A/N - I don't own Chuck and if I did, it would come back for eight seasons! I don't have a beta so all mistakes are mine. This is my first foray into fanfic since Buffy so be gentle and please review. Its post Chuck vs the Ring and unabashedly Charah.

The End is only the Beginning

Story One - Chuck vs Torture, Exquisite and Otherwise

Tag – Somewhere in the Mojave Desert 1 km underground (6.42 pm, 28th April 2009)

Chuck strained against the ropes tying him to the chair, to no avail. All it got him was more rope burns and the jarring did not help the skull fracture he knew he had acquired when Eduards, the Ring henchmen hit him with the lead pipe sometime back. He just hoped the distraction he initiated back at the caves was enough for Sarah and Casey to escape and plan for his eventual rescue, just like old times. Let's face it, despite the new upgraded intersect, he still could not predict the type of Flashes he could receive. So, when he saw Eduards Krasts about to shoot Casey, the Latvian he began spouting while distracting, really did not give him the skills to disarm the bad guy, but at least it gave Sarah the opportunity to tackle Casey and roll behind the closing metal doors. He could still picture the horror on Sarah's face as the door descended and could see her scrambling to reinsert herself only to be pulled back by Casey before her legs were trapped. He thought he heard her frantically screaming his name and wanted to call out only to feel the pipe connect forcefully to the side of his head. He had woken up about five minutes ago tied to a chair in what was probably a holding room cum torture chamber. Chuck could see chains hanging from the walls and faded reddish stains on the floor. This was so not good but he had to have faith that Sarah was coming.

He only hoped she would get there before any bad things occurred. Chuck knew that he was brave but he also knew that bravery meant knowing your threshold and for Chuck Bartowski, his threshold for pain was low. The only time he knew he would ever be able to hold out (although he hoped that it would never ever get to that point) was if the choice was Sarah or him. He would endure anything for her. He had for the better part of two years anyway endured the exquisite torture of the fake but really real relationship. Loving her and knowing she could not or would not love him back had hurt. But the greatest hurt was seeing the light go out of her blue eyes when she realized he had flashed in the intersect room. He did not know then that his choice to reintersect himself would lead to Sarah again having to put duty before love. That the anguish he saw was because Sarah had acknowledged that with that flash, Chuck 's safety was again her top priority and not their happiness.

The Castle, 9 hours earlier, 28th April 2009

Chuck always knew that when Sarah made a choice, she stuck by it and did her utmost to excel and be the best. He saw that in the way she had taken on the mantle of his protector and even in the mundane cover job of serving yogurt she had to undertake. So he was no longer afraid that Sarah would not acknowledge her love for him. Chuck was oblivious to many things but he could tell that she was going to stay the minute she told him in no uncertain terms that she did not want to save the world. Bryce's confession that Sarah was not going to join him only solidified Chuck's view. The kicker of it all was that Chuck did not realize the extent of Sarah's love for him. It was not really his fault that he could not comprehend that she would sacrifice anything so that he could live. Hence, he had been so proud of his reading of Sarah that at the briefing that morning, when she told General Beckman that she totally (completely, madly) had feelings for Chuck and needed to admit it. All he could do was smile that silly lopsided smile that only graced his face when he was well and truly happy. He was so in the zone that her next words did not fully register until a full minute later.

"Due to my feelings for Chuck, I have come to realize that I have the skills you require to end this. What I am trying to say General, is that I have reviewed the mission specs and I will commit to act as the intersect decoy as planned. I understand I need to lay a trail in Zurich and will leave tomorrow night."

The double take he did would have done the stooges proud. The General had already acknowledged and approved Sarah's request and was not happy when Chuck cut in "Hey, Ho, Hi, Zurich, it…. I …what??? Sarah can't leave, not after.." He trailed off as Beckman raised her brow as she was wont to do.

"Mr. Bartowski, Agent Walker has volunteered for this not because she wants to but because she knows she has to. Chatter we have been intercepting since you uploaded the intersect show sleeper cells being activated with the main focus of finding both Bryce Larkin a newly created intersect cube. That cube which you uploaded and then handily destroyed. They are coming for you Mr. Bartowski even if they don't know who you are as yet. The number of cells we have tracked, that we know of, just hit 32. It's only a matter of time. Agent Walker's affiliation to Bryce and his death will be leaked out in order to draw any suspicion away from you. To give you time…"

Chuck took a deep breath and tried again. "If Bryce had uploaded the intersect, Sarah's role was not as a decoy, correct?" The General nodded and Chuck plowed on, "So what's different now? Why can't Sarah lead the intersect project with me? Why need a decoy?"

"Would you like to field that question Colonel Casey? You had had some choice comments but overall, you also approved the plan…?" Chuck's second double take, this time towards Casey was even more pronounced.

"Because Bryce (Chuck count not fathom how much disdain Casey could put into that one syllable name but apparently, it was a lot) was a trained spy who spent a better part of 5 years in the field and the new intersect was build to enable that prick (TM Casey smirk) to be his own one man army against the Bad guys. Its trigger is not only visual or auditory but also driven by action. With his enhanced skills and Walker as his backup, they were going to covertly hunt each and every terrorist cell out there. You are not Bryce, you may know Kung Fu but you not going to be able to pull the trigger and you know it" Casey stressed the last point by stabbing his index finger at Chuck's chest before continuing.

"I'm not saying you can't learn how to do that but am not really sure you want to…Walker here thinks otherwise and to buy you time (again with the index finger) , decided to volunteer as target practice in order for you to undergo some training so that you can live up to your decision. She's the only one who has both a connection to Bryce and an understanding of how the intersect works in order to fool anyone for an extended period. This plan is all kinds of stupid because it puts the target in constant danger and personally, I think its suicide (this little gem was directed at Sarah whose only acknowledgement was her clenched fists) but what do I know…"

Chuck was shaking his head when Sarah finally decided to speak. "Chuck, Chuck, listen to me. I have to do this. This is what Bryce died for and you need to be ready for yourself and for your family. Ellie, your dad, they all need you to be ready."

"Ready for what?" Chuck was almost shouting. He could not believe that not only was Sarah leaving him but she was going to be hunted by the Ring and what was left of Fulcrum, because she was going to pretend to be the intersect. "Can't we just leak that the intersect was destroyed, that its over…"

This time, it was the General who answered "But is not over, Mr. Bartowski. You chose to upload it and we will use it to hunt down the Ring. They will eventually know that its still out there and do everything in their power to get it. Your father.."

Chuck cut her off, "Leave my father out of it", " Not that Steven Bartowski could be brought back in anyway. He had really meant it when he told Chuck that he could not stay. Chuck knew that his dad had already paid too high a price and Chuck finally understood what his father had faced, the difficult choices he had to make culminating in his decision to leave his family. Bringing his father into this mess he had created was unacceptable. This time, he could not blame Bryce. He had made the decision and now it seemed like he had to face the consequences.

"We may do that if you cooperate but I can't speak for the Ring" The General trailed off letting the words and implied threat seep into Chuck's consciousness.

"So what then? You send one of your best operatives on a suicide mission? That's like Casey said, all kinds of stupid. Why not just put me in a bunker?"

"Chuck, no" Sarah needed to stop this before Chuck said another word. "I can do this, I need to do this, for you and…" She was not afraid to say it. She had just told a three star General that she, Sarah Walker was completely and totally in love with Chuck Bartowski (not in those words of course but for once, she was the one to admit it, out loud, no less). She wanted to tell Chuck that she was doing it for them so that they could eventually live the life he always wanted. "..and to make sure that you have a chance to come out of this alive" She should have said so many other things but she could not make a promise she may not be able to keep.

"At whose expense, Sarah?" Chuck had never really been angry at Sarah. Sure, he had been frustrated and definitely discouraged and upset in equal measure, during their time together. But this was different, he wanted to scream at her, to take her by her shoulders and shake as much sense into her as possible. In the end, he looked straight at her and through clenched teeth, spat out "You expect me to go about my life, my job knowing that you're out there risking your life in order to draw attention away from me. You expect me to remain quiet and go about my duty while you trade your life for mine?" The last part was punctuated with Chuck's fist pounding the table between them.

Sarah realized her mistake then. She had been so certain that hearing it this way would make Chuck understand that this was the only way she could almost (and in her mind, that was good enough odds) guarantee his safety. She could stay alive long enough for Casey to train Chuck and feed the CIA information to take out the Ring. But she really should have known that Chuck, sweet, lovable, honorable Chuck would not let her sacrifice herself. She had to change his mind and she knew that when he found out what she was just about to do, he would never forgive her.

"I promise you I will come back" It really wasn't one of those bald faced open lies. It was built on the smallest grain of truths as Sarah had bequeathed all her possessions and ashes to Chuck in the event of her death. She had not wanted to make him responsible for her ashes but in the end understood that he would need closure and just in case, she had made Casey promise that he would be the one to deliver it and also ensure Chuck understood that he had to move on. She really wanted to come back. She finally had something to come back to and for a small moment she really believed that she would and that belief imbued her statement with such conviction that Chuck's expression softened immediately.

The General sensing a shift immediately moved on to the next set of instructions. "Good, now on to you last mission before Agent Walker leaves. Through our interrogation of the agents that Mr. Bartowski immobilized last night, (She really could not hide the slight look of disbelief crossing her features but at least she had altogether stopped calling him the asset) we have some information of a cell in your back yard. Apparently it's an information transmission base. This should be a relatively standard op, seek and destroy all targets and shut down the transmitters. Location has been sent to your GPS. Mr. Bartowski should assist on this, strictly as an observer (and there it is, the new tune of stay in the car, Chuck) to see if any new skills can be triggered via surveillance "

"Copy that" Casey answered before switching off the screen. "I'm gonna …" Casey decided not to finish that sentence knowing that the two other people in the room only had eyes and ears for each other anyway. He really wanted to rib Chuck on his hissy fit in front of the General and also goad Sarah into one of her defensive excuses but deep down he knew well enough that he had to let this slide. Tomorrow night, Sarah was gone, maybe for good and both of them needed to come to terms with that in whatever time they had left. No time for anything else and besides, with Sarah occupied, he could scope out all the best guns for himself.

"Sarah", "Chuck". As usual, they started talking over each other. Chuck held up his hand and continued, knowing that he had to get the words out.

" I love you Sarah. I think you know that but it needs to be said, by me. And I think I understand what you're trying to do here but what I don't understand is that I think you love me enough to put you life on the line but not enough to stay?"

Sarah reached out and touched Chuck's cheek. She could feel the faint bristle forming at his jaw. All she really wanted to do right now was to take him back to her hotel but she had to talk first. To at least share some part of herself with him and give him some measure of closure just in case. She hated this part, never really got used to sharing her feelings. She never had need to growing up with her father. He would always call her Darlin' or Sweetheart and for her part, cooking, cleaning and taking part in whatever con was going on was proof enough of her love for him. With Bryce, it was mostly physical. As long as she kept up on the job and watched his back, off hours were spent just burning off excess energy. It wasn't to say that Bryce did not try to talk and get to know her but the little information she doled out was just enough to keep him at bay and to ensure that her heart was still protected. But all those measures didn't really work with Chuck. He had broken through years of CIA training and even the hard shell her father taught her to acquire. He had made it almost impossible to not want to share things with him. And the irony was that when she was finally ready to do that, she had to choose between his life and their happiness. That was what she needed to explain to him now, that although it was not a difficult choice, it was the right one.

"I know you think the decision I made is wrong but you're Chuck, you can do anything (she's echoing his words and all he wants to do is hold her and never let go) and you need to accept this because you know it's the only way I can live with myself. I am a great agent and I can do this and I may, no, I will come back to you because I'll be damned if I'm going to give you up" with that, she pulled him into a kiss and put as much of what she did not/could not say into it, to show just how much she loved him.

Although what Sarah was saying still did not make total sense (he agreed she was a great agent and that if she felt that she could save him, she would jump at the chance), but Chuck also knew that once she made up her mind, he would not have a shot at changing it. Sure, he would wear her down, but right now, he knew that saying anything else would just waste the precious time they had left. So he grabbed onto her jacket and swung her up. Her legs automatically curled around him as h carried her into the infirmary.

It was four hours later when they emerged, sated but not comforted by the passing of the time. Casey had busied himself in loading the Suburban with all kinds of weaponry and mapping out their entry and extraction points in great military detail. Walker and Bartowski seemed to have reached some kind of truce and by the sounds that emanated from the infirmary, had finally scratched that itch.

Suffice it to say that Casey needed to kill something and quickly. His partner was going on a suicide mission, he was going to be stuck with Captain Moron and his more idiotic brother in law Captain Awesome Moron and best yet, he knew that Chuck would be depressed for the better part of the time and to top it all off, should Walker end up dead (God forbid the chump who pulled the trigger), not only was it his job to deliver the news but he had to stay to ensure Chuck moved on (like that was ever going to happen). So because of the heroic Moron's, well heroism, Walker was off to play human target and his resume just added agony aunt to his job description. So all in all, Casey really needed to carry his big guns and shoot the crap out of something because Ilsa was still in Paris or Paraguay or the Philippines and he still needed to do something to blot of the heaviness he was carrying due to the loss of 3 of his team yesterday.

He had used some of the time to write the letters of condolences himself but what could he really say. I'm sorry for your loss, it was unfortunate that your son, husband, brother, father was standing between an evil shadow organization and information that we need to make the world a safer place for his family and all the other families out there. So he went with the template provided but could not help but add one last sentence, I promise you that I will ensure that he did not die in vain. Not much to read from that, but Casey knew what it meant. It meant that although he did not want to see Walker dead, he knew she would be better used out there drawing them out and taking them down while he worked with Chuck to improve the odds in their favor. He considered taking her place, had even asked her if she really understood the ramifications of her decision. Casey could not argue with logic though, his skill set was more along the line of breaking things and she was the one with the deep cover experience. He couldn't do covert and he did not have the patience to wait. Walker could and although he knew it was (definitely) killing her to leave, she would do it to ensure that Chuck, Ellie, Awesome hell even the hobbit Morgan and perv Jeff were protected. He had meant what he said to her when she asked about family that one time. They were working for a greater good and that was enough for him. He just hoped that the past four hours was enough to see her through the hell she was going to have to face.

"Now that the both of you got that out of your systems, listen up. Bartowski you're"

"Staying in the car, I was at the meeting you know"

"Wasn't sure if Walker screwed that piece of info out of you" Casey shot back and noticed that Sarah ducked her head trying to hide the blush creeping up her cheeks.

"Walker" Sarah's head shot up, mouth already forming a few choice words which she held off when Casey winked at her and immediately, he could see her features school back into cool agent mode.

Sarah was not really sure how Casey was going to react to what she and Chuck just did. Deep down, she knew that for all his blustering, Casey respected Chuck and wanted to see him survive this assignment. So sleeping with Chuck could either turn him into a wallowing mess of indecision or it would strengthen his resolve to do his job and let her do hers. She was banking on the latter and hoped Casey's read on the situation also pointed that way. To be perfectly honest (and wouldn't that be something for a change) Sarah did not do it because it was her job or because it made her leaving ok. She did it because it would sustain her for the next few years. She was selfish to want that, knowing that it could affect Chuck the wrong way but deep down, she really hoped that her heart (which was the biggest surprise in allowing her to feel and reciprocate in kind) had not failed her and the decision to follow it was the right one. So when she saw Casey wink, she held her tongue and waited for his next words.

"About damn time! (He could have been referring to them taking too much time but because of the wink, she figured that Casey approved and the smile she gave him was one of her finest) And just so you know, the Castle surveillance system suffered a disruption at 10 am. I think Jeff may have found another one of my small explosives! Anyway, we have to go in blind, audio in only with no audio out so that we don't announce our presence. Chuck, you staying in the car mean you are our eyes and ears."

"So I am the boss of you" Chuck small smile turned larger when he heard Casey's grunt at that retort. Chuck knew that the happiness he was feeling would be fleeting. That Team Bartowski was facing one last mission before disbanding. However, he finally realized that knowing Sarah loved him (like really loved him body and soul) was a great start and even if they could not be together just yet, it gave him impetus to move on, not only with his life (which let's face it was in a holding pattern long before she came) but also with their future. He needed to prepare for Sarah's homecoming. She was leaving but she had promised him she would come back.

Back in the Mojave Desert 1 km underground (7.02 pm, 28th April 2009)

Chuck knew daydreaming about Sarah was the last thing he should be doing. Truth be told, leaving the Suburban was also on the list of things he should not have done. However, Casey's initial plan of him being their eyes and ears was all for naught when his mic signal cut out as soon as Sarah and Casey entered the compound. He had asked them to signal him but all he saw was Casey and Sarah crouched next to each other conversing in that spy military mix of hand signals and facial movements that always left him confused and in most cases just focusing on Sarah's eyes because of their expressive nature. Only after he saw Sarah turn toward him and shrug her shoulders while indicating to her earpiece did he realize that his audio signal was probably jammed and they were really going in blind.

After five minutes of reciting the mantra of "Stay in the car", Chuck gave up, exited the vehicle and slowly made his way to the hideout. He could hear faint voices coming from within the cave and stealthily, he crept nearer until someone literally swept him off his feet. His yelp was silence by the large palm placed across his mouth and only after seeing Sarah come into focus did he relax into the pull knowing that Casey was behind it.

"Guys, the mic's not working.."

The semi murderous look on Casey's face coupled with Sarah's arch eyebrow and exasperated sigh caused Chuck to quickly finish his sentence "..So I thought you could use the new Intersect up close and personal like" Now Sarah's blush lent new meaning to his words and Casey's reply grunt (number 94, "I am the only one that makes good double entendre quips, moron").

"I mean." Chuck tried to back pedal only to have Sarah's finger land on his mouth.

"Its ok Chuck, at least with you here, we know that you can't be grabbed from the car or go off by yourself leaving us a back in five minutes note" Sarah smiled, trying to temper her next words "But we still don't know what the new Intersect can do for you, its still too unknown a quantity to take risks so you have to stay hidden while Casey and I try and take out these guys, ok?"

So that's what Chuck ended up doing for the better part of forty five minutes, cowering behind a rock near the back of cave while Sarah and Casey did their job. He should have known that things don't always turn out according to plan, things in his life never did and what happened next was testament to this.

He had heard Casey's voice and was about to step out from his hiding place when he actually realized what Casey was saying

"Your team is dead, you can kill me but the minute you step out of here, you're a dead man too"

Chuck carefully peered over the rock to see Casey, hands held up, sporting a nasty cut under his left eye. He could feel the beginning of a Flash when Casey's captor came into view.

Red tint, cockatoo, the London eye, secret dossier with the word assassin highlighted, war crimes tribunal findings, cockatoo.

Chuck had expected the Flash to end then, but what happened next took him by surprise. He could see binary numbers in his minds eye and suddenly thousands of sounds echoing in his head such that a minute later, he knew for a fact that he could speak Livonian Lettish, the exact dialect spoken by one Eduards Krasts, freelance assassin and war criminal, now working for a corporation known as Orbis International. Unfortunately, Chuck also realized that the Kung Fu Flash from yesterday seemed to have been over-ridden and the only reminder of the ability remained in his memory banks but he was sure that the physical ability was not there anymore.

Eduards, with his gun trained on Casey moved towards the entrance where he began to enter a code in the electronic panel there and Chuck knew that he had to do something when Eduards once again trained his gun on Casey and cocked it. Two things happened almost simultaneously, Chuck jumping out of his hiding space shouting at Eduards in Latvian, to stand down as Sarah jumped towards Casey, her forward momentum pushing them towards the closing entrance. All of which brought him back to his present predicament.

The sound of the key turning in the lock made him sit up a bit more straight and Chuck could not hide the audible gulp as he exhaled. Eduards Krasts did not look like a kind man and the small billy club in his hands did not look good either.

"You are finally awake?"

Chuck did not realize the question was posed in Lettish until he answered back fluently, " I really wish I wasn't"

Eduards smiled at that, it had been a long time since he had spoken his native tongue and it brought back different memories from those that plagued him now. He knew he needed answers as to who this man and his companions were and he knew that he had to get them soon. His bosses were not patient people and this fellow countryman tied to the chair was all that was standing between his next assignment and his own potential termination. He needed to know why his teams of eleven agents were now down to two. Oskar was busy transmitting as much data to Zurich before setting off the timers and it was up to him to find out how they were compromised and then request for further instructions. They had lost visuals from the surface but their scanners indicated no explosives near by. The two other interlopers were trapped outside and he had just enough time to get the information he wanted. The transmitter in the room would feed information to Oskar and then to their masters in real-time.

"I will have to ask you questions that you will need to answer" and with that, Eduards swung the club, connecting with the side of Chuck's cheek.

The exploding pain was only mitigated by the surprise of the blow but in the end, Chuck felt every inch of the impact and could feel blood dripping out of the newly formed cut. "You.." taking a deep breath, "You didn't (breathe Bartowski) ask me anything" Chuck knew that this would get painful and all he could do was pray that Sarah and Casey would come soon.

"That was just to demonstrate that I have no patience. Your comrades are trapped outside a 3 inch thick steel door" Again the club swung, this time connecting with his torso before arcing upwards to hit his jaw. Chuck jerked in the chair (Sarah, where are you…).

"I get that, I really get...." another breath, this time he could feel the twinge from his ribs. Potential concussion, loose tooth and broken ribs he catalogued in his head, his eyes wary and focused on the club. "What…do ..you ..want to… know?"

Mojave Desert, Cave entrance 7.02 pm

"Almost through"

Sarah could not believe that Casey had packed the high grade acetylene torch. Not that she was complaining. Chuck was behind that door and she really needed to get to him. About half an hour has passed since she tackled Casey and looked on with growing horror as the lead pipe connected to the side of Chuck's head. She had wrested herself away from Casey and began hitting the door with her bare fists. She didn't even notice the pain until Casey had to forcibly restrain her. "Walker, suck it up and get your head back or Chuck will die. I have something in the car that we can use. I need you to disable the cameras so they won't know we're coming. Can you do that!"?

She wasn't sure if she could articulate anything so she just nodded. Casey had come back with the torch and got to work and all she had done was disable the cameras, arm herself with as much firepower as she could carry and review the loop in her head of Chuck getting hit and captured because she had not been vigilant enough to stop it. It was almost a relief when Casey burned through the door. She could make amends to Chuck, find him before anything else happened.

Casey had confirmed four kills and she had confirmed five on her end. Her sweep did not highlight anymore tangos although Casey could not be certain as he had been jumped before completing his sweep. The base was relatively basic with the main cave at the surface and 2 subterranean rooms. Sarah had cleared the holding area cum torture chamber (Casey had seen the way she flinched when she recounted what she thought the room was used for). Casey had done most of the main chamber but had been caught before he could accomplish his full sweep. Odds were that there was only one tango left. Since Sarah had already familiarized herself with the layout, she took point and swiftly made her way to the elevator shaft once again, knowing that it would take her to the room where Chuck was most likely being held. She could feel the adrenaline kick in and as she poised in front of the holding room door, she had to take a breath and steel herself knowing that whatever she found on the other side would change her forever.

Casey took her left flank and slowly signaled the countdown. He had always wondered what it would take to break Walker. As a betting man, he had lowered the odds after she survived the Jill debacle (twice!) and had almost brought them to even when Agent Forrest was dispatched to replace her. But right now, Casey knew that if she did not find what she was looking for on the other side of the door, Agent Sarah Walker would break. As he hit three, she charged at the door kicking it in before expertly targeting the two forms in the middle of the room. She discharged her weapon even before assessing the full scenario before her. All she had processed was Chuck's still form tied to a chair, his head hanging downwards, blood and saliva dripping from his chin. Two kill shots were discharged before she heard Casey's yell for her to get down.

Eduards had tried to prolong the interrogation just to hear his language but there was no need when the man in front of him was willing to tell him of the human intersect and how Bryce had with his dying breath told him of this location. His bosses would not be pleased with the knowledge that the Human Intersect was dead but it could solidify his position to be the first to retrieve Roark's Intersect. His team had been activated to provide support and transport for Team Alpha's mission and through this man, he had information not only of the death of Bryce but also of the failure of Team Alpha. Now all he needed was the location of the Intersect. The thought of where to place his next blow was the last thing to cross Eduards's mind, as at that exact moment, the door swung inwards with a bang and the last thing he saw as he looked up was a blonde woman, her featured etched with fury and felt a second later, the impact of her bullets.

"Sarah, get down"

She could not comply despite her years of training as getting to Chuck was her only mission. So she could not fully comprehend when she found herself on the ground, blood pouring from her thigh and only realized she had been shot when she turned to see Casey plow down her shooter.

"Sarah..?" Her head swiveled back to Chuck, needing the visual assurance that his voice was not only in her head. "You're.. hurt" The last bit almost cut off by a shudder that coursed through his body.

"So are you, but I think we'll survive" she smiled through her tears.

The next hour was a blur starting when Casey pushed her down and quickly field dressed her wound before freeing Chuck. She spent most of it then slowly assessing and dressing Chuck's various injuries. Casey wisely spent most of the time finishing up his sweep and destroying the data transmitters.

"I'm Sorry", "I'm Sorry"

"What are you sor...", "You don't have to .."

Talking over each other was always an issue and more so now as Sarah contemplated what she needed to say versus what she actually wanted to say. So unlike previous attempts where she had acquiesced and got her heart broken (cue the fountain) and then had to break his heart (cue the wedding), she pushed ahead.

"I have never said it"

Despite his facial injuries, she could still see the questioning look on his face.

"I love you" she blurted out. "I've never said it to anyone besides my mom". She was amazed that even with the black eye, cut cheek, and various other contusions and abrasions, his smile could not be dimmed. As if on cue though, she could see him coming back to himself and the panic in his eyes as he realized his mistake.

"Oh God, Sarah, I …I told him about Bryce. I had to… he would not stop hitting…"

"Shh, its ok., its ok" she crooned as she held him tighter and whispered in his ear "Its still part of the plan. I'm not sure if Casey has disabled all transmitting devices but you did good, Chuck. We can move forward with our decoy plan." She felt him tense at her words, knowing that he would. So when she pulled back, she was surprised that his expressive features did not reflect the hurt her words had caused but instead he was looking at her with so much love.

"We'll get through this" she whispered, not sure if he was for his benefit but definitely knowing that it was what she wanted more than anything else in the world, as she closed the gap between them.

End Story One