Disclaimer: I do not own Chuck. I don't even claim to own Chuck. It's way to brilliant to come from my mind.
A/N: Written for the Valentine's Day Challenge at dontfreakout on LiveJournal. Also a huge thanks to comiskey for the beta!
The day Chuck gets kicked out of Stanford, Ellie is there - cooking when he needs to eat mindlessly, pretending she doesn't hear his frustration when he needs to let it all out. She hugs him exactly once the entire day, because, whether she likes it or not, this is really about him and she knows she shouldn't interfere.
That doesn't stop her from excusing herself from the house claiming that she's needed at the hospital and feeling a wave of hurt and anger smack her in the gut at his vague hand wave. Ellie runs over all the situations in her head until all she can see is a strange form of herself beating the shit out of Bryce Larkin before blindly turning onto the road she briefly visited yesterday.
The radio's only been receiving white noise for the last twenty minutes. And maybe it's soothed her or maybe it's simply allowed her to calmly examine the many ways she can make everyone in the fraternity's life a living hell. When she begins to hear the faint strains of country music she jabs the 'OFF' button furiously.
At the gates of the campus there's a moment of indecision between tracking Bryce down like a wolf and storming to the Director's office to save her brother's reputation. Instinctively her body spins left; perhaps she'll get a crack at the Director in a while.
She's walked this way before, blending in with the other students, jogging to class in pajamas or ambling to the library, but today…today they seem to be able to feel the rage crushing all rational thought. The crowds split like the Red Sea parting and she's leading her people (every emotion in her body, screaming to be released) through. Guys haul their girlfriends out of the way, girls pause to stare, people who don't quite make it out of the way in time stumble away, because she's not stopping.
She can't if she really wants to do this.
And there's the frat rising before her, some safe haven for idiots and liars, the fact that her brother was here less than twenty-four hours ago wiped from her mind. A short kid spots her, eyes widening in panic, and scurries into the building. That's fine. Perfectly alright that they're getting warning.
Two steps away from the door Bryce hurries out, catching her arm and leading her away from people. Ellie wants to struggle, wants to slap him, wants to shout and rant and scream at how horrible a friend he is. It's only the quiet corner he takes her to that stops her. Only the people studying on a blanket, laughing over something completely normal and innocent that stops her.
But she's still pissed off and snaps her hand away the second he quits walking. He faces her fully and she's (not) seeing the bags under his eyes, weary frown on his face, like he's expected this, which snaps all the patience she has and her mouth opens and she's losing control over everything.
"How can you do this? Chuck has never done anything to you. All he does is talk about what you've done together when he comes home. God, he doesn't deserve this Bryce! He loves this school you know? And now everything's ruined and he's lost everything and, god, you're such a fucking bastard." She hates that her voice wavers as she breaks down and tears cloud her vision. She hates that Chuck's lost everything he cares about in this stupid school. She hates that Bryce can stand there and look guilty because it just makes this that much harder.
She can't even lift her arm to hit the guy. "Just, just, stay away from Chuck okay?" Strangely empty, Ellie walks back to her car, pulling the door closed with a pronounced click. The tears stubbornly fall, dropping onto her, and it's too much. She hopes her brother is numb because it hurts and Chuck in pain has always hurt her more.
Bryce heads back to his room sure he made the right decision.
"I wish you wouldn't do that."
"Do what?" Devon looks confused, blinking at her as he loads the dishwasher. Ellie glances down the hall towards Chuck's room, then back to her boyfriend.
"Remind him that he's alone."
Devon steps forward running his hands down her crossed arms, pulling her into a hug. He's amazing and warm and, god, he smells incredible, but Chuck's lying on his bed listening to depressing indie lyrics and really, that's distracting her from anything else. She sighs deeply.
"Hey," a hand tilts her head back and Devon's staring at her with adoration in his eyes and her knees weaken a little. "Chuck is an awesome person. I'm sure he'll find some beautiful, incredible woman who'll love him because he's an amazing person who loves his family and friends. He'll be alright."
She kisses him, grateful to have someone to spend the holiday with.
Chuck's first school Valentine's Day a girl in his class gave him a little box of candy hearts. Chuck's first school Valentine's Day he gets a bloody nose from a kid tackling him.
Ellie is old enough to know her brother won't say anything about it and her mom won't do anything, so the next day after school, when Chuck's on the swing set waiting for her so they can walk home; she catches the attacker by the arm in the hallway.
"Why'd you hit my brother?"
The kid frowns and scoffs trying to look tough, but failing under her steady gaze. "Amy gave him candy yesterday, but it turns out she likes me anyway so now we're dating. Lemme' go!"
He manages to break free and runs away, leaving her a little angry for her sibling and feeling defeated. Her sneakers kick up dust on the cold playground as she trudges out and zips up her pink coat. Chuck runs out to meet her grinning, hair curling over the tips of his ears; she notices that his nose is a little swollen from yesterday's events.
"I didn't like that candy anyway Ellie," he says, grabbing her hand.
It's been bothering Ellie for days. He's been in that state of mind where all he can do is smile randomly and she just can't take it anymore.
The dorky grin falls off his face, replaced by a somewhat pensive look.
"What?" he responds.
She spreads her hands on the kitchen table, remembering what it's like confronting Chuck and his evasiveness, and wonders if it's worth it.
"I'm just wondering what's going on with you. We haven't really talked in a while and you've looked really happy lately, so I was wondering what happened."
She shrugs, knowing he'll respond because he's the type of brother who cares about their relationship. And her emotions are tricky little bastards because she's going to feel guilty about that later, but Chuck's staring at his hands silently so maybe it was the right thing to say.
His eyes meet hers before running back down to the table. "She said no." His lips twitch up and he raises a hand to rest his chin on his palm. There's so much she desperately wants to say right now, biting phrases about giving up treasures and vague comforting words. He's thinking about it though, what to say, how to get it out and she can wait.
"And I'm not exactly sure what I wanted to begin with. It's easier to smile than think about everything, you know?"
It's not an uncomfortable silence they fall into, just a little heavy from his confession. She stands, reaching for the phone. "I heard there's a movie marathon on SciFi tonight. Want to watch some horrible, gory vampire movie and eat amazing pizza with me?"
"What an amazing way to spend Valentine's Day."
The wide smile on his face contradicts his muttered comment and she dials the number for Alfred's Pizza Parlor.
She's here, not because Sarah's done anything, but because of an odd feeling of dread that's washed over her recently relating to anything her brother's involved in. Because Chuck's been running hot and cold lately and it seems like it has to do with whatever has been happening between him and Sarah. He's been spending less time with her, and that's okay, but not when he comes home quiet and sighing.
Sarah looks nervous and it's making Ellie panic a little. She bites her lip watching Sarah push blond hair behind her ear and twist the loose fabric at the corner of one couch cushion. She's broken some rule about interfering with a sibling's relationship, Ellie's sure, by showing up in scrubs an hour before Chuck is supposed to take his girlfriend out. Part of her is worried about that breech of conduct. Most of her is riveted to whatever words are going to be spoken and increasingly agitated movements.
"I really like your brother."
Ellie could die happy. She's getting married and someone really likes Chuck that can say it meeting her eyes with surprising conviction and warmth.
"And I'd never hurt him on purpose, I swear." She pauses, seems to run something over in her mind and leans toward her on the couch. "I don't want to lose him. He means a lot."
There's nothing left to say, so Ellie stands. Sarah mimics her movements, following her to the door, her bare feet barely making any noise on the floor, and Ellie has the overwhelming urge to hug the younger woman.
Instead she smiles, "Happy Valentine's Day."