I didn't mean for this ficlet to end up so angsty, but sometimes my stuff just writes itself. I loved the Chuck series to pieces but the ending really threw me for a loop. In an effort to work out my own feelings about it I've written this, a sort of AU version of the last episodes where Quinn dies on the Bullet Train but Sarah's memory still degrades, more slowly...more painfully I guess. Reviews and or/critiques are more than welcome. I hope you enjoy!
She wakes to the sound of crying. For a moment she can't remember where she is. The tiny, darkened bedroom is lit only by the pale moonlight flooding through a single window on the south wall and the shadows that stretch across the wooden floor seem almost sinister. It isn't until she sees the worn Tron poster on the far wall that she remembers where she is. Her bedroom. Or rather, Chuck's bedroom. This is one of the first night she's slept in it with him since the day they killed Quinn on the Bullet Train. With a grimace, she recalls the relentless flashes and the horrendous migraine that followed. She couldn't stop the Intersect from taking over and only an emergency suppression device coordinated by Chuck's sister Ellie had saved her from losing herself on the train.
She listens to her husband's sobs, echoing through the walls from the living room and wonders, briefly, if it was worth the effort to save her then. In spite of the suppression device and a freshly minted Governer built by Chuck himself, Sarah still feels her mind slipping. Each day seems more muddled than the last. The weeks since the incident on the train have been difficult to say the least. The strain is beginning to wear on Chuck and she sees signs of him cracking even though he keeps up his brilliant smile whenever she's around. She catches him frowning when he thinks he's alone; thick brows drawn over his darkened eyes, chewing the tips of his fingernails nervously as the thinks. He knows it won't be long until her memory is gone for good. Sarah looks at the Governor on her wrist. She wears it 24/7 and it's done an excellent job of preventing further flashes, but the damage had been done long before she and Casey had arrived to rescue Chuck. She knew the risks when she put on the glasses, but Chuck needed her help. In that moment, nothing would have stopped her from doing what she had to to find him.
Sarah finds it bitterly ironic that the incredible technology that brought her and Chuck together is now the thing that tears them apart. After the mission Sarah slept for days, Chuck offering to take the guest room to give her ample space to rest. Perhaps that had been their first mistake. Maybe she would remember more now if he had stayed with her during those first few nights. She looks around the room, examining the neatly arranged photos of friends and family that she knows are theirs. Her eyes fall on one depicting a wedding. Their wedding. But she doesn't remember attending. She doesn't remember what it felt like to stand in front of Chuck and promise to be beside him forever. She doesn't even remember what he vowed in return, but now she's too afraid to ask. It terrifies her to feel like a stranger in her own home, but as the days pass all she wants to do is undo Sarah Bartowski become Agent Walker once again. Sarah Walker the lone agent. The cold-hearted killer. The woman who needed no one.
But most of all she just wants to stop hurting Chuck. She knows she still cares for him, even if the details of their life together have faded. But watching the heartbreak in his eyes every time she asks about a certain picture or clarification of some joke he makes hurts them both. She's forgetting him and it's breaking him. She clenches her jaw and fists the bedsheets to keep from joining in her husband's grief and her eyes wander to the bedside table where her wedding band lies. She'd taken it off nearly a week ago while reassembling one of her pistols and never thought to put it back on. When Chuck saw it lying abandoned on the desk, he'd made a joke about offending her with a cheap wedding band. The smile hadn't reached his eyes though and he waved off the incident before Sarah could explain or apologize. After that she'd kept it off. It felt alien on her finger nowadays.
The last time Sarah had asked about a memory had been last Monday. She found a drawing in Chuck's bedside drawer. Two people in front of a small white house with a red door and picket fences. The crudely drawn figures must have been them, she concluded. But she couldn't remember why they'd drawn it, or if they'd ever seen the house before. When she asked, the color seemed to drain out of Chuck's face, he took the page from her hands and tucked it into his back pocket, telling her 'not to worry about it'. And then he'd disappeared, throwing an excuse over his shoulder about going to keep a lunch date with Morgan. Sarah decided not to ask any more questions after that.
Sometimes she remembered little things when she looked at Chuck, mostly feelings or vague images. Lying in bed on lazy mornings, feet intertwined and head on his chest while he stroked her hair sleepily. Running through the park downtown, looking over her shoulder occasionally to see Chuck trailing farther and farther behind, but continuing to lope after her with a big, crooked grin. Sometimes the memories were tactile, like the fleeting taste of mint ice cream, or a song that awakened a muted passion inside her. But as the weeks passed, the memories grew foggier and Chuck seemed to grow more and more disheartened whenever she asked for clarification. Sarah didn't want to admit it to herself, but she was scared. If they continued like this...There wouldn't be a 'they' anymore. The Chuck and Sarah she'd heard so much about...Ellie continued to send messages and bits of progress from her research in Chicago. As a neurologist Ellie was probably their best shot at stopping Sarah's memory loss, but so far most of her suggestions for treatment had been only temporary solutions.
On good days, when Sarah felt like herself, she could laugh with Chuck for hours as they critiqued some cheesy Monday night TV show. Or she'd snuggle close to him as they drifted off to sleep together. But on bad days, she felt like a stranger-wary and tense, when Chuck tried to get close. She kept him away with terse words and closed body language. On those days, she could feel the last vestiges of their relationship break and somewhere deep inside, it hurt.
Sitting up in bed, she throws off the covers and creeps down the hallways to peer into the living room. Chuck doesn't let his smile falter often but now he sits on the couch, head cradled in his palms and shoulders shaking softly as he cries. Sarah feels her throat tighten, her own eyes watering as she watches her husband, her Chuck, fall apart. And all because of her. If Sarah remembers one thing, it's that she never wanted to cause this man pain. Chuck deserves better than what she can give him now. She should leave. She should don the persona of Sarah Walker once more and walk out of Echo Park, out of Chuck Bartowski's life and into obscurity. But she can't bring herself to do it, even if it hurts him. Hurts them. Because she needs him. She may not remember their first kiss, their wedding day, or the first time they made love. But she remembers that Chuck makes her feel safe. She remembers that he makes her human. She walks to the couch and sits beside him quietly. His head jerks up when he feels her next to him, "Hey. Hey. Sorry. I was...I was just...God. I'm—"
"Chuck?" she says, interrupting quietly before he buries himself in a mound of words like he so often does.
She wants to tell him that everything will be okay. She wants to tell him to stop crying, that Ellie will find a cure, that she'll remember everything and that they'll have a happy ending just like all of those silly Disney movies he makes her watch. But all she can say is, "I'm sorry Chuck."
It's not enough. It's not what he needs to hear and it's not what she wants to say, but it's all that comes out. Chuck laughs softly and gives her that crooked grin, "Don't you dare apologize Sarah. This is not your fault."
She leans into him then, resting her head on his shoulder and wrapping her arms around herself as if to keep from breaking to pieces. He puts one arm around her shoulders and kisses the top of her head, "We're going to be okay. Ellie's going to fix this and we're going to figure it all out. We're going to be okay. We always are."
Sarah feels his warm tears drip onto her shoulder and hear heart sinks even as he tries to comfort her. Maybe we won't be this time, Chuck, she thinks. Maybe we won't be.