Author's Note: Welcome to my newest story. I decided to write this shortly after publishing No Such Thing As Second Chances, my first and only Tragedy/Angst foray into Chuck fan fiction. Given how depressing that story was, I wanted to write a more upbeat one. The result is this story. Please note that the Prologue is pretty much a word for word rehash of No Such Thing As Second Chances (with the exception of the ending :-) ). I've also made a few edits to correct some mistakes that I discovered after that story was posted. It's also only fair to point out that the storyline has been influenced by several similar fan fiction stories, most notably a Criminal Minds fan fiction story, The Road Not Taken by Whatif-ifonly and numerous Harry Potter fan fictions that use similar tropes.
Please note that I have not abandoned my other ongoing story, Chuck Vs Semper Fi. I will still be updating that story along with this one. I will warn that the pace of updates in either case will be slow.
Now on with the story.
Sarah Walker gasped as she struggled to catch her breath and regain her bearings. She was disoriented and every muscle in her body ached. She shook her head trying to clear the cobwebs in her head. She was sitting in what looked felt like a field of grass, surrounded by darkness. Try as she might, she couldn't remember what had happened over the last several hours.
"Calm yourself, Sarah Walker." a voice said from the darkness. Startled, Sarah jumped up on her feet and reached to the waist of her jeans at the small of her back. "Don't bother, Agent Walker, your gun is no longer there."
"Who are you? Where am I?" Sarah shouted, an icy cold stab of fear rushing through her. It had been a long time since she had been in a position like this; unarmed and disoriented, with no idea what was happening or where she was.
"Uh, uh, uh. That's not really true, is it Agent Walker." the voice said. "Why, you found yourself in a similar situation not six months ago."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Sarah said. The voice sighed.
"So you want to do this the hard way, why am I not surprised." the voice said. Suddenly Sarah screamed and doubled over in pain as images flooded through her mind. After a few minutes the pain let up. "Now isn't that interesting. I've known many people who have 'convinced' themselves something happened or hadn't happened, but I've never met someone who been as dedicated to burying such important pieces of her past as you. And I'm not just talking about what happened at the house Burbank...or on the beach later."
Sarah straightened up and shook her head, trying to clear it, her heart sinking as she remembered that day at the beach.
"Who are you?! How did you do that?!" She shouted. She heard footsteps begin walking, getting closer with each second. Finally out of the darkness, came a figure; one that she recognized. "Dad!?"
"Not quite." the figure that looked like her father said. "I've merely taken this form as a means of presenting myself to you. My natural form tends to - overwhelm people."
"Natural form?" Sarah asked, confused.
"Yes. I am one of several guardians of the afterlife; you see, Sarah, you are dead." the figured replied. As he said this, another memory flooded Sarah's mind. "I must admit, your are nothing if not tenacious; you should have been killed a dozen times over the last six months. Yet you managed to escape...until now."
"There were just too many of them." Sarah whispered. She had been sent to retrieve evidence of Russian government involvement in an attempt to influence US elections. She had managed to infiltrate a high-level Russian official's office, and discovered a data drive that had enough information to prove the suspicions of the CIA. However, upon leaving the office, she had encountered a security patrol, and one of them had managed to get a radio report out before she took them out. Within minutes she was being pursued by dozens of agents, and they had finally cornered her in an alley. She managed to dispatch nine of them, before one managed to put a bullet straight through her heart.
"Indeed." the figure said. "It's a shame, really. You did so much good over the last five years, only for it to end like this."
"What do you mean? What about the rest of my time with the CIA? I did a lot of good before the last five years." Sarah said.
"True, you did do some good all through your career. But your greatest good was in the five years you were in Burbank. Your five years with Chuck." the figure said. "And you threw that away, didn't you?"
"No!" Sarah shouted. "It was taken from me! I don't remember anything!" Again she doubled over in pain as a flood of images, feelings, and emotions suddenly coursed through her.
"Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You really need to stop lying to everyone...and to yourself." the figure said. "While you may not have full, detailed, and coherent memories, you know you have remembered fragments and feelings of your time in Burbank. More importantly, your subconscious and your heart knows and remembers the most important thing, that you loved Chuck Bartowski and married him. And you walked away. I'd like to know why."
"Because I couldn't give him what he wanted!" Sarah shouted. "How can I maintain a marriage when I don't remember anything? I'm not the woman he fell in love with and married. That woman is dead."
"Let's cut the crap, Sarah." the figure said. "The truth is that you were too afraid to stay. You were too afraid to allow yourself to be vulnerable with him. And because you believed, deep down, that you didn't deserve him. That's why you left. And that's why Quinn was able to suppress your memories."
"What?" Sarah asked, confused. More memories flooded her mind.
"You fought falling for Chuck since day one." the figure said. "And even after you fell for him, which was still pretty early on in your time in Burbank, you refused to acknowledge it. You hid behind rules and regulations because you were afraid. Afraid that Chuck Bartowski could never love Sarah Walker. Even when you finally gave in to your feelings and the two of you got together, you held back; never completely surrendering to your feelings or your relationship. You waited six months to unpack when you moved in. You tried to elope rather than getting married in front of a people who knew you both. You used your maiden name even after you were married. And of course, never telling him you're REAL name."
"What does that have to do with Quinn?" Sarah asked, tears starting to fall as she remembered.
"The flash cards that Quinn used only work when strong negative emotions are present. Not just fear, but emotional pain and self-doubt, of which you had much...mostly self-inflicted. And your love for Chuck, while strong, was not as strong as it could have been, not strong enough to offset those emotions. So Quinn was able to wipe your memories. The irony is that if you hadn't fought your love for Chuck so much, and fought his love for you, it would have developed properly over the last five years, and Quinn would not have been successfully in wiping your memories, at least not to the extent that he did." the figure answered. "As it was, your love was strong enough that even though he wiped your memories, residual feelings and instincts remained. You knew, at some level, that the lies Quinn told you were wrong in some way. Yet you chose to ignore them. And because of that, things are now becoming very bad."
"What do you mean? My death?" Sarah asked.
"Yes, but that's only part of the equation. Your abandonment of Chuck and your death has set a significant chain of events into motion." the figure said. "Let me show you." He held out his hand, which Sarah took after a moment's hesitation. The pair was engulfed in a swirl of mist and disappeared.
Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries
A large funeral party was gathered at Mount Sinai to pay respects to a father and daughter, both died on the same day. Unbeknownst to the funeral party, a swirl of mist appeared a few feet away, and a man and woman were left standing there when the mist disappeared.
Sarah looked around; she recognized the cemetery; it was where Bryce had been "buried" the first time they thought he had died. Then she saw one of the mourners, a young woman with brown hair, tears streaming down her face. Fear lanced through Sarah.
"No. It's not Devon and Clara." The figure said, pointing to a spot nearby, where Devon was standing, holding his daughter, Clara.
"Who then?" Sarah asked hesitantly.
"I'll give you another hint: it's not Chuck." He said. Sarah racked her brain to try and figure out who he was talking about. After all, besides Devon and Clara, who else –
"Oh, God Casey." Sarah whispered in shock. "How? When? I thought he was in Russia with Gertrude?"
"He was." The figured replied. "Until about two months ago. He came back to try and help Chuck out of the spiral he went into after you left, not that he was able to do much. No one has." Sarah ignored the implication about Chuck for the moment.
"What happened?" Sarah asked again in a whisper.
"They were out to dinner; a routine they had established." The figure said. "This night though, there was an old enemy of Casey's from his years prior to the Burbank assignment watching Alex's apartment. Somehow they had managed to track him down. After they left the complex, Casey's car exploded, killing them both." Sarah began crying at the thought of her former partner and his daughter. "The irony is, it didn't need to happen. Chuck had actually seen the car and its occupant earlier in the day. If he had been able to flash –"
"What do you mean if he had been able to flash?" Sarah asked, horror creeping into her thoughts.
"Come now, Sarah." The figure said patronizingly, "You know as well as anyone that Chuck's ability to use the Intersect is heavily depended on his emotions. Especially his emotions regarding those he loved - like you. The depression that Chuck has been experiencing since you left has been crippling. He hasn't flashed since you left." The statement hung in the air as Sarah grasped the meaning.
"Oh, God." Sarah said. "Casey and Alex are dead because of me?!"
Office of Director of National Intelligence
Once again a swirl of mist had surrounded Sarah and the figure and transported them out of their location and deposited them somewhere else. Looking around, Sarah immediately recognized the office of Major General Diane Beckman. The petite red-headed woman was sitting at her desk, looking haggard, and well beyond the age Sarah remembered.
"What happened to her?" Sarah asked. "How far in the future are we?"
"Only five years." The figure said. "But it's been a hard five years, for her, and the country." He gestured out the window of her office. Sarah moved to the window and looked out, gasping. She had been to the office of the DNI a number of times and had always been impressed with the view. But now that view as anything but impressive. Instead of the expected views of the Washington Monument in the distance and the vibrant city, she saw decay, and signs of violence similar to that of Baghdad after the U.S. had occupied Iraq. In fact, as she watched, she noticed the plume of an explosion in the distance. A corner of her mind identified it as a car bomb.
"What happened?" she asked, stunned.
"About a year after you left Burbank, a new organization appeared on the scene, made up of the remnants of Fulcrum, the Ring, and break-away elements of several other international criminal organizations and financed and supplied by a number of unfriendly governments. Unlike Fulcrum and the Ring, which attempted to wage war from the shadows and seize control of the US and world governments covertly, this new organization, calling itself the Medusa Consortium, was far more willing to engage in less covert actions and more wide-spread violence. There first "public and official" action was a multi-pronged cyber-attack on Wall Street, the banking sector, and the national electric grid. Those attacks crippled the economy, which has yet to recover. Phase II was the manipulation of several political hate and domestic terrorist groups, such as the New Black Panther Party, White Aryan Resistance, the Nation of Islam, the Earth Liberation Front, and the Aryan Nations, into launching competing campaigns of violence against the Government, each other and organizations opposed to those groups. As the violence mounted and law enforcement resources spread thin, they launched their assault on the government. It turned into major insurgency."
"How could that happened?" Sarah asked.
"Truthfully, it was a combination of things that led to this. As you know, the American public and political elite have been getting more and more fractured and vehement in their opposition to those who didn't agree with them. Distrust of the government over some of the post-9/11 policies and actions of the Bush, Obama, and Clinton administrations reached an all-time high. That environment made it easier for Medusa to manipulate not only the groups I mentioned but the major political parties and the public at large. Add to that the fact that the government no longer had its three most valuable agents in the fight, nor the Intersect, it was simply caught off guard and playing catchup. And of course the spread of ISIS from the Middle East into North Africa and Europe didn't help. Worse still is the fact that no matter what attempts were made to destroy Medusa, they always seemed to be several steps ahead. In fact, at this point, it's only a matter of time until Medusa succeeds in destroying the US government and setting up its own rule. Fortunately, the General will not have to see that."
Just as the figure finished speaking, Beckman looked up from her desk as her aide walked in, carrying a stack of files. Sarah looked at the young man; something seemed to be off about him, but it took a moment for her to realize what it was. Suddenly, in a swift motion, the aide dropped the files and aimed a pistol at the General. Before the General could react, six shots rang out, hitting her in the chest. As she slumped down, the aide turned the gun on himself, placing it under his chin and pulling the trigger.
Middle of the Nevada Desert
"Where are we now?" Sarah asked, having once again been transported via a swirl of mist to a new location.
"We are standing in the Medusa Consortium's secret underground research and development facility." The figure said. "It's now two years since the murder of General Beckman. Medusa has all but destroyed the US government and most of the state governments. Oh there are few holdouts, but they would last long. And soon Medusa will be launching a worldwide campaign."
"Oh dear God." Sarah whispered. "Carina? Ellie, Devon, and Clara? What happened to them?"
"Carina was killed attempting to infiltrate Medusa. She had managed to get further into the organization than anyone else - yet somehow Medusa was able to identify her as an agent. Ellie, Devon and Clara were caught in the radiological bombing of downtown Chicago – all three were killed." The figure said. Both remained silent for a moment. "Ask the question you know you want to ask, Sarah."
"What about Chuck?" she asked, barely audible. The figure motioned towards a door off the corridor they were standing in. Trepidation coursed through Sarah's veins, causing her to hesitate before moving towards the door.
Sarah gasped as she stepped inside the room. It was clearly an office of some kind, with computers and a desk. Seated at the desk was a tall lanky man with brown eyes are curly hair, looking decades older.
"Chuck!" Sarah shouted, rushing towards the desk. "What happened to him? Why is he here?"
"You're looking at the reason Medusa has been one step ahead of everyone in this war." the figure said. "Chuck was spiraling into a massive depression after you left; when Casey died, it just got worse. And then word came of you death. He suffered a psychotic break; he became obsessed with the idea that there was a grand conspiracy amongst the government, your families and friends to destroy the two of you. He blamed everything that happened on that conspiracy. He faked his own death in a fire and went underground, eventually making contact with Medusa. As odd as it may seem, his psychotic break allowed the Intersect to work again, to an extent. It still provided information, but Chuck's delusional mind was able to meld the information in a way that supported his delusions. It was unfortunate that Carina was brought to a meeting in this bunker; if she hadn't been, she might have been able to get enough information to help the government. Unfortunately, she was, and Chuck saw her. She took several days to die." Sarah's hand went to her mouth and she let out a sob. Chuck was helping Medusa, had turned into a monster. "Don't be too hard on him, Sarah. It's not really his fault; he's not in his right mind." At that moment the phone rang and Chuck picked it up.
"Yes?" he asked. The sound of a mumbled voice could be heard on the other end. After a moment, Chuck said "thank you." He hung the phone up and turned his attention to a picture frame on his desk. Picking it up, he looked longingly at it. Sarah could see that it was a picture of him and her from several years earlier. "It's done Sarah," Chuck said to the picture. "It's finally done. The government will never be able to do what it did to us to anyone else. We've taken complete control. Now I can finally rest."
Sighing he put the picture back down on the desk. He opened a drawer and withdrew a wooden box and placed it on the desk. He opened the top and withdrew the contents, a Smith & Wesson 5906 Semi-Automatic Pistol. Sarah gasped as she recognized it as her favorite sidearm. Before she could process any further, Chuck had inserted a magazine, racked the slide and placed the gun under his chin.
"I'm coming my sweet Sarah." Chuck said, and then pulled the trigger.
"NOOOO!" Sarah shouted, collapsing onto the ground. Then, she was once again surrounded in mist and disappeared.
Sarah reappeared back in the original location she had awoken in, the figure that took the form of her father standing over her. Several minutes passed as she sobbed hysterically before calming down. Finally she stood up and regarded the figure.
"Ok. I get it. I should never have ran away from Chuck. Hell, I shouldn't have fought so hard in the beginning of the Burbank assignment from falling for him." Sarah said. "Now what?"
"Now, nothing." The figure said.
"What? There has to be something!" Sarah shouted. "Why show me all of this if there wasn't something else. Isn't there some way to change things? Can't you send me back?!"
"No." the figure said. "This isn't some Disney fairytale or convoluted contrived fan fiction story. This is life. You had your shot and blew it. You threw away a life that most people wish for, turned your back on your soul mate. And now you, along with the world, must face the consequences of that decision. There is no such thing as second chances." As he spoke, the mist became slightly thicker, and a faint smell began to make its presence known, though Sarah couldn't quite place it, and the figure began turning his back on her.
"No! That can't be!" Sarah shouted frantically. "There has to be way! Why else would you show me? What kind of angel are you?" Suddenly the smell became stronger, and fear lanced through Sarah as she recognized it: sulfur. Then the figure turned back around to look at her. It was still in the form of her father, but looked different, crueler, with bright red eyes staring at her.
"I never said I was an angel, Agent Walker." The figure stated in a demonic voice, and then began laughing cruelly.
Sarah screamed in terror at the sight in front of her. She realized for the first time where she was. She was in Hell. And worse was the realization that it was of her own making. If only she had known what she knew now back when she walked into the Buymore Burbank for the first time. But as the creature in front of her had pointed out, there was no longer any point in wishing. So she closed her eyes and centered herself, accepting her fate.
"I'm sorry Chuck." she whispered. "This all has been my fault. I deserve whatever happens to me."
"NO!" the creature suddenly shouted. "She's mine!" Snapping her eyes open, Sarah watched in wonder as a bright light began intruding into the mist, blinding her after a moment. Her head began to swim and she began to lose consciousness. As she fought unsuccessfully to stay awake, she heard a calming voice speak to her.
"Don't be afraid, Sarah Walker. All is not lost; you have been granted a rare reprieve and opportunity to change your fate, and that of your soul-mate and friends. You can change things. But heed these warnings: First, not everything can be changed. Chuck's involvement with the Intersect for example. You can only make that situation better for him. Second, the more you change, the less your remembrance of what happened before will be helpful as they presuppose the all the events before them. Choose wisely." The new voice said before Sarah lost her battle to stay awake and the world went dark.