A/N: No ownership or rights to the television show "Chuck" in stated or implied. No profit is being made either.
Canon influence: S1 E10 Chuck Versus the Nemesis and AU from there.
Fanon influence: Probably every fan-fiction I've ever read has influenced this story (all my stories, really) in some shape or form. Hopefully ersk4 is present. I'm re-reading their great story Chuck vs the Superspy right now. Concepts from Arya's Prayers and Marc Vun Kannon's work are present if not obvious as well.
Song influence: This was a little tough. I didn't have a particular song in mind when I was writing the story. Looking through songs that remind me of aspects of the show I came up with Endless Dream by Conjure One. If you listen to it let me know what you think.
My awesome beta reader/editor yeahokaycool (thank you for all your work btw! And remember readers; all mistakes are mine) asked me to give you guys a warning: This is a dark story and later on there is some violence (honestly R rated at best). It's just part of the story telling in this work. If it's not your cup of tea just skim over it. Thanks.
Lost in the Dark
The first time Sarah saw him again was almost two years after she left Burbank. It was July 2009, in Moscow. She was in deep cover working for an arms dealer named Alexei Volkoff. Volkoff had recently become associated with a new espionage organization calling itself the Ring. Sarah had inserted herself as one of Alexei Volkoff's bodyguards/security/eye candy.
Volkoff was a vain egotistical man that liked to give the appearance of virility by surrounding himself with beautiful women, but he wasn't a fool. Each of the women he employed were trained in counterintelligence and the use of deadly force.
He called them his "mistresses" but that was a far as it went, thank God. That was probably because of Volkoff's extraordinary paranoia. The only "fembot" (damn Chuck really had affected her more than she realized, sometimes) he trusted was Frost. Then again, she shared his bed, so maybe that was it too.
Volkoff often spoke openly of his love for her but Sarah never saw it reflected in Frost. In fact the codename seemed to suit her. He called her the Josephine to his Napolean (no ego there..hah!). It was rumored that the heart shaped locket that Frost wore had an actual lock of Alexei's hair in it.
Sarah, in retrospect, thought he hadn't recognized her. She certainly hadn't recognized him at first. She was a redhead then and it was dark. He was in Volkoff's office. It was her night on over watch and the silent alarm had alerted her that someone had accessed the secure office.
The intruder had disabled the regular alarm and the security feed was looped. Volkoff (paranoia again) however had a rolling encrypted login that was tripped by the computer he was using.
As she approached the office she noticed no guards. The lock showed no evidence of tampering, like it had just been typed in. If it had been done 5 minutes sooner or later, she never would have known of the break in.
As she crept into the office, she saw him. A man wearing a mask that looked like a black version of some comic superhero?….Spiderman? Yeah, that was it. He was tall, similarly dressed just looking around with a what appeared to be a iPhone attached to a computer interface on the desk.
She had the drop on him but in an instant of unexpected ferocity, he took out her legs and was on top of her. The knife barely grazed her neck as she moved within a split second of knowing his intention. She freed an arm and elbowed him in the face with enough force to stun him into dropping the knife and roll off of her.
She was barely up on her feet before the barrage of fists attacked her. She blocked each blow. Sarah was on defense and she didn't like it. He advanced but she stood her ground. Blow for blow, block for block they danced a dance around the room. A beep from the iPhone momentarily drew his attention and a poorly blocked punch pulled off his mask.
She gaped and stilled with shock. Chuck! She heard the words "Sorry Natasha" and he punched her (punched her! My God he had changed) in the chest. It was with such force that she was sure that had she not been wearing light body armor she would have had a broken rib instead of just losing her ability to inhale.
She collapsed and stayed down as he grabbed the iPhone and escaped. Her eyes watered as she watched him go. Unsure if it was the injury or the shock from the revelation of his identity.
Sarah left within minutes. Alexei Volkoff was many things but forgiving of failure was not one of them. Her cover was blown. She called for extraction as soon as she reached her safe house. It wasn't until her debrief in DC that she learned the truth.
Sarah had left Operation Bartowski just after Thanksgiving in 2007. She was so compromised she didn't know what to do. She contacted Director Graham and officially asked for a new assignment. Bryce's offer was tempting, He was safe and familiar. She knew what to expect when working with him.
It was the down time that concerned her though. She had the distinct impression that Bryce wanted to pick up where the Andersons had left off. By the time she got to Washington, DC she knew that wasn't the solution so she just returned to solo field work.
She tried to keep up with Chuck but her clearance had been downgraded with her change of status. She was sure it was, in no small part, her punishment for effectively eliminating the CIA from the Intersect Project.
Asking Graham would have been unprofessional and more than likely he would refuse on principle. Contacting Casey or going to Burbank was out of the question. She hadn't considered the consequences of her decision and now she regretted it.
She often thought of him but she didn't hear about Chuck until 10 months later. She was in a knife fight in Jakarta. She had been undercover investigating Fulcrum's involvement with a terrorist group in the Indonesian capital. Even then all she heard was that Director Graham had been killed in an explosion at the DNI that housed a top secret computer.
It wasn't mentioned in the newscasts (not surprising really). She knew enough to connect the dots though. It worried her so much she thought about trying to track down a contact number for him. She quickly realized it would near impossible even with her clearance. She started to call Ellie but stopped before she finished dialing the country code.
When she finally got back to Washington, she visited Graham's grave. He had given her a second chance in more ways than one. He had authorized her mission to retrieve the Intersect after Bryce had stolen it in spite of advice against her being assigned the task.
He hadn't intended to but he had given her a chance to be human again. For good or bad, he really had an impact on her life. There was only one other man that she would put in that category.
Even after a year she found her mind drifting 3000 miles away more often than she thought was healthy. She had become so familiar with Google Earth that she reminded herself of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black. Chuck would have laughed with surprise that she even knew that. Dammit.
After her mission debriefing of the events in Moscow, and with it the revelation of Chuck presence there, Sarah's security clearance was upgraded and she was once more able to track him and his alias Charles Carmichael. What had happened to him after she left the team in 2007 shocked her.
Apparently two months after she left, Chuck was taken into protective custody. His cover had been blown and he had almost been captured by Fulcrum. Contrary to what she had been led to believe, the CIA had reasserted itself into the Intersect Project with another agent as a handler. A joint decision with the NSA was made to extract Chuck to a more "secure" location.
No surprise, he didn't thrive in a bunker. In fact, he became despondent and depressed. The Intersect stopped functioning and he was given psychiatric help. He had been treated with an experimental medication which seemed to clear up the depression.
At that point he apparently decided to be trained as an agent (her heart broke with that revelation. She would have never wanted that for him.) That decision had been postponed with the destruction of the new Intersect and Langston Graham's death.
Chuck had been scheduled for the download but was held up with a delayed, then cancelled, flight at the LAX airport. The holdup was compounded as his rescheduled flight to Washington DC was delayed as well. Director Graham decided to go ahead and initiate the new intersect without him with disastrous results.
After the death of Director Graham and the destruction of the next generation intersect, Chuck's training had intensified. He downloaded regular Intersect updates. The updates were based on the design he had originally downloaded. He seemed to tolerate them and even thrive according to his handlers. By the beginning of 2009 Chuck was going into the field again...as an agent.
In the middle of February of 2009, Chuck went undercover into a Fulcrum cell. He was forcibly downloaded with a Fulcrum Intersect and his partner was killed. It was unclear what happened after the download. When backup arrived Chuck was found unconscious and the entire cell had been liquidated. The Fulcrum Intersect was officially stated to be the cause of death but that didn't explain the three Fulcrum agents with broken necks.
Three weeks later he was working with an MI-6 agent for the recovery of a Fulcrum asset, code named Perseus. Chuck captured and protected Perseus for 30 minutes from Fulcrum agents before an extraction team came to their aid and took them into custody. Chuck killed a Fulcrum agent while protecting Perseus. It was his first documented kill.
Sarah's chest tightened and her breath became shallow when she read that but at least it wasn't a Red Test. She was never the same after her Red Test. She was sure Chuck would have broken down but a month after the recovery of the Fulcrum asset, Chuck was sent under cover. The psych evaluation found "no detrimental psychiatric effects" and concluded that the therapy regimen he had started after his initial confinement was responsible.
Chuck was still undercover at Roark Instruments in June when Ted Roark died. Roark had been killed in a helicopter crash on the way to a benefit for the Fund for Undergraduate Librarians Caring and Reading to Unwed Mothers.
It was so sensational that the news outlets were reporting the death of Ted Roark and his company 24/7. Chuck was pulled from the field to maintain his anonymity. Two weeks later he downloaded the Intersect 2.0.
After the download, he destroyed the intersect program with a virus that literally hunted the code and references to the Intersect down and destroyed them. He went off grid, presumed rogue.
Clyde Decker (Sarah had heard of him. He was a certified bastard in her opinion) was assigned to re-acquire Chuck. Decker had so far been unsuccessful. In fact there was some concern as he hadn't checked in with his superior for several weeks. It was not unusual for a field agent per se but strange for a man that gave weekly reports like clockwork up until this assignment.
The first time anyone knew anything about Chuck's status was when Sarah ID'd him in Moscow. Sarah mourned for her Chuck. Her Chuck. It seemed that sweet, caring, passionate man was gone. Lost to the spy world. A pang of guilt shot through her. Could she have prevented all this if she had stayed? Could she have protected him from it, saved him?
In September, at fashion week in Milan, Sarah saw Chuck again. Problems with Fulcrum had died down noticeably since June, but those new players that she had been investigating undercover at Volkoff Industries were starting to cause trouble.
Sarah was now tasked with locating and intercepting the sale of a prototype weapon of Alexei Volkoff's. Her only lead was was a bodyguard named Gustav who, intel indicated, was working for a known subcontractor of Volkoff. As chance would have it, she saw Chuck while trailing Gustav.
It was at one of the more posh hotels in Milan, where anybody, who was somebody, wanted to be seen. There, dancing on the ballroom floor was Chuck. His hair was longer than when she had first met him, parted in the middle. And the curls were out in full force. He was wearing a black Armani suit that accentuated his shoulders and thin frame. With a shadow of a beard he even looked Italian.
In his arms, Sarah saw a striking blond woman. She had the stray thought that at least the woman wasn't brunette. Seeing him and his partner dance, though, was so distracting that Sarah lost track of Gustav.
The woman was pressed up against Chuck with their faces inches apart. At one point he smiled a wide smile, the kind that caused his nose to scrunch and whispered in the woman's ear. She laughed with abandon and lightly patted him on his chest.
Sarah felt agitated when she saw that and cursed to herself. She had not only lost her mark but she was feeling...jealous? Ungh...this cannot be happening. She noticed the woman kissing Chuck on the cheek and hand him something from her purse.
The woman exited the dance floor and walked straight up to...Gustav! Sarah seemingly nonchalantly closed the distance between herself and her mark.
She heard Gustav say "Here is your jacket Miss Sofia. May I take you back to your hotel?" The woman nodded her assent. Gustav held her jacket out for her and escorted her to a waiting car. Sarah took a second from tracking her mark to look back toward the ballroom but Chuck had disappeared.
Sarah wondered what Chuck was up to. What was he doing with the woman that now appeared to be her mission? Was he after the weapon for himself or someone else? Her instincts said no. He had changed but she felt like she still knew him, and this wasn't him.
The little bit of intel available seemed to indicate that as well. She wanted to talk to him but she had a job to do. She briefly mused that this was how things had gotten so crazy between them. Putting the job first? No, that wasn't it. Not entirely at least. The problem was that she really hadn't and still didn't know what to do with her feelings for Chuck.
They had had an immediate connection when she engaged him as a mark in the fall of 2007. It had surprised her given the circumstances. She tried to keep it tamped down but it was so intense that at times it just bled through her agent persona. Chuck on the other hand couldn't hide being enamored with her at all.
She felt the pressure of that open adoration but was constrained because of their handler/asset relationship. Romantic entanglement with an asset was not allowed for a myriad of reasons, but mainly it was tantamount to sexual harassment and as inappropriate as a teacher/student relationship. That was a line (a convenient line but a line none the less) that she would not cross.
She had felt a pull towards him that she had never experienced before and she was constantly trying to police herself. Unfortunately this led to her overcompensating when dealing with Chuck and his obvious infatuation with her.
Her leaving the mission was the only solution she could come up with at the time. Now, she wished she had been smarter or stronger. It was almost two years since she made that decision and she still felt the intensity of that attraction.
She frowned. She needed put those thoughts away since they were of no use now. After confirming the location of Sofia's temporary residence in Milan, she went back to her hotel and did her homework.
"Miss Sofia" was a retired supermodel Sofia Stepanova. A background check into her finances revealed an unknown source of income in the millions. With no record of her doing any work with that kind of pay this side of Victoria's Secret, she figured she had confirmed the identity of Volkoff's subcontractor. She would know for sure tomorrow night when she checked Sofia's suite.
The next night, Sarah made her move on Sofia's penthouse. Observation coupled with other intelligence led Sarah to believe she had at least until 3 am before she would have to worry about Sofia and her bodyguard. Sofia liked to party. As she repelled to the balcony in darkness she tried to calm herself but she couldn't help but feel something wasn't right. Her suspicions were confirmed as she observed the balcony door move slightly with the light breeze. She was glad she had donned her typical gray and black attire complete with a balaclava, as it would hide her identity and help her with approach.
She entered the penthouse silently and heard some scuffling deeper in the apartment. She drew her weapon and slowly headed in that direction. She almost tripped over the body in the hall but caught herself.
It was Gustav. His throat slit from ear to ear, blood congealing on the floor. She must have made a sound because soon she heard a familiar voice.
"Stay right there and I won't kill you." It was like ice. She stopped if only to consider her options. She saw no one and no movement. She started to retreat. " I said stop. " She froze. How could he tell?
"Now drop your weapon and move forward with your hands up and in front."
Sarah walked forward into a smaller room that seemed to be a dressing room or large walk-in closet with a large bathroom on the other end. A woman was bound kneeling on the floor with a piece of clothing in her mouth acting as a gag. Her mascara ran freely down her cheeks and terror was painted across her face.
Behind the woman was a tall man wearing a mask. He was holding onto the woman's hair like a leash. He was dressed head to toe in black with a utility belt and wearing the mask she recognized from her fight with him in Moscow. She knew instantly it was Chuck.
She visibly shook when Chuck shot the bound woman with a tranq gun. She collapsed with a muffled thump on the carpeted floor. He holstered the tranq gun and pointed a suppressed Smith and Wesson 5906 pistol directly at her with his other hand.
"Are you here for me? I thought I made it clear to the agency not to come after me or haven't they found Decker yet?"
Sarah blanched at his implication. "No...I come in peace…. I know why you're here." She thought quickly. "Maybe we can help each other?"
"I seriously doubt that… Sarah."
Sarah's eyes widened in surprise. She mentally appraised her appearance, nothing seemed out of place. It was against protocol to confirm what just may be a guess on his part but she wouldn't lie to him. He hated lying and, she suspected, liars as well. Of which she was one.
"How...how did you know?"
"Kick your weapon over here and take off your balaclava and I'll tell you." Sarah complied. "Uh huh...now the knives..slowly and don't come any closer. I know what those legs can do." Dammit he really did know it was her.
Sarah removed her mask. "What? You don't trust me… Chuck." Two could play this game she thought.
Without the slightest bit of venom he answered "Nope." and removed his mask as well. "You taught me well."
The words all but slapped her face. She started to move forward on instinct. "No!" he raised his voice and the pistol.
"I meant it and contrary to our last run in, I will shoot you." Chuck's finger moved from the safe position to the trigger. She stopped. To her dismay, she believed him.
"Now, tell me again. Are you here to bring me in or assassinate me? Answer me honestly; your life may depend on it."
Anger boiled up in Sarah. "Cut the bullshit Chuck. I'm not here to kill you or bring you in. I'm here for a prototype weapon suspected to be in the possession of Sofia Stepanova and that's all."
"Oh, that's all? It's in the safe over there." he said nonchalantly. He looked over at the fallen woman "You'd think a top operative would be better at resisting torture. Alexei must be lowering his standards."
Sarah's anger continued. "Chuck! What the hell is going on!" she yelled. "You're killing and torturing people? That's not you. How did you get this way?"
Chuck's brow furrowed. He really hadn't intended to kill Gustav, just incapacitate him, but he had underestimated the man's strength in close quarters. He panicked and reacted when he started to lose consciousness during a particularly rib-bruising attack by Gustav.
It was all bravado after that. He actually felt like puking. Since he had weaned himself off the Laudenol he really had no stomach for the killing part of his job. Although there were a few people he would make exceptions for.
"First off, you don't know me. I don't know that you ever did."
That hurt. She had only known him for a couple of months before she left but he was an open book then. A wonderful, giving, handsome man. She felt that his moods and desires were clear for her to see. And then she left...no, screw that...she may not know him now but she knew him then and this was not Chuck Bartowski. This was a caricature. A CIA induced caricature. Her realization scared her more than she was prepared for.
"And after what you did by leaving with Bryce, you don't get to judge me...ever. In answer to you second question: I needed to survive." Sarah noticed his hazel eyes were bright but darkness had replaced the warmth she remembered.
"You may have forgotten me but I never, never forgot you." He snapped. "After they bunkered me, I agreed to become the Intersect agent they always wanted. You're the best. I studied you. Everything about you. Your record, as much as wasn't redacted, your training, even your technique in your fighting styles. And of course there was …." he tapped his temple. "You became my absent mentor."
Sarah felt a wave of nausea ripple through her. Chuck continued "I've emulated my entire spy legend on you, from seduction to weapon preference and martial art styles." Her throat was dry and the room seemed to be losing oxygen by the second.
"Didn't you find it surprising in Moscow? I did. Imagine my surprise to be fighting someone that knew your every move. If I hadn't studied you, I would have died that night, I'm sure of it. Instead I was able to hold my own and disable you. It took me a day but I figured out who was in that office that night. I've kept track of you ever since."
"I knew you were tracking the smart bullets. What I wasn't sure of was whether you had any secondary instructions concerning me. When I saw you last night…" She goggled at this revelation. "I expected you tonight so I talked Sofia into a night in, to get here before you did."
He thought of Sarah almost everyday in one capacity or another. He could never forget her beauty but there was so much more to her than that. It had hurt so much when she left.
He knew Casey was watching but he just couldn't stop himself from looking across the parking lot.
"Decided to take up birdwatching?...Agent Walker and I don't do a lot of fraternizing off hours. I guess we'll have to wait and see.."
"See if she's had enough of the good life here with you. See if she's hightailed it to wherever your buddy Bryce is hiding himself."
"Is...is that an option?"
" Aw...don't worry. I hear there is a great selection of handlers in this year's CIA Christmas catalog." Casey just smirked and walked away.
"Are there. Thanks a lot."
Of course, Morgan was no help with his "she's a liar, not to be trusted" comment, either. Chuck had wondered how she could just walk away like that but eventually he understood that it was easy. She would be re-united with her capable, talented partner and handsome lost lover. It wouldn't be hard at all.
It was easy for someone so incredible to forget an unremarkable asset. Not even a person really, just property. The whole event sent him into an emotional spiral of depression with the eventual failure of the Intersect. The leaving, the thought of her in Bryce's bed and worst of all, her loving the kind of man he never was and could never be.
The Laudenol, surprisingly, had actually given him given him a chance for reflection. He even began to see that Sarah had really helped him more than he had acknowledged in his petulance and hurt after she left.
She kept him out of the bunker, tried to shield him from this crazy world he found himself in and then there was the kiss...which he was still confused by. Whatever made her decide to leave, he still had to thank her for looking out for him. The Laudenol had give him a respite for a while but the price had been too high.
"You're tracking me? How?...What? "
"I had highest level clearance as the Intersect agent, Sarah. With that and my skillset, it was small thing to find your online trail at the agency. I didn't even need the Intersect."
Chuck had made peace, he thought, with Sarah's decision and had not even tried to locate her. But when he crossed paths with her in Russia it occurred to him that keeping tabs on one of the world's most capable assassins might be a good idea. Particularly if they might be after you.
Sarah was angry, confused and curious all at the same time. She would later consider how Chuck Bartowski must be the most underestimated person she had ever met. She had thought he was amazing, but she was sure that was because she was compromised.
Obviously, being compromised had nothing to do with it. With what she had just observed, she could see that he was a capable and ingenious operative. The intelligence community hadn't had a clue about him and probably still didn't.
"I broke the cardinal rule of spying Sarah." he continued softly, not even sure why except he felt he had weight on him that he needed to shed. He looked with his now dark eyes directly into hers.
She noticed he holstered his weapon but she didn't have it in herself to attack him. She suddenly wanted to hear what he had to say.
"Spies don't fall in love." He stated it plainly. As if she didn't know. She knew it better than anyone. She had actually believed it and left him. She lived with that regret everyday since she had made that decision.
She hadn't recognized it then. She hadn't known anything but that she had to run. She was confused, and quite frankly, didn't recognize what was going on because she had never experienced anything as intense as how much he meant to her
"Well, technically, I wasn't a spy when I fell in love with you. Even when you left with Bryce, I couldn't stop myself. And as I mentioned, I emulated you. It was the only part of you that I knew was real. I needed you and I took what I could get."
His honesty was overwhelming her. There was still a part of Chuck in there that hadn't been destroyed but it was practically a whisper. She slid to the floor, her back to the door frame.
"You loved me?"
"Still do" he replied. "But as Roan Montgomery so eloquently put it "Emotions will get you killed, Charles." He hesitated for a second, laughed and shook his head. "...and unrequited love will cause you to give a bad guy monologue, apparently. Which by the way, I maintain I am not one of the many villains in this story. But I am sorry for this." He pulled the tranq gun from his belt and started to aim it at her.
"Wait..." Sarah knew it was crazy, a testament to the surreality of her life, what she was contemplating it but then again what wasn't. It was the middle of the night. She was in an enemy agent's penthouse with a dead man in the hall, being held at bay by the man she cared for and she was going to try to talk to him. Not handle him. Not deceive or deflect, just talk.
"Sorry" was the last thing she heard before she felt the sting of the dart and blacked out.
She awoke to find a note and a thumb drive taped to her hand.
"This should keep you out of trouble with the Deputy Director. Don't worry about Gustav. I did him a favor considering how Sofia treated him. Speaking of which, she deserves everything she gets from Volkoff. Au revoir mon amour, it was good to see you again."
Sarah looked at Sofia. She was awake, bound and gagged. A red bow wrapped around her with a note attached that read "To Russia with Love".
Sarah was flummoxed. One minute he was going to kill her, the next declaring his love for her and then making jokes. She didn't know what to expect from him next. He was a wildcard and the irony of that description was not lost on her.
There was only one thing to do. She had to find him. She needed to tell him the truth. She had to make things right. A text from an unknown phone let her know before the blare of the sirens that the police were on the way. Damn him! She made a hasty exit.
A/N: So there you have the first chapter of my "Sarah left with Bryce" fic. There were so many dramatic spots in the show but this one is iconic (I'm starting to feel that way about all of season 1, really). I hope you enjoyed it and are intrigued enough to keep up with the next chapter (I think it's a 3 or 4 chapter story at most). Thanks in advance for reviews!