TITLE: Outside Looking In
AUTHOR: jenbachand
PAIRING: Chuck/Sarah, mention of Casey/Ilsa
RATING: General
SUMMARY: Sarah feels like she's been on the outside looking in for too long.
DISCLAIMER: I made no money from the writing of this fic.
NOTES: I've had this lingering for a while. Thanks so much to phdelicious & csishewolf for betaing for me. Spoilers through 1x13. Why can't we have new episodes before next Fall?

I'm standing here watching Chuck and his family and it's breaking my heart to not go inside. I've spent so much of my life on the outside, too much of my life. The love they share is amazing. Chuck's devotion to his sister and Ellie's support of her brother is something I've seen too little of, something the world sees too little of really.

The amount of love the Bartowski siblings have for each other and their extended family is startling in this age of disposable relationships. I've been rather surprised to find that they've begun including me in this phenomenon. They probably include Casey too. They're just those kind of people.

Genuine. Good. Caring.

Casey comes up behind me as I'm staring through the window, fighting the quiver in my lip and the tears threatening my eyes. I know he's not going to have anything good to say, especially after the utter disaster that the past twenty-four hours have been. But I could be wrong. Lately he's surprised me.

When he told me to retrieve Chuck from the attempted extraction, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I know that if the NSA has its way, once the Intersect is up and running Chuck will be something to be "taken care of." But Casey has been different since Ilsa reentered his life. Somehow he's less the machine that I thought he was.

"We can only keep him here for so long. You realize that, don't you?" His tone is gentler than I would have thought possible from him. Maybe I was right all those months ago. Maybe he is burnt out, but for different reasons. Maybe Casey's been on the outside too long too and being part of the Bartowski family is getting to him. Just like it's getting to me.

I give him a slight nod. As I turn to walk back to my car and go back to my lonely apartment, Casey grabs my arm.

"Come on," he says and pulls me across the courtyard to his apartment. In a way I'm glad he's the one stationed here. I know I wouldn't like living in the same complex as Chuck. It would be entirely too tempting to spend more time with him. Just spending time letting him take care of me.

Like when he brought over pizza that one night. I'd let him in and it would feel good. For once I'd be on the inside looking out, and that… well that's when an agent gets sloppy. I know I can't afford to get sloppy again.

I let Bryce in and where did that get me? I let myself love him, let myself dream about the future, our future. Yet he couldn't even share with me, the women he swore he loved more than anything, that he had gone rogue. Or not. Or whatever it was. His lack of trust hurt, more than I would ever let him or anyone know.

His offer to go away with him was never an option. I really needed to have some closure with him, some time to put the bricks back around my heart one by one to keep everyone out. I got my closure; only, Chuck was already behind the wall with me. Without knowing it, he's been helping me to restore my protections and hide the two of us away.

I'm brought out of my mental wanderings when Casey shoves a glass into my hand. Until then, I hadn't realized we'd entered his apartment. He hadn't said a word and I think Casey understands my need for reflection. At least I think he does now.

Now that he knows Ilsa's not dead.

"Here's to the unattainable love," he says and clinks his glass with mine. I don't say anything and gulp my drink. The Scotch burns on the way down, but I don't cough. I learned a long time ago how to hold my liquor and keep my head up while doing it.

Casey sinks into the chair across from me. He has surprisingly comfortable furniture for such a hard man. I guess it's that whole 'Don't judge a book by its cover' thing. He gives me a sad smile while refilling my glass. I take a little longer to finish it this time, but the numbing of my feelings has me drinking faster than is probably good, especially on an empty stomach at nine in the morning.

"What if she had stayed?" I ask. The slight slur in my voice doesn't stop my questioning. "What if Ilsa had offered to stay and play house? Give you a couple of strapping young boys and a daughter with her hair and your eyes. Would you really have given her the line about the job being more important?"

"Honestly Walker, I don't know." He finishes off his glass and refills mine along with his. "If that was possible and we'd always be out of harm's way, maybe. But both of us are agents, with a lot of years under our belts. I'm not fond of underground bunkers and kids need a yard to grow up in."

We're both silent for several minutes as we nurse our drinks. I spend the time wondering what he's thinking about. If he's thinking about what I said about having a family, if he's thinking back on what I asked him all those weeks ago about having a normal life. I could see him being a good dad, stern, but with a really soft side when it came to a daughter. And he and Ilsa would make beautiful babies.

Thinking about babies in the state that I'm in is not a good thing. The fantasy my mind has created almost makes me start to cry. Chuck's wearing a goofy smile while holding a bundled baby. He's beaming and showing the baby to everyone in the room. Ellie is there, and in my mind she's been the one to help deliver the baby. Awesome and Morgan are there too, which is odd, but they are Chuck's family, so maybe not so odd after all.

"What are you smiling about," Casey asks bringing me out of my daydream. He's got a curious look on his face. I look back at him and wonder if I'll look like a female version of him in another ten years, world weary and tired.

I'm tired. Tired of being on the outside. But I know that things can't be the way I want them right now. Not until the Intersect is up and running and something can be done to make Chuck safe.

Hours later Casey's words about the dangers of drinking and driving are still ringing in my ears when I knock on Chuck's window. Chuck's in a tee and boxers, looking adorably sleep rumpled, but he opens the latch and I stumble through, only to start laughing as he catches me.

"Are you drunk Sarah?" he asks, giving me that quirky smile of his. He helps me to the edge of his bed, and I lay back and try to talk myself out of what I'm about to do, but that odd resolve I found in Casey's living room is back again.

When Chuck's face comes into my line of site I reach up and cup his cheek with my hand. He closes his eyes and I lean up and brush my lips against his.

"Can I stay?" There's longing in my voice that gives away more than I should. But I want what I've never had before.

"As long as you want, Sarah." Chuck's answering tone lets me know he wants too. That he understands what I'm really asking.

He helps me into bed, taking gentle care when removing my shoes and jacket, and then he settles in next to me. I roll over, putting my head on his chest, and choke back my tears as I fall asleep. I dream of two families with kids that play in their yards, where loved ones are kept safe by parents who know all about security, national or otherwise.