't exactly my intention. I would open up to him, and he would get hopeful and try to make an honest effort to get me comfortable to open up more, and I'd get scared and I'd shut down. And I kept doing it, even though I knew how bad it made him feel. Because I wanted it – I wanted to be able to, more than anything, but I was just so scared, and it always backfired, and it made him miserable. I made him miserable. I made us both miserable for a long time, because I couldn't deal with my own shit," she said, as she took a breath to collect her thoughts before continuing,

"Sometimes I'd even do it on purpose, to try to push him away. Because I was afraid. I was so damn scared of these feelings for him, of how strong they were, of how fast and how hard I was falling for him. Because I've never been good at relationships. Because I'm not good at expressing my feelings. Because I'm scared to death of hurting him, or that he'll realise that there's so much that's...gone on in my past – please don't pry, Ellie, I'll tell you in time, I promise, but I haven't even told him most of them yet, and he deserves to be the first to know – but that he'd find out, and he'd realise that I'm damaged goods, that I can never give him what he wants and so desperately deserves, that he'd leave me, and...and I couldn't handle that, so I figured if I kept him at more of a distance, or even pushed him away now, it would be easier on both of us in the long run," she said.

"It was stupid and stubborn, and it caused both of us so much undue pain," she said. "And sometimes I hate myself for it. I hate myself for the fact that I was the cause of so much pain for him. I never want to hurt him. I love him. But its true. You were right about me stringing him along for the past few months. But that's over now. And now that you know why, and now that you know that we've finally had that important discussion with each other – that's why we were late, by the way – that you know I'd never knowingly hurt your brother, and that maybe some day you can forgive me, and maybe we could even be friends one day"

Ellie was fighting hard not to smile even brighter than she already was, hug Sarah, and cry happy tears right there on the bed. She was fighting not because she didn't want to do those things – in fact they seemed like precisely the right thing to do at that very moment – but because all her instincts told her that there was more that Sarah wanted to say, and she needed to get it off her chest, and she needed to do it now. So instead, Ellie did her best to maintain the serious tone of the conversation they were having as she asked,

"So, what changed?"

"I realised how stupid and childish I was being. I realised how much pain I was putting the sweetest guy I had ever met through, and how unfair it was. To both of us. I realised didn't want to run from my past anymore. I was making both him and myself too damn miserable and if I didnt do something about it, it would end us, and it would be messy, and I didn't want that, for either of us. It would have hurt him, but it would have killed me to know what we could have had, but didn't, because I couldn't get over my own ghosts. But...most importantly, I realised that I love him. I'm in love with him. Honest-to-god, head-over-heels in love with him, and that I was sick and tired of trying to pretend, or of running from my past, of making us both miserable to protect myself. My Dad used to have a saying. 'You can't win big unless you're willing to risk it all'. So I figured it was going to be now or never, so I took the gamble, and, well...I think I won the jackpot," she finished, smiling happily, her smile matched by Ellie who was fighting to keep the tears from falling.

"You two so belong together, its not even funny," Ellie said, as she pulled a surprised Sarah into a tight hug. As she released the embrace, she continued, "You two are just so good together. So good for each other," she added. "And not that you needed it or anything, but for what its worth, I approve of you dating my brother."

"Really?"

"Are you serious?" Ellie asked, unsure if she was joking or not. Chuck was the unsure one of the two; Sarah was shy, sure, but not insecure. "Of course, really. You two are so great together, Chuck is so lucky that he's got you. And I'm so happy that you've found each other"

Sarah's smile was so bright it could probably have been seen from outer space at that moment.

"But there is one thing you're wrong about, Sarah," Ellie said

"W-What's that?"

"We can't be friends someday," Ellie said seriously.

Sarah's smile faded and she looked down at the duvet, downcast.

"I...I...I...under-," she was saying before Ellie put two fingers on her lips to stop her from talking and continued the thought she was trying to get across, before Sarah's outburst of very Chuck-like insecurity.

"We can't be friends someday, Sarah, because we're already friends, stupid," she teased. "In fact, of all my friends, I think you're probably one of, if not my very, best," she said, honestly.

"Really?"

"Really"

"But you hardly know me"

"I know you well enough," Ellie said. "But if you have a problem with how little you think we know each other, we could always hang out more, just us, and fix that problem quite easily, you know, eh?" She said, teasingly.

"I'd like that," Sarah said.

"So would I," Ellie replied.

"I've never been anyone's best friend before," Sarah said.

"Don't worry," Ellie said. "Its pretty easy. All you have to do is be yourself," she said, laughing and smiling, as she pulled Sarah into another hug. "And who knows, maybe some day we'll even be sisters," she whispered conspiratorially into Sarah's ear as they hugged, before releasing her, and getting off the bed, indicating that Sarah should do the same.

"Well then, new best friend," Ellie said, looking at Sarah and indicating their now very-empty wine glasses. "What do you say we go top ourselves off and go rejoin the party"

Before, when their relationship had ostensibly just been a cover Sarah only stayed over maybe once or twice a week to protect their cover, and most nights that she came over she made sure that Chuck drove her home at a somewhat respectable hour. They pretended and told people it was for a variety of reasons, as the need arose. Every reason, that is, except the real one: if they spent too much unchaperoned time together like that, their resolve would have eventually crumbled and they wouldn't have even been able to pretend to be able to hide behind any veil of professionalism. Of course, now that such concerns were, largely, irrelevant to their situation, it went without saying that Sarah spent the night after all the other guests had left.

Late that night, Sarah lay awake, thinking. Unlike previous times when she had laid awake in similar positions, it wasn't out of discomfort: she was snuggled comfortably next to Chuck, her head resting on his chest as his strong arms held her close. Nor was she troubled: for the first time in a long time she was confident and untroubled in her – in their, she reminded herself; now that she was in a real relationship with Chuck she had to start thinking of their decisions as a partnership – decision about their relationship and how things had panned out. She was not laying awake pining for something she felt she couldn't have, or didn't deserve to have, or fighting the urge to cry herself to sleep. In fact she was deliriously happy, for the first time in a long time. And it wasn't like she wasn't tired, either: in addition to the basic fact that both she and Chuck had been on the back-end of a nearly 20 hour day, three rounds of some of the most mind-blowing sex imaginable would take it out of anyone. Even Chuck who, despite his most valiant efforts to stay awake and cuddle and chat with her, after three rounds even he was unable to hold out and was now fast asleep beside her.

And the sex was amazing. Whilst Sarah was never anywhere near the most promiscuous of agents within The Company's employ, before she had met Chuck, she had certainly used her femininity to her advantage when necessary, to say the least. She actually had hated actually doing it, most of the time. Especially when it required she actually do the deed. She felt so dirty after words, and even though she knew it was for the greater good, a sacrifice which, until recently, she felt was more than a fair trade, she always felt like little more than a prostitute when it happened. Yet, despite it all, she had also managed to have a fair amount of passionate, if short, daliances with extremely good looking, extremely well-connected, and extremely well-practiced men. Yet, for all these experiences, the sex with Chuck was exponentially better, it was almost beyond comparison. Chuck was the first, and only, person she had had sex with who had actually cared about her as a person, for whom the sex was more than just a physical reaction to a carnal need of lust. She thought, at one time, she might have had that with Bryce when they were together, but now that she had truly experienced what that was like, she knew that was not the case. She had always looked down on people who used the term "making love" when they meant "sex", because she thought it made them sound twatty and pretentious in their use of overly pretentious euphemisms for something which, she felt, didn't need a euphemism in the first place. But now, she realised, that whilst that may be the case for some people – and those people were, indeed, twatty and pretentious – actual love making was in fact different than just run of the mill sex. Making love referred to a very specific kind of sex which, not to put too fine of a stereotypical point on it, was just like her mother had told her it would be, a long, long time ago. Whereas all sex has the potential to be an amazing, wonderful, intimate experience, the intimacy involved in making love is not only implicit, but it is of a scale and calibre all its own; it really is the joining of two people, physically, mentally, and spiritually in a way nothing else can, and until that evening she had never experienced it before in her life. It was transformative. She had thought she had had great sex before. She had even thought that once or twice, in their more tender moments, she and Bryce may have made love. But after experiencing it with Chuck first hand that night, she realised that even the best of the sex she had before Chuck was like giving her a hamburger and trying to convince her it was a filet mignon.

And it was that reflection, that realisation that had kept her awake, staring at the ceiling of Chuck's bedroom long after he had fallen asleep contentedly beside her, and it was the thought of being able to enjoy that kind of connection, that kind of mind-blowing sexual intimacy with him for as long as he would have her to which she finally let sleep over take her.

The next morning, Chuck woke up to the strange, yet familiar sensation of the soft weight of Sarah's body cuddled up next to him. Her blonde hair was splayed out across her and the pillow, even a little bit across his face, and the sunlight streaming into the window hit it at just the right angle to make it shine like liquid gold. He quickly and quietly used his free hand to try to tuck some of the stray strands behind her ear without waking her, but she seemed to almost instictively recognise his touch already and stirred slightly in her sleep. Luckily, however, it was only momentary, and she proceeded to curl herself tighter into his body purred happily as she slept. He was deliriously happy. In fact, he was the happiest he could remember himself being in a very, very long time. He and Sarah were finally together, for real, and they were going to give what they had a real, fighting chance. Because they loved each other. He loved her, and she loved him back. He wasn't so naive as to fool himself into believing that it would be easy, and that it was all sunshine and rainbows ahead; he knew there was going to be some hard times, because that is just a part of life. But he knew that as long as they had each other, it would work out alright, and it would all be worth it. It was with that thought in his head, that he rested his head back on the pillow and went back to sleep.

He was woken up a few hours later by soft kisses and the hint of a finger softly tracing shapes on his bare chest.

"Hey, you," Sarah said, when he finally opened his eyes.

"Good morning," he said, smiling up at her.

"It most certainly is," she said, smiling sweetly. "How'd you sleep?"

"Like a log. You?"

"Probably the best night's sleep I've had in a long time," she said softly, kissing him briefly and tenderly before pulling away and scrunching up her eyes and nose – he loved the way they scrunched up like that – as she said, "Ew, morning breath."

"Look who's talking"

"Gee, thanks"

"No problem"

"Are you hungry, Chuck?"

"Starving. I'll go make some breakfast"

"Why don't I make us some breakfast whilst you hop in the shower?"

"Or," Chuck said, waggling his eyes suggestively, "You could join me in the shower?"

"Easy there, Tiger. Don't start something you can't handle," Sarah said, laughing at his antics. "And right now, we don't really have time. You have to be at work in an hour"

"You're probably right," Chuck sighed, lifting himself first to his elbows, then to a sitting position, and finally standing as he grabbed his robe and his towel to head out to take his shower. "Breakfast would be great, thanks, Babe. You're amazing," he called over his shoulder just as he was about to leave the room, "lunch today?"

"Of course"

It was Ellie, rather than Chuck, who was the first Bartowski into the kitchen. Sarah didn't notice her at first, as she had her back turned to her, as she prepared the eggs and herbs, wearing nothing but her panties and one of Chuck's Stanford t-shirts, for the omelette that she knew he liked that she made for him during their operation against Fulcrum in the suburbs. She was so engrossed in the chopping of herbs and veggies and the whisking of eggs that Ellie was able to stand in the doorframe and watch her happily working at her task, completely unaware of her presence – how very unspylike! – for almost a full minute before she made her presence known.

"Wearing Chuck's clothes already, huh?" She teased, coming up beside the blonde girl, to give her a hand.

"Wha...huh...oh, hi Ellie! You startled me," she replied before quickly regaining her composure. What kind of CIA Operative gets startled that easily, come on now, Walker, she internally scolded herself. "But, uh, yeah. I don't exactly have a lot of clothes of my own here..." she said, letting the sentence hang in the air, hoping that Ellie would get her deeper meaning and let it drop.

Luckily, Ellie was certainly already living up to that "best friend" monicker, and winked conspiratorially and simply replied,

"Don't worry about it, I totally get it. I used to wear Devon's clothes all the time," she said, before simply changing the subject, "Whatcha making?"

"Breakfast"

"I can see that, Sarah, but I meant like, what are you making for breakfast, duh," Ellie said, laughing. Sarah liked that she and Ellie could talk and have a relationship like this, banter, teasing and repartee included, this quickly and easily. Maybe this best friend thing wouldn't be so hard after all.

"Omelettes"

"Omelettes? But Chuck doesn't really like eggs"

Sarah frowned slightly.

"He likes these," she said, confident in the fact that the way he devoured them when she made them for him before was not simply to protect her feelings. "I made them for him a couple of times when we were...house sitting...a few months ago, and he seemed to really love them"

"Hmm," Ellie replied thoughtfully. "Maybe he's just picky about his eggs," she said, winking, as she continued, "I've never been the best at cooking eggs. That was something our Mom always was good at, but when I had to start, well, you know...I never could quite get them the same"

Sarah and Ellie shared a knowing smile at that admission, and a few moments of comfortable silence as Ellie just watched Sarah as she chopped the herbs she needed for the eggs. Soon, all of her prep was done, and she started cooking the eggs and frying bacon in a second pan. By the time it was ready, Chuck had entered the kitchen, showered, fresh, and dressed in his work trousers and under-shirt. Sarah placed a plate with an omelette and some bacon in front of him, as he handed her a glass of orange juice.

After they had finished eating, Sarah went to take a quick shower, before they had to drive to her place so she could change her clothes as well on their way to work. Whilst she was showering, Chuck did the washing up, allowing his sister also some time to get ready for work. When he had finished with the washing up, he returned to his room to put on his button down, tie, and regulation pocket-protector and name tag whilst he waited for Sarah to finish up. Whilst doing this, he noticed a pair of sunglasses on his computer desk that he hadn't noticed there before. On closer inspection, he noticed there was a short note next to them, scrawled in Bryce Larkin's familiar messy hand. Curiosity got the better of him, and ignoring the nagging question in his mind as to how, exactly, Bryce Larkin got into his house without him knowing – as he was sure he probably could if he really wanted to – and instead, he picked up the note and read it.

A peace offering, Chuck. I didn't mean to get you mixed up in all of this. I was trying to look out for you, I'm sorry. Take good care of her. You both deserve it.

Chuck wasn't exactly sure what the message meant, exactly, but he understood the intention. And he was ready to forgive. What had happened in Stanford was in the past – and he did know that Bryce had done it to protect him, in his own way – it was all in the past. Sarah hadn't run away with Bryce, but was staying here in Burbank with him. It was time that he started letting go of the past, of his old issues and hang-ups, and tried, at least, to move forward. And they were pretty nice shades, if he did say so himself. So, Chuck picked them up and put them on.

Immediately, images of all types flashed before his very eyes in an increasingly quick succession. There were so many images, so much data, that immediately started flooding into his brain that he hadn't known before, and...oh god dammit he thought to himself, when he realised that these were Intersect glasses and he was probably...updating himself? It was so weird, he thought, to think of himself performing computing functions, himself, in his own brain. But he didn't have much time to thnk about it, because as soon as the update finished installing, just like the last time with the original download, he fainted.

When he woke up, Sarah was gazing down at him, holding the glasses, concern written all over her face.

"Chuck, what happened?"

"Sarah," Chuck said dramatically, pausing to take a breath before continuing, "I know kung fu."