Chuck vs. the Beautiful Letdown

Author's Note: okay, so how to explain the setting… this is sort of an AU of an AU, or if you prefer, the "Bizarro Bright Side-verse". In this setting, all the events of Season 1 exist, as do the events of the story The Seduction of Sarah Walker. However, this story diverges from that timeline before the events of Chuck vs. the Bright Side of Life. The story picks up immediately after the end of episode 1x13, "Chuck vs. the Marlin".

Chapter 1: The Beautiful Letdown

CAST (in order of appearance):
Sarah Walker – Yvonne Strahovski
John Casey – Adam Baldwin
Chuck Bartowski – Zachary Levi
Ellie Bartowski – Sarah Lancaster
Guy on Vincent Thomas Bridge – Greg Grunberg
Lester Patel – Vik Sahay
Morgan Grimes – Joshua Gomez

7:15 A.M., Pacific Standard Time

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Echo Park, Los Angeles, California

Sarah stood looking in through the window, not having a clue what to do. John Casey's footsteps receded across the courtyard as words from two very different men burned through her mind.

First was Chuck's insistence that she was part of his family. That touched her deeply, affecting her in a way that she should not allow herself to be affected. And really, if she allowed herself to be affected in that way, what hurt would she be exposing herself to? What would happen if Chuck ever found out about the many, many people she had killed and the thousands more whose deaths she was responsible for?

But then there was what Casey had said – about not being able to keep him there for much longer. Those words were even worse. They twisted in her gut like a knife sunk in to the hilt. She couldn't imagine the thought of Chuck being gone, the thought of walking into the Buy More one day and not seeing his smiling face looking back across the store at her.

It was why she had gone to the helipad in downtown. It was why she had had her hand on the butt of her gun, ready to draw it, ready to cause a .40 caliber hemorrhage in Agent Longshore if need be.

More than once since Christmas, as she had lain in bed, trying to fall asleep, the words had mockingly run through her head. You're in love with him, her mind told her. She refused to believe it. She refused to accept it, because she couldn't allow herself to be hurt.

And she knew that Graham and Beckman weren't going to give up on trying to extract Chuck from Los Angeles. Logically, she knew that they were right – he was in grave danger in the United States' second-largest city, and he could only truly be completely safe in a CIA facility.

But much as she wanted to, she couldn't let her heart overrule logic. It was too much of a risk.

She sighed as she turned away from the window. Her heart was heavy as she strode across the courtyard toward her car.

There was one way out of this. One way to rid herself of the entire situation in one fell swoop.

Doing this would require hurting Chuck far, far worse than she had ever hurt him before. The thought of doing so burned in the pit of her stomach. She consoled herself with the knowledge that though he would hurt for a while, after it faded, she would never be able to hurt him again.

If it was going to work, though, it had to be done quickly. She had to do this now, before she could stop herself, before HE could stop her. The worst part was that she wouldn't even be able to say good-bye.

Saying good-bye would just make it worse, though. And so, feeling as though her heart was turning to stone, she started up the Porsche, and headed for Long Beach.

7:45 A.M.

Chuck Bartowski really did not want to go to work that day. He had been up all night, trying not to get killed by Fulcrum or kidnapped by the CIA, and successfully hunting for Devin's great-grandmother's engagement ring – which now adorned his sister's hand.

He didn't really have a choice, though. He had missed so much of the previous day, running back and forth between Empire Plaza and the hangar at Bob Hope Airport where the CIA had moved the entire Buy More inventory. It had looked suspicious, and today, he absolutely had to go back to the store – and hope to God the CIA had returned everything.

"Slow down!" Ellie insisted as he shoveled his breakfast into his mouth. "You'll give yourself indigestion!"

"I'll give myself a late notice if I'm not in the store by 8:30," Chuck replied through a mouthful of pancakes. "You have no idea what Big Mike can be like when people are late."

Ellie had a thoughtful look on her face. Oh no, Chuck groaned inwardly. He hated it when she had those looks on her face. It meant nothing good.

"Why didn't you invite Sarah in this morning?" she asked her brother.

His eyes widened. "I did!" he protested. "She said she was tired and needed to go home and get cleaned up!"

Ellie shook her head and smiled. "That's when you insist," she replied. "Sarah would probably never admit it, but I guarantee you that she probably would've been very pleased if you'd asked her again."

Chuck sighed. "I will never understand all the rules."

"No, you won't," Devin interjected, walking into the kitchen. "There comes a time when you just admit defeat and say, 'Yes ma'am'."

"I do have you well trained, don't I?" Ellie said with a smile. Chuck shook his head and rolled his eyes.

Ten minutes later, he walked out the door, headed for the car. Casey came out of his apartment, backpack over his shoulder, as Chuck walked past.

"Didn't I just see you?" Casey cracked.

"It's been a long, long night," Chuck admitted. He hit the button to unlock the Herder's doors. Casey climbed into the shotgun seat as Chuck walked around to the driver's door.

Chuck backed the little Toyota out of its parking spot and put it in gear, heading down toward Sunset Boulevard. "Listen," Casey said as they drove out. "There's something I need to talk to you about."

"Let me guess," Chuck said dryly. "You're madly in love with me and can't contain your feelings any longer."

Casey actually chuckled. "I'm sorry," Chuck said, "was that a LAUGH I just heard?"

"I'm tired," Casey shot back. "And no, that's not what I need to talk to you about."

He paused for a moment, recomposing his serious attitude. "I was talking to Walker about something this morning. There's something that you need to be prepared for – the possibility, in fact, the likelihood that the powers that be will try to extract you again. We're going to do our best to keep that from happening, but I can't guarantee anything."

Chuck nodded slowly. "I understand," he said quietly. "Thank you for being honest with me, Casey."

"It's the least I can do, I suppose," Casey replied. "It's not like you got into this situation voluntarily."

9:15 A.M.

San Pedro, California

Traffic on the I-110 freeway was nothing short of nightmarish. Getting here, Sarah had had to cross the 101, the 10, the 105, the 91, and the 405. With each successive freeway, she just got more and more frustrated.

The more frustrated she got, the more she began to have doubts about this plan. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to hurt Chuck this badly just to keep him from getting hurt again?

She shook those doubts off, though. It had to be done. He had to be freed from the pain of being associated with her, and the CIA had to understand that they couldn't treat him this way any longer.

The exits crawled past at a torturously slow pace. Sepulveda Boulevard. Pacific Coast Highway. Anaheim Street. Figueroa Street. Gallery Street. Finally, there they were. The signs for the exits to California State Highway 47.

Sarah joined the seemingly endless queue of cars and trucks in the exit lanes for CA-47 eastbound. As the ramp looped around, she thought over things one last time. The plan would work. It had to work.

The highway went past one last exit – Harbor Boulevard, Sarah's point of no return. And then she saw the signs.

"VINCENT THOMAS BRIDGE", a green sign proclaimed boldly, indicating that this bridge, once dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere", was named for Vincent Thomas, former representative to the California State Assembly from San Pedro. And then there were the other signs.

They were smaller, and they were blue. There was one on each side of the highway, every five hundred feet. "Southern California Suicide Hotline – 1-877-727-4747".

Sarah tried to ignore those signs as her Porsche crawled past them at an agonizingly slow pace. She tried to look straight ahead, but she had to keep an eye on where she was going.

Finally, the bridge reached the end of the Catalina Terminal, and was out over open water. This was Sarah's destination.

She brought the Porsche to a halt, turned on the hazard lights, and engaged the parking brake. Taking a deep breath, she unbuckled her seatbelt, opened the driver's side door, and stepped out onto the highway.

Horns honked angrily behind her, but those quickly were silenced when she climbed over the guardrail on the side of the road. Sarah stood on the narrow strip of concrete between the guardrail and the support wire and willed herself to not look down.

A man popped out of the car behind hers. "What the hell are you doing?!"

"It's not what you think!" she shouted back.

"You don't have to do this, lady!"

"You don't understand!"

9:25 A.M.

Buy More Empire Plaza

Burbank, California

Lester came running into the store, flustered and out of breath. "Lester!" Chuck shouted when he saw him. "You're late! What the hell, dude?"

"No time, no time!" Lester replied, running up and grabbing the wall remote from Chuck's hand. Turning to the wall of twenty-four display plasma and LCD sets, he turned them all on, and began changing them all to either channel 4 or 7.

Both the NBC and ABC affiliates were helicopter shots of what Chuck immediately recognized as the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The line at the bottom of the KNBC shot said, "Possible Jumper on Vincent Thomas Bridge."

"Lester, what the hell," Chuck said. "That's not right, man."

"No, seriously!" Lester replied, turning up the volume from the KNBC-4 feed.

"Paul, the jumper appears to be a woman in her mid-twenties, blonde hair, dressed completely in black," came the voice of Paul Johnson, KNBC's traffic reporter. "She's apparently been on the bridge for less than ten minutes. We were in the area, covering an accident on the 405 freeway when the call came in."

KNBC anchor Paul Moyer said something in reply, but Chuck's attention had been lost. He was focused on one thing, and one thing alone – the fact that there was a blonde haired woman, dressed in black, standing on the edge of the Vincent Thomas Bridge… with a black Porsche 911 parked behind her.

"Oh God," he whispered. "Oh, God, no…"

Casey walked up behind him. "What the hell's going on?"

Chuck didn't say anything, couldn't say anything. He just pointed.

Casey looked at the screen, and then squinted. "No," he said in shock. "No, there's no way!"

That's when the woman pulled out her wallet and started pulling things out and tossing them over the edge. The camera on the KNBC helicopter zoomed in to catch an American Express Black card go fluttering toward the water –

And between the high definition camera on the helicopter and the high definition large screen television, there was no question that it was Sarah Walker standing on the edge of the bridge. A collective gasp filled the Buy More as most of its staff recognized her.

"Oh my God," Casey whispered. Chuck's legs gave way, and he fell to his knees, his stomach twisted in a knot, his heart filled with horror.

He watched as Sarah's wallet was flipped out into the bay. "You can't do this," he whispered. "Please don't do this…"

And then a thought occurred to him. "Did anybody see her throw her phone?" he asked, making his voice come out.

There was no answer. He forced himself to his feet and turned around. "DID SHE THROW HER FUCKING PHONE?!"

Morgan was the only one to speak. "I… I don't think so…"

Chuck yanked his iPhone from his belt and tried to dial. His trembling hands kept him from being able to do so, so he just hit the talk button and barked, "Sarah!"

Sarah had closed her eyes. This was going to be difficult. She had steeled herself –

And the Mexican Hat Dance began to sound from her pocket. Her eyes flew open, and she reached into her pocket. There was Chuck's smiling face looking at her from the iPhone.

She looked at the phone, and then up at the helicopter hovering so close to her. Her eyes welled with tears, and they spilled over, running down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry, Chuck. I'm so sorry."

"Oh my God… Paul… oh my God. She jumped."

To be continued…