Author's Note: Okay, so this was originally a one shot, but Sharpasamarble took the basic plot and the dialogue from it and put it in Chuck's perspective. If I may say so myself, it's utterly brilliant! So, just so I don't get in huge trouble, he wrote it, and gave me permission to post it. Thank you Sharp!
Extra note: If you didn't notice, this one is Chuck talking instead of Sarah!
Lost and Found:
For the longest time, I've been lost. I've been wandering in this world not knowing where I am going to end up. Everything was temporary: I would put in my time at the Buy More, thinking that I would move on after work. After work, I would hang out with Morgan or play video games until late at night. My five-year plan sat unfinished on my hard drive. I just never really recovered.
I always thought that Bryce was my kind of friend. He's gregarious, outgoing, and confident, three things that weren't exactly my strong suit before I met him. To top it off, we shared all the same interests: Star Trek, video games, school and good-natured fun. Bryce was the perfect friend at the perfect time.
He wasn't just my friend: he was the best friend I ever had. I learned from his strength and became more confident in myself. But now, looking back on my life with my friend, it was dysfunctional. We clearly didn't connect as I thought we had.
Bryce showed me that when he got me kicked out of school for no good reason, crushing my spirit and destroying nearly everything I had come to believe about my world.
When I first met Sarah, I naturally assumed that she wouldn't have a use for a guy like me, but I was mistaken. She had a use for me; it just wasn't the type of use I was hoping for. She didn't end up at the Nerd Herd desk by accident.
Still, for a cold-blooded secret agent, she was surprisingly empathetic. Her repeated demands for my trust were soon justified by the way she learned what was important to me. She didn't just protect my actual life: she protected the things that made my life worth living.
Bryce, on the other hand, took away those types of things, assuming he knew what was best for me.
Over time, I learned that Sarah wasn't just a beautiful woman. I learned who she was: caring, passionate, strong, capable, and nerdish in her own way. Don't get me wrong: I could stare at her endlessly and never tire, and she could never be half the nerd that I am. However, I would not find her nearly so beautiful if I hadn't discovered who she was.
But sometimes I'm reminded that I only see part of Sarah. Like Bryce, so much of Sarah stays hidden. With Bryce, it was a function of the person he was, something I'd missed over our years of friendship. With Sarah, it is a function of survival, of suppressing who she is because of the job she must do.
At times, I can't tell who she really is. I'm not sure she can, either.
Despite that, my heart tells me that I care for Sarah. I cannot wait for the day that she decides to drop her guards and she lets me in to unconditionally share herself with me. That just won't happen while I'm part of her mission, her asset, her task. Until she sees me as more than an assignment, I'll never know the real Sarah. That hurts.
I know that Sarah lives in a world I cannot fully comprehend. Trust, the very core of my life, is a luxury agents cannot afford. A partner is a designation reserved for an assignment, where accomplishing the goal outweighs the survival of the team. As such, an agent must look after the mission first, their personal safety second, and their partner third. That's the blessing of being an asset rather than a partner: I am the focus of Sarah's attention, her highest priority, but as a partner I would be her lowest priority.
The down side is that it's difficult to see where dedication to the mission ends and her feelings for me begin.
All I know is that Sarah's arrival shook me from my depression, and, from the way she treated me, she reminded me that I deserve to be happy.
I want it all. I want the dream wedding with the bride decked out in white, the two of us surrounded by family and friends as we pledge our love to each other. I want a house in the suburbs where I can cut the grass and sit on the porch swing and play video games in the basement. I want children who run out the door and clutch my legs with all their might when I come home, and I want a wife that inspires me to find little ways to make her happy day after day after day.
I want that life with Sarah, the woman that I love.
But whenever I bring up our feelings, Sarah always runs and hides. I try to back away and respect how difficult it is for her, but when I watch Sarah so selflessly put herself in harm's way, I worry that there will never be a tomorrow to have the conversation.
I try to hide my frustration, but Sarah is too observant and I wear my heart on my sleeve too often. Despite myself, I'm losing my determination to pursue the topic, knowing how much it hurts her every time I bring up the subject. Instead, I try to internalize the hurt to protect her from it, but I know I'm beginning to lose hope.
The revelation of her feelings for me had just recently happened, so I decided to bring up the subject once more. I was determined to push this conversation to the limit; I didn't know if I had the strength to bring it up again.
"Please Sarah." I beg, my eyes slowly filling with tears. The conversation seemed to get harder and harder for me every time, despite the series of rejections. "Give me one legitimate reason why we can't be and I'll leave it. We'll be nothing more than friends. I promise."
Again, the agent wins out over the woman. With a deep breath, she says, "Chuck, we just can't."
I stood up and paced, trying to keep my emotions in check. If she is going to be rational, so can I. "Reasons, Sarah. Just remind me of the reasons for the twentieth time so that I can shut them down and prove my point." I request, managing to conceal all but a bit of frustration.
She sighs, realizing I am not going to be so easily dissuaded. "Okay, Chuck. First off, if Graham were to find out, I'd have my ass on a silver platter. I'd be reassigned and you'd stand more of a chance to go into an underground bunker where you won't get the daily pleasure of breathing in the fresh outdoor air."
I dismiss her answer, a canned response she has given so many times before, and walk into my kitchen to get a bottle of water. I carefully put together a neutral response to her objection.
"Nope. You see, Sarah, Graham doesn't have to find out, and they already believe that our cover is boyfriend-girlfriend. You wouldn't have to leave." Having defeated that point, I sat on the floor, leaning against the wall, to prevent myself from any more nervous pacing.
"Well, then I'd be compromised. Which would end up just the same. I'd be reassigned and you'd be left with Casey and the General who wants to have you terminated."
"If we keep it secret, why is being compromised a big deal?"
I can see I'm pushing her slightly, which is necessary. Sarah is not one to give up a fight easily, something I cherish even when her strength is aligned against me. "It can get us killed. If I'm shown to be compromised, then it can get one of both of us killed on a mission by the distraction of my feelings."
I stare at my water bottle; I have a perfect answer. I just need to be gentle with my response; when pushed too hard about her feelings, Sarah retreats into her shell.
"Sarah?" I say, as I continue to play with my bottle.
"Aren't you already compromised? I mean, since we have to actually have this conversation, doesn't that mean that you're compromised?"
Her face concedes the point, but sure enough, the emotions start to rise. Don't run, Sarah. Please don't hide.
She remains quiet for a long moment, the subtlest of emotions flickering in her bright blue eyes. Fear gives way to hope gives way to anguish gives way to longing. The emotions shift so quickly, I can barely follow, but I have hope that the woman is standing toe-to-toe with the agent.
If she is fighting, there is a chance I can win.
Ultimately, I can take it if she decides her duty needs to win. At least, I think it can. I just want to know that she's giving it serious consideration rather than rejecting it out-of-hand, because that's just what agents do. The only thing that would hurt more than losing Sarah is losing her without her ever really thinking it through.
She finally speaks again. "It'd be harder on the both of us when I have to leave."
Her answer irritates me. "Don't you think it's already going to be hard now? Sarah, I'm in love with you, and have been for a while now. Whether you leave in two hours, in two months or in two years, it's going to hurt. All I'm asking for is your trust, Sarah. Your trust and your love."
I had been rougher with her than I ever wanted to be. I never wanted to demand anything from Sarah, but I felt I had no choice.
I couldn't believe I had confessed my love, but if there were a time, this was it. I held my breath.
She curled into a ball on the bed, trying to hide her suddenly damp cheeks from me. My heart catches as she starts to speak. "I'm scared." she whispers, so quietly I could barely hear her.
Hope swells in my chest. "Sarah," I say as gently as I can as I cross the room, kneeling before her. "Let me protect you. I won't hurt you, I promise."
She leans into me, so I both feel and hear the small sob escaping her lips. I wrap my arms around her and rub her back, trying to convey all my love for her with every touch.
"I-I... Don't... I'm no good at..." she stutters, unable to form a complete sentence.
As sweetly as I can, I plead, "Please trust me Sarah. We'll go through everything together, I just need you to put your trust in me. I think I've earned that much, right?"
She gives a small nod in response, her cheek and hair rubbing against my shirt.
"Good." I continue to hold her close, fiercely and gently all at the same time.
Gradually, she calms down and the tears stop. Needing to look into her eyes, I guide her up from my chest and let every last emotion shine in my smile. "Well, it seems to me that you haven't given me a good enough answer, so I guess you'll just have to try this out with me, huh?"
"Okay. I guess." she laughs.
I never dreamed that those three words would be the ones that would touch my heart so deeply. While the words sounded tentative, there was undeniable power and strength as she gazed into my eyes.
Sarah saved me from the unhappiness of my past. She protects me from the danger of my present. She is now my future as well.
I now know for sure that Sarah will be the one sitting next to me on the porch swing of our suburban house as we listen to the cries of happy children playing in the yard. But for now, we'll take one step at a time. Together.