The cold piece of metal felt offensive to his hand. Lifeless, yet life-taking. It was something he dreaded, despite the many times he had used it in a virtual environment.

Despite his hatred of guns, he had to admit that the Colt 1911 was a graceful looking piece of weaponry. Graceful, yet deadly.

It was because of its deadliness that Chuck Bartowski had always resisted learning how to shoot a gun. Devin had tried to get him to go to the shooting range more than once. Sarah had suggested that he should get some training. Casey had almost dragged him to a range.

And yet, Chuck had always successfully avoided it – something for which he was cursing himself now.

It had all happened so fast. The black Land Cruiser had squealed around the corner, striking Devin and knocking him to the ground. He lay on the pavement, unconscious, bleeding, his right leg at an unnatural angle.

Masked men had exited the vehicle and forced Ellie and Sarah into the Land Cruiser at gunpoint. Then one of them had turned to Chuck and told him that if he ever wanted to see either of them alive again, he would call a number that had been e-mailed to him and tell the person who answered the location of the Intersect. He had till midnight to do it.

Then the Land Cruiser had gone flying down the street – and half a block away, it had been broadsided by a Metro bus that was trying to beat the light.

Chuck had stared in horror at the collision – and then realized that it gave him an opportunity. He started to move toward the accident when his foot hit something.

Looking down, he had seen Sarah's gun – her Colt 1911. She must have dropped it when the men grabbed her – whether accidentally or intentionally, he had no idea.

Reaching down to the pavement, he picked it up, and slowly but purposefully began to move toward the disabled Land Cruiser.

When he was about a hundred feet away, the back door popped out. Ellie leapt out and ran as fast as she could into the AM/PM on the corner. Good thinking, Ellie, Chuck thought, as he kept moving toward the Land Cruiser.

That was when two more figures exited the Land Cruiser. One of the masked men, moving with a distinct limp, dragged Sarah out of the Land Cruiser by the neck. She was conscious, but looked to be bleeding fairly heavily from the side of her head.

She saw Chuck coming toward her. "Chuck!" she yelled. "RUN!"

Chuck ignored her. There was absolutely no way he was leaving.

"YOU RUN, SHE DIES!" yelled the masked man. "In fact, you can either tell me where the Intersect is RIGHT NOW, or she dies!"

"Chuck, NO!" Sarah screamed. "You can't tell him!"

"I have no intention of telling him," Chuck replied. Closing his eyes and praying that he was doing it right, he flicked off the safety on the Colt handgun. When he didn't hear the clip clatter to the ground – like the LAST time he had tried to turn the safety on a gun off – he breathed a sigh of relief.

Chuck took a deep breath, and opened his eyes – and then, with reflexes and aim trained by years of playing myriad first person shooters, the Colt came up. Arms straight out, Chuck squeezed the trigger once – twice – three times –

The masked man staggered backwards, and then slumped against the door of the crushed Land Cruiser. He slid to the ground and was very still.

Sarah looked down at his prone form, and then at Chuck. The gun had dropped, but Chuck was just standing there, staring at the dead man, stunned.

Looking into the Land Cruiser, Sarah confirmed that the other two men were, in fact, either dead or too injured to move, and then took off running toward Chuck. Ignoring the pain in the side of her head and the slight dizziness she felt from blood loss, she covered the ground between them as quickly as she could.

"Chuck," she said quietly when she reached him. No response. "Chuck!"

"I… killed him…"

"Chuck, he would've killed me," Sarah said. "You did the right thing."

He shook his head, almost imperceptibly. "I killed another human being…"

Sarah sighed. She had always dreaded the thought of this happening, and now it had. "You did what you had to do, Chuck," she said, even though it was something he shouldn't have done. "You saved my life."

Gently, she wrapped her hand around the barrel of the Colt, prying it from Chuck's hands. She turned the safety on, and tucked it into the waistband of her jeans behind her back. "Come on, Chuck," she said. "Let's get you home."

By eleven, Sarah had Chuck in bed. He was still practically catatonic, only doing things when Sarah told him to. She was trying to be gentle and patient with him, but it really wasn't in Sarah's nature to do what she was doing right now.

Sarah wished that Ellie or even Casey was here to help her, but Ellie was at the hospital with Devin, and Casey had been sent off to figure out what the hell had happened that night, so Sarah was stuck taking care of Chuck on her own.

After getting Chuck in bed, Sarah turned to leave his room, having resigned herself to a night of sleeping on the Bartowskis' couch so that somebody would be there to monitor Chuck if need be. As she turned off the light, though…

"Sarah," Chuck said quietly.

She turned back around. "Yes, Chuck?"

"Please don't go."

Sarah sighed. As much as she cared about Chuck, this was getting to be a little draining. It didn't help that she had been taken hostage – however briefly – and had experienced some blood loss. She was herself exhausted.

Nonetheless, she knew that Chuck hadn't been trained to kill, probably had never expected to kill somebody, and she knew that she couldn't leave him alone right now. "Alright," she said quietly. "Do you want to talk?"

"Yeah," he replied. Sarah crossed back to his bed and sat down on the edge.

"What do you want to talk about?" she asked.

He was quiet for a moment. "What was it like the first time you killed somebody?" he replied.

Sarah raised an eyebrow. Of all the things she had thought he might say, that wasn't one of them. "Well…" she said. "I really don't know. The first time I killed somebody, I poisoned him. He didn't die until I was on a plane, heading to somewhere very far away. I didn't even know he had actually died until I saw it on the news."

"Wow, you really are a big bad spy," Chuck said, with a note of humor – thank God – to his voice.

Sarah shrugged. "I guess you could say that," she replied. "How are you feeling, Chuck?"

He sighed. "Guilty."

Sarah shook her head. "Why? The man you killed was a very bad person. He was probably Fulcrum, Chuck. He kidnapped me and Ellie, and he told you that he was going to kill me. Did you really have a choice?"

Chuck nodded. "You always have a choice."

Sarah smiled slightly. "That's true, Chuck. From a tactical standpoint, you made absolutely the wrong choice. You took an unnecessary risk, and quite honestly, General Beckman is probably going to rake you over the coals. You put the Intersect in danger to save an expendable asset."

Chuck sat bolt upright in bed, anger blazing behind his eyes. "Sarah, you are NOT an expendable asset."

Her smile got a little bigger. "The CIA sees things differently, Chuck. Any agent is expendable."

He shook his head in disbelief. "So what was I supposed to do? Walk away and let you die?"

Sarah sighed. "As far as the CIA is concerned… yeah."

Chuck almost laughed. "I could never do that."

"I know, Chuck," Sarah replied. "And believe me… I appreciate still being alive."

Chuck's expression grew almost inscrutable. "I… I don't think I could imagine life without you," he practically whispered.

"I know how you feel," Sarah said. "But for tonight, at least, you don't have to."


Sarah smiled again. "Promise."