Sensory Perception

The progression of Chuck and Sarah's relationship through the five human senses, plus that finicky sixth one…

Disclaimer: I own nothing

Rating: Varied from chapter to chapter, but T overall (K for this one)

Timeline: Interspersed through the season and the ambiguous future yet to be written by the Chuck writing staff

Pairings: Chuck/Sarah with references to Ellie/Awesome, Morgan/Anna, Chuck/Jill, and Chuck/Lou

Well, as promised, here is the first chapter of my first attempt at a multi-chapter fic. As stated in the summary, this fic is Chuck and Sarah's respective perspectives on their relationship as it progresses using each of the five senses plus a bonus sixth sense, also known as ESP. Each chapter begins with Chuck's perspective, then shifts to Sarah's, and occasionally ends with a neutral moment. So here is the beginning of Sensory Perception. Enjoy!

Chapter 1


Pacific Oceans and Hershey's Chocolate

Their first interaction comes through a simple glance. She strolls into his place of work, her royal blue eyes focused on his long, lanky form. At the moment, that form is engrossed in the paperwork that proceeded a rather lengthy and exasperating house call that, once he had deduced exactly what the customer had been trying to tell him what was wrong with the computer, culminated in him simply stooping over to insert the power plug - after a good hour and a half of circular, nonsensical babble.

As he glances casually up to catch a glimpse of whatever has captivated Morgan's rather erratic attention, his vision is filled a pair of stunningly blue eyes, as pure as an immaculate sapphire and as lucid as the waters tickling the beaches of the Hawaiian tropics. He's not quite sure if it's her ethereal beauty, or his innately clumsy nature, or even the sheer embarrassment of the situation, but he quite literally drops everything he's doing, snaps into a deceptive façade of cool professionalism, and slightly nervously greets her. As she speaks, he's staring. He knows he is, but he can't quite pull his eyes away from the vivid clarity of her eyes, never mind her face. Waxing poetic on the situation, he deems her a goddess, a stunningly striking being defying all boundaries of mortal beauty. Unconsciously, he compares her to Jill, the latter falling painfully short of the woman before him. Jill's eyes don't shine with the same clarity, nor did they ever have the same effect on his basic functioning process as evidenced by the strewn papers littering the countertop obscured slightly from view and the phone situated a ways away from its intended resting place. Jill's hair doesn't tumble in lustrous waves of golden sunshine down her shoulders the way this woman's does, and she sure didn't make a simple jacket and jeans combination look as alluring as this amazingly attractive creature seemed to do. Going off appearances, she looks just about too good to be true, and with Chuck's experience with women, she probably was. So when she leaves her number at the Nerd Herd desk, he doesn't think anything of it, just slides the card in his pocket, more to dissuade Morgan's slightly perverse tendencies than anything.

The second time Chuck sees her…Sarah…she's blatantly flirting with him, and he'd be lying if he'd claimed he wasn't surprised. After all, she was…well, she sure wasn't one who seemed as though she went for the nerdy types, and he was…Charles Irvine Bartowski, king of all nerdiness. Girls like her didn't go for head technicians that ran the Nerd Herd counter at the Buy More. They went for guys who lived the exciting life. The ones with the casual, model-like good looks and the expendable bank account who afforded the luxury of sweeping girls like her off to spontaneous, romantic vacations in the Caribbean islands. So seeing Sarah standing in front of him, unashamedly asking him out, didn't quite compute in his brain and certainly wasn't something that happened normally during his seven-hour shift behind the counter. He's slightly suspicious, but automatic reflex, accompanied with exuberant affirmatives from the little birdie by the entertainment system also known as Morgan, and general courtesy won't allow him to decline. Neither will the nagging feeling of biological masculinity that reminds him he hasn't had a date in five years. So he agrees. And hopes that his affirmative doesn't sound as embarrassingly eager as he thought it did.

As far as first dates go, he certainly wasn't lying when he said the date was far from the worst date of his limited romantic experience…well, at least it started that way. The sight of her surrounds him, from the wonderful picture that greeted him when she opened her door to the completely appealing image of her as she danced, and he can't help but absently think there were worst fates a man could suffer through. But as he learns the truth, as he becomes cognizant of her true intentions, the image that he's built in his mind drastically alters. Gone is the gorgeous, innocent woman who asked for help with a broken cell phone and in her place is the enigmatic CIA agent who probably knew exactly how to fix the cell phone, bug aforementioned device, and effectively convert that device into a veritable bomb. The only thing Chuck gleaned from that first date as every perception he harbored was shot to hell was that Sarah Walker was a CIA agent who was immensely gifted at her job…and masking her feelings.

In the days that follow, Chuck tries to break through that mask ingrained so deeply in her natural emotional reflexes. He doesn't want to think she notices him staring, but he knows the training ingrained into her consciousness is acutely aware of the fact. But he can't help it. She's just so…captivating. The way she walks, the way she speaks, the innate confidence that just radiates from her lissome, elegant form, every aspect of her draws his gaze into sharp focus. Most of the time, it's because he really is enthralled by her beauty. Any male partial to the female persuasion can see Sarah Walker is a fine specimen of woman and would be unashamed in staring. But at times, he's studying her, hoping that he can catch a glimpse of the real Sarah Walker. The one that hides herself to the world – sad occupational hazard – behind a veil of stunningly sapphire eyes.

Sometimes, he loathes those eyes. Every time he gazes into those clear blue irises, ones that reminded him so much of the Pacific Ocean, he desperately yearns to drown in those eyes, lose himself in their depths, and unlock every secret she keeps shrouded behind those deceptively innocent orbs. Every time he feels the tiniest glimmer of hope, every time he sees that spark of genuine emotion, she yanks it back, hiding behind that veneer of indifference. He wishes so adamantly for something real, something tangible or even intangible that he could honestly say was the truth about this inscrutable, gorgeous woman, but Chuck Bartowski isn't naïve. He knows that she probably won't oblige him that one luxury. He knows it's probably way too dangerous. And he knows that she probably longs for the same thing but conventional reason bars her of succumbing to such temptation. But that doesn't mean he won't stop trying.

Over time, that wish for something real still exists, but it seems to alleviate. He realizes that the woman before him with her enigmatic, clear blue eyes is all he really needs. He may not know everything about her, but what he does know, what little she has told him and what he has gleaned for himself, was enough. It was all enough. Enough for him to fall in love with her and enough for him to know that even with the government secrets in his head, even with the threat of displacement hovering constantly over his head, even with his life coming into unremitting contact with a little something he like to call absolute peril, he has found this inexplicable comfort in the conviction he holds that their ambiguously-defined relationship is something much more than just handler and asset. So, he settles for the truth he catches in those vivid, cobalt eyes every time they lock with his. She still thinks she sufficiently veils those emotions, staunchly denying any vestige of its existence, but he's Chuck Bartowski. He's unnaturally perceptive when it comes to her, and he knows. So he'll be patient, anxiously waiting for the day that she finally reveals what he means to her, what he's been cognizant of all along. And when he finally sees the unadulterated emotions without the accompanying guarded sheen, he'll be ready to show her exactly what he, himself, has been holding back.

At first sight, he didn't look like an intelligence agent. In fact, he looked like…well, a nerd. Tall and lanky, clothed in a white, short-sleeved dress shirt sporting a pocket protector and a small array of pens, a gray tie hanging from a crisply starched collar, black dress pants covering long legs, and a pair of well-loved Chuck Taylor sneakers at his feet, this man epitomized all she had stereotyped as geeky. Either he was really great at his cover or his tendencies truly shifted towards the less than debonair spectrum. But this was to whom Bryce sent the Intersect, and it was her mission to extract it. By whatever means necessary. She didn't know how dangerous this man was, as deceptively clad in his work uniform as he was, so she went with the age-old approach in an attempt to garner that information for herself: damsel in distress.

She realizes too late that he's not an agent. In fact, his bumbling manner and goofy, unassuming charm are as far from espionage-like as remotely possible. He's just a real guy caught up in something a bit too over his head. Something he probably wasn't even aware of. From the get go, she sees he's just a nice, honest Average Joe, willing to help a desperate father or a lady new to town. He wasn't part of the Agency, he was just unfortunate enough to know Bryce Larkin. She sees that within the first few minutes of their date as his face, more handsome than she originally judged, lights up in a smile. It's a smile devoid of deception, harboring nothing but genuine joy and eagerness. In her tenor, she's seen many agents, both good and otherwise, and no one she had ever encountered possessed such a smile. No, Chuck Bartowski wasn't an agent, and that was what made everything – the deception, the evasiveness, basically everything that went with the territory of covert intelligence – that much harder.

As they keep working together, she sees the effect she has on him. It's not uncommon; she had the same effect on Bryce when they began their partnership. But with Bryce, the emotions were subtle, barely discernable to the untrained eye. With Chuck, everything was palpable, blatant in his amiable, unassuming manner, and every now and then, she catches him staring. His deep chocolate spheres peer in her direction, constantly studying her, the crease in his brow becoming more pronounced as he delves even deeper into whatever contemplation runs through his mind. She thinks that he's trying to unravel the enigma he has repeatedly accusing her of being, and it startles her when she realizes exactly how much he has already unraveled. Through simply studying her, the lithe, graceful way she moves, what makes her laugh, what prompts the dazzling smile he always says she should unleash more often, he knows what teams she has the tendency to root for (she has an affinity for Boston teams; he's already caught her affection for the New England Patriots – the Super Bowl had prompted a good three hours at the local shooting range – and, much to his personal chagrin, the Boston Red Sox – the Bartowskis originally hail from the Bronx), he's already picked up on her eating habits (she'll eat a pizza with everything on it but meticulously pick out the olives; she'll dump loads of soy sauce on anything Asian but only likes a light coating of sauce on Italian), and he's even come to decipher her various forms of body language (shoulders square, legs braced, and her right arm slightly obscured from view indicates her gun is in her grasp and ready to be drawn; back ramrod straight, brow slightly furrowed, and posture tensed means that she's caught something amiss in their current location and is covertly searching for the source). And Sarah knows what dangerous territory this is. Knowing too much can lead to attachments, most of the time prohibited by nature. Attachments can lead to compromised situations. With someone as valuable as Chuck, those situations couldn't occur. As for her, as his handler, she had to know everything about him. To better understand her subject, of course. After all, attachment was forbidden. But, truth be told in the most confidential of atmospheres, she couldn't quite deny that fact as well. Yes, Sarah Walker was attached. So sue her. You look into those earnest, innocent eyes and not find it difficult to yield…

She loves his eyes. In the past, she had always found herself more drawn to lighter eyes, dismissing darker eyes as boring, but that misconception abruptly righted itself the first time she gazed into the endless depths of Chuck Bartowski's brown eyes. From afar, his eyes seem plainly brown, a lighter shade, but simply so. Nothing more, nothing less. However, at close proximity, she notices that they possess a myriad of different shades of brown that when combined border slightly on an amber hue when he wears lighter colors. It's through those eyes that she sees every aspect of his personality: his innate warmth, his understated charisma, and his endearing innocence marred only by the deceptive actions of one Bryce Larkin, ironically enough to preserve that purity. His eyes held the purest shade of brown that could be found in the creamiest of chocolates, the most lush of soil, and occasionally in a Crayola crayon box sandwiched between Unmellow Yellow and Atomic Tangerine. That was what made those dark orbs so exotic. She once laughingly referred to his eyes as Hershey's eyes. When he asked her what she meant by that, she answered that during his different moods, his eyes embodied every chocolate created. And it's true. When he's content, those eyes twinkle with a shade of milk chocolate. During his rare but potent moments of staunch conviction, they cloud to the richest of dark chocolates, and in times of exuberance, they warm to a marshmallow-filled cup of hot cocoa one savors on a cold winter's day. But she finds the hazard in those eyes. As the time passes, it's harder to deny him anything. She doesn't think he's aware of it, but it's those eyes that could possibly endanger her mission, and she doesn't mean just the Intersect…

When they "break up," the sight of him pains her, not that that particular admission would ever make its way into public consumption, let alone be vocalized to the subject in question. Nope, that little detail is going to stay in the depths of her subconscious mind where it belongs, and the niggling feeling can stay where it is…there's nothing she can do about it as hard as she tries. So, when he begins dating the sandwich maker, Lou, the sight of them together elicits a dull ache that she would rather ignore than compartmentalize. You brought that on yourself, Walker, she chastises herself. After all, she had denied that their relationship was going anywhere, despite feelings toward the contrary - very, very deep-rooted feelings, but feelings that subsist nonetheless. However, she rationalizes, it was for his own good. And hers. Really. But with each successful date completed between two vertically-measured contradictions, those emotions become harder and harder to ignore. In his sly, subtly calm and inexplicable way, Chuck Bartowski has burrowed to the part of her that she thought disappeared the moment her real self ceased to exist and the kick ass CIA agent emerged from the ashes. Even with her fascia as proficient CIA operative, that niggling feeling that she's letting stew is slowly starting to consume her, and she doesn't quite know how to deal with such a development. Agency training and conventional wisdom are yanking in one direction as her heart tugs her in another. In the end, the force that pushes her towards that illicit end comes from the unlikeliest of sources: Casey.

Huffing at the slight dressing down Team Bartowski endured after a less-than smooth capture of their latest subject, Casey waited until their superiors had severed contact and Chuck had left the apartment to join Morgan in a Rock Band concierto of massive proportions (his words) before turning to Sarah, intent in his eyes. "Look, Walker, just tell him."

Too surprised at the very direct, very meaningful statement coming from Casey to feign ignorance, Sarah blurted the first thought that flashed through her mind. "What?"

"You two schmucks are driving me nutso with all this dancing around," Casey grunted. "Contrary to whatever Bartowski claims, I am not a robot incapable of human emotion. I can see how you two look at each other, and don't you dare try and deny it," Casey growled as Sarah opened her mouth to protest such a claim. "You two with your longing looks and lingering touches are worse than that damned soap opera about the rich kids," he grumbled. Pointing a finger at the now blank computer screen, Casey cocked an eyebrow. "And I wouldn't put it past Cagney and Lacey over in Washington that they can see it too."

Sarah withheld an audible gulp as she ruminated the consequences of such a development. Meekly, she posed the inevitable question. "Even if they can, they would have said something, so why haven't they?"

Casey shrugged, unsure of the answer himself. "Ignorance is bliss," he reasoned, "and our track record is spotless. Despite his…bumbling tendencies, Bartowski is actually adequate at what he does."

A nagging feeling struck Sarah as she mulled over Casey's warning. "Why are you telling me this, Casey?"

Casey stared down at his hands for a long moment before responding. When he looked up again, Sarah stifled surprise at the poignant emotion shining in the normally stony blue spheres. "I know what it feels like," he stated simply.

Sarah nods at the understated allusion to Ilsa, but she can't help but comment, "I distinctly recall a lecture about this exact subject that went a completely opposite direction it's going now."

"Look, I told you that the choice we made to protect something bigger than ourselves was the right choice, and it's true," Casey reasoned. "But keep in mind that you asked me." Casey poked one finger in his chest for emphasis. "What other answer did you expect? That I'd want the housewife, picket fence, and two-point-five?" Casey scoffed. "C'mon, Walker, I'm happy with my Crown Vic and Second Amendment rights. I may have forgone the American Dream to protect the ignorant yahoos of this country, but that doesn't mean I don't believe this job is worth walking away from if the right person came along." Casey shrugged. "I may not personally make that choice, but I'd never bar anyone from the option, either."

"So why tell me that then?" Sarah pressed.

"Look, Bartowski's situation was delicate at the time," Casey stated plainly. "We had a rogue branch of intelligence agents after the most valuable intelligence asset in the history of the United States, and you just found out Larkin was alive. I needed your head in the game, Walker, and that little spiel was supposed to be the kick in the pants that would get it back to where it had to be."

"Casey, was that a compliment?"

"Don't get used to it," Casey grunted. "I'm man enough to admit that you're a good agent, Walker, when you're not distracted by our asset…"

Ignoring the jab at the tail end of the compliment, Sarah resisted the urge to gape at the uncharacteristic bout of emotion spilling from the characteristically stoic NSA agent. "Casey…that's unnaturally sensitive and surprisingly insightful."

Casey's eyes narrowed. "Don't let it get out. I've got a reputation to uphold." Catching the immensely entertained gleam in Sarah's eyes, Casey all but growled. "Look, all I know is that a happy Bartowski is a less annoying Bartowski. Mopey Bartowski prompts me to observe my favorite Constitutional Amendment, and if I do that, the information we're so hell bent on protecting would be rendered a little more than useless. Then I would have to disappear real quick because you'd most likely chop my head off for harming a hair on his head." Casey leaned in, his patented smirk adorning his face. "So do me a favor and give me happy Bartowski?" The smirk widening on his face indicated exactly how Casey expected Sarah to produce a "happy" Bartowski.

To Casey's surprise, Sarah didn't recoil with disgust at the blatant innuendo, only cocked an eyebrow. In fact, she looked…amused. "You know, if I didn't know any better, Casey, I'd say you've grown actually fond of Chuck."

This time, Casey actually did growl. "Perish the thought from your mind, Walker. I'm simply looking out for the best interests of our country," he defended. "As much as it pains me to say it, Bartowski is a reliable and efficient asset. I will admit that we could have done a hell of a lot worse." Casey's glare turned sharp. "Plus a mopey you is gonna get everyone killed, including your lover boy."

The expression on Sarah's face shifted to alarm. "Casey…"

Casey shrugged unapologetically. "You tend to fall for the guys you work with, Walker. Known fact," Casey stated. "Bartowski is about two seconds away from throwing in the towel. So, by default, all burden would relegate to me."

"Thought you weren't interested, Casey," Sarah teased, her eyes lighting up with potent amusement.

"Still not," he answered. "But any man with a working penis can see you're not a bad looker, Walker."

Sarah wrinkled her nose, not even bother to disguise her discomfort. "That…was surprisingly disturbing,"

"Sweet mother of Ronald Reagan, you're starting to pick up on his speaking habits…" Casey muttered as he turned and headed out his apartment door amidst Sarah's laughter. "The espionage world is doomed."

And as Sarah's lids flutter open, and she's greeted with an eyeful of the adorably morning-tousled Chuck Bartowski, his lanky body curled protectively around hers, dwarfing her considerable height noticeably, she can't help but smile. That one curl that hugs his temple has fallen onto his forehead, and she brushes it away prompting a fluttering of his own eyelids as they shift and eventually part, leaving Sarah to stare into the soulful sepia of his eyes. As her own face greets his vision in his first moment of consciousness, Chuck smiles, his arms tightening around her torso, and his lips find her forehead in a chaste salutation. In that moment right there, that innocent, unobtrusive moment, she knows. Despite the warnings, despite the rather illicit nature of this affair, despite every threat that looms over their existence, if this is the sight she's privy to every day for the rest of her life, the espionage world can survive a doomsday or two.

And cut! Well, I hope you all liked the beginning of this fic. I admit, it's a new style for me, and I hope it makes some semblance of sense. Anyway, next up is sound. Stay tuned!