In the Valley of the Shadow - Prologue

She could not believe what a stupid idea this was. They had JUST gotten him out of there, and now, not only did he want to go charging back in, but he had gotten her partner AND their boss to agree with him?!

It was as if he was bound and determined to get himself killed. Sure, she could understand his motivations – it was his dad that he was going after. However, she didn't know what she would do if he got killed. She had reached a point where she couldn't imagine life without him.

She asked her partner to get him home, since the two of them lived in the same apartment complex, and then roared off into the Los Angeles night, her Porsche's engine sending a howl through Burbank. Her anger practically streamed out of her and into the Porsche's steering wheel.

She blasted through the Valley, and then headed south on Laurel Canyon, over the hills. Before she knew it, she was on Sunset, turning into the parking garage of the Standard. Ignoring her common sense's attempt to override what she was doing, she headed upstairs and went directly to the Purple Lounge.

As she entered the bar, she was unaware of a set of very attentive eyes watching her. Those eyes belonged to one Adelle DeWitt, the director of a much-rumored, very real, and extraordinarily secretive Los Angeles branch of an institution known simply as the Dollhouse.

Adelle watched the tall, striking blonde cross the lounge and go directly to the bar. She couldn't hear what the woman was saying, but a moment later, the bartender placed a large tumbler of something that looked to be very potent on the bar…

Which the blonde proceeded to pick up and drain in one go. "Interesting," Adelle mused, raising an eyebrow. As the blonde called for a refill on whatever it was she had just drained, Adelle removed her cell phone from her purse and dialed a number.

"Hello?" the sleepy answer came a moment later.

"Topher," Adelle said, a note of reprimand in her voice. "Were you really already asleep?"

The scientist on the other end of the call sighed. "It's after midnight, Ms. DeWitt," he replied. "I was tired, and there was nothing good on the tube. I think I'm entitled."

Adelle clucked her tongue disapprovingly. "Still bad for business, young man," she stated. "Nonetheless. Do we have any outstanding engagements that call for a tall, fit, and shall I say, well-endowed blonde?"

Topher chuckled. "Are you kidding?" he asked. "We have a list as long as my… uh, my arm of clients who want an engagement with somebody like that."

Adelle raised an eyebrow at the nearly crude comment, and sighed. "Very well," she said. "I may have a candidate coming your way before too long."

As Adelle hung up the phone, she watched the blonde down the third iteration of whatever it was she was drinking – and it was clearly starting to get to the woman. Head down and shoulders slumped, she walked to a table, stumbling slightly, and sat down.

Seeing an opening, Adelle rose and crossed to the bar. "Excuse me," she said to the bartender. "What has that woman been drinking?"

The bartender snorted. "Are you kidding?" he asked. "Four ounces of Dr. Pepper and a shot of 151. One more of those, and we might have to pour her out of here."

"Really," Adelle replied with a smile. "Do me a favor, and make another one of them… except, this time, put two shots in."

"Uh…" The bartender looked uncertain. "I don't know if that's such a…"

His voice trailed off as Adelle adeptly slid a hundred dollar bill across the counter. "On second thought, no problem," the bartender revised, making the hundred dollar bill disappear quickly.

A moment later, he handed Adelle a glass. "Four ounces of Dr. Pepper, two shots of Bacardi 151," he said. "You're not going to…"

Adelle shook her head. "Don't worry, she'll be just fine."

Drink in hand, Adelle crossed to the table where the woman was sitting. "I believe you were drinking this?" she said, pulling out the chair across from the woman.

The woman raised her head from the table, revealing reddened eyes and a tear-streaked face. Without a word, she reached out, took the drink from Adelle, and downed it rapidly. "Are you alright?" Adelle asked, a note of concern in her voice.

"Not particularly," the woman said quietly.

"I'm very sorry," Adelle replied. "If I may ask, what's wrong?"

The woman looked up at Adelle, and Adelle could see a flicker of uncertainty cross the woman's face. "You can trust me," Adelle promised.

The woman nodded. "Alright," she said. "It's just… there's this guy… and it seems like I always hurt him… or he always hurts me. And I just don't want to hurt anymore."

I couldn't have had a better opening if I scripted it myself, Adelle thought in amazement. She reached across the table and took the woman's hand in her own. "What if I told you… I can make the pain go away?"

"What?" the woman asked, cocking her head to the side. "How… you wouldn't hurt him, would you?"

Adelle smiled. "My dear, I don't even know who he is," she replied. "And if you come with me right now, I can make sure you never get hurt by him again."

The woman looked down at the table, a struggle taking place behind her clear blue eyes. Finally, she looked back up at Adelle. "You promise you won't hurt him?"

"I promise," Adelle said quietly, standing from the table and extending a hand. As the woman stood, Adelle asked, "What's your name?"

Adelle barely heard the whispered reply as the woman exited the bar in front of her. But she said it just loud enough.

"Sarah," the woman said softly. "My name is Sarah Walker."

Author's note: This story begins immediately after Chuck Bartowski convinces General Beckman to allow his team to pursue his father at the end of "Chuck vs. the Dream Job". The story's timeline is a few days after the events of the Dollhouse episode "Needs".