Disclaimer: We go through this every time, I know, but I don't own "Chuck." I do, however, wish I owned Chris Fedak's super fantastic stormtrooper helmet. :P
A/N: Okay, people, I've noticed quite a bit of negativity going around the community as of late. It's been rather distressing, and this story is kind of my response to that. Let me warn you now that it is angsty. However, this is not the in-your-face kind of angst that is really just an author venting his or her frustration over the direction they believe the show is going to take. Rather, this is brickroad angst – whispery and 100 percent Charah.
Rather, what lies at the heart of this story is also what lies at the heart of the show - the Chuck/Sarah relationship that most of us are so crazy about (and which also occasionally drives us crazy). That's something that I have complete faith in. So please, stop stressing. Just sit back and rest assured that there will be a happy ending. :) (Or, you know, feel free to ignore this. :P)
All the lyrics and chapter titles are from Ingrid Michaelson songs. (If you don't know who she is, stop reading this and go look her up right. now.)
Expect a chapter once a week. :)
Also, ginormous thank-yous to BillatWork, GoldenGirl, and yokaputo for beta-ing! They're awesome!
Open me up and you will see
I'm a gallery of broken hearts
I'm beyond repair, let me be
And give me back my broken parts
- "Be OK," Ingrid Michaelson
An enchanted laugh escapes Sarah's throat as Chuck leads her by the hand.
"Where are we going?" she asks.
They're at the beach, their beach, but it's past midnight already, the stars twinkling at them through the darkness, and she can't fathom why he's brought her here.
"You'll see," is all he says, a smile in his voice.
She trusts him, and so, keeping quiet, she follows where he leads. The sand is cool beneath her feet, the grains coarse between her toes. When they reach the edge of the shore, Chuck stops, unfolds a blanket, and lies down. He grins up at her, his eyes shining in the moonlight, and she lies down beside him, feeling a rush as his hand brushes against hers.
His body is tense with anticipation as they stare up at the stars, but still she has no idea what they're watching for. Sensing her impatience, he whispers in her ear, "Just wait."
And that's when she sees it – a brilliant streak of light flash across the sky. She gasps quietly.
His soft chuckle drifts through the air. "I told you."
Chuck settles back, perfectly content to watch the meteor shower, but Sarah suddenly can't keep still. She's itching to say a million things, everything she's had on her mind since they've been together. She curls on her side to face him, mesmerized simply by the sight of him, by the moonlight illuminating his skin, by the dazzling smile on his face.
She reaches out to rest her fingers on his chin and brush her thumb against his lips.
Chuck turns his head, laughing softly. "You're not watching," he accuses gently even as he instinctively slides closer to her.
Sarah winds her arm around him, feeling his chest rise and fall as he breathes. With him beside her, and the stars above her, the night seems absolutely perfect. She could stay here forever, just lying next to him. She wants to stay here forever.
"Chuck," she begins softly, her voice almost inaudible over the crashing of the waves.
"I . . ." Sarah says, faltering, because she's not used to this, not used to sharing her feelings no matter how strong they are, no matter how much they anchor her.
And even though they've been together – actually together – for a few months now, she still can't seem to find the words. Her mouth goes dry, her tongue feels like sandpaper, the words stick in her throat. She feels like a schoolgirl again, caught up in the rush of a first love. She's twenty-nine years old, and even after all she's been through, she lacks experience in the aspects of love. She's been with a few guys before, but Chuck . . . Chuck is like oxygen to her, that first burst of air after nearly drowning.
So why does she find it so difficult to tell him that?
Chuck smiles and threads his fingers through hers, his silent strength coursing through the connection and into her veins.
She takes a deep, shaky breath. "I never want this to end, this moment."
Chuck kisses her softly and says, "Then we won't let it."
She snuggles against him as meteors streak through the sky above, instantly understanding what he means. She'll keep this moment with her forever, bottle it up and save it for when a time she needs it most.
The scene dissolves as Sarah picks her head up to look at her surroundings. Four white walls stare back at her, the same walls she's seen for the past five weeks. There are the same two cots against the back wall, their white sheets fading to grey with each passing week. There's the same tiny window in the wall opposite the hallway. The room is small, uninviting, but it's not like she has much left to live for anyway.
Her only worthwhile companions are her memories, both the good and the bad. In this godforsaken place, she's had five whole weeks to dwell on all her mistakes. Five weeks to wish she'd told him what she wanted so much to tell him that night. Five weeks without his soft touch, without his dazzling smile, without his delightful laugh.
She's lost, floating in a sea of memories, awash in an ocean of once-held dreams, and she can't even separate what's real from what's false anymore.
The door opens with a creak, revealing her roommate, a woman in her early thirties with dark eyes and a sober disposition. Lucy's been here for longer than she has, and Sarah still hasn't had the inclination to ask her why she's here in the first place. Quiet in general, Sarah rarely opens her mouth here. She doesn't want to talk to anyone, doesn't want to try to explain, especially when they refuse to listen. Even so, as little as they communicate, she and Lucy make sure to say 'Good morning' and 'Good night' to each other. It's a way to mark the passing of days, a way to acknowledge that time is indeed pressing forward even if the world around them seems to have stopped.
Lucy walks in, sits down on her cot, and picks up a book that's poking out from beneath the bed. A brunette nurse pops her head in the open doorway, and Sarah looks up at the sound of her name.
"Are you ready for your session, Sarah?"
Sarah purses her lips. No, she's not ready. She doesn't want to move from this corner. She doesn't want to be forced to talk. She just wants to be left alone.
But this isn't how her life works now. She doesn't get time to think, time for solitude, when she wants it. She follows their schedule, jumps through their hoops, all while trying to maintain a semblance of her dignity.
Sighing, she stands and allows the nurse to lead her through the residential corridors and down to the psychiatric ward. The door to Dr. Gray's office is open in invitation, but she stops just short of entering.
The nurse, whom Sarah remembers is named Beatrice and has a penchant for romance novels, takes her hesitation for nervousness and says, "You can go on in. Dr. Julius is expecting you."
She knows. She also knows what else he expects. She's been fighting him for thirty-five days now, growing more taciturn with each question he asks. He's relentless, more interested in her facial expressions and body language than her actual (non-)answers. Even with all her training, she finds it hard to school her face into stoicism when the one-sided conversation inevitably takes a more personal turn.
Sarah nods, offers Beatrice a small, grateful smile, and walks into the office. It's bright, much like the rest of the institution, but she finds it anything but comforting. The décor is modern, all straight lines and angles, and every time she walks in, she finds herself missing the messy charm of his bedroom – the posters, the video games, the Les Paul sitting in the corner.
She takes a seat in the middle of the couch, not too close and not too far from Dr. Gray, who's sitting in an oversized leather armchair, one ankle crossed over his other leg, his tie tight around his collar. He's young, in his mid-thirties, with short brown hair, thin metal-framed glasses, and a neatly-trimmed beard. He holds a notepad in his lap, clicks his pen in the air.
"How are you today, Sarah?" he asks in a congenial voice.
It's one of the few questions she can answer without being horribly scrutinized, one she can answer honestly.
"Fine," she tells him, and, out of habit, she asks, "Yourself?"
"Excellent. Thank you for asking," he responds, smiling. "Is there anything you'd like to discuss today?"
Sarah looks at her sneakers, flexes her toes. Keeping the petulance out of her voice, she answers evenly, "Not particularly."
"Okay, then," he nods. "In that case, let's move on to a new topic, shall we? We haven't strayed into your personal life very much yet. How about we talk about love? Have you ever been in love, Sarah?"
This is the part where she clams up and folds inside herself, but the subject matter is so unexpected that it causes a jolt to her system. She remembers soft curls against her fingertips, skin on skin, the sound of his laughter the first thing in the morning, a sky full of meteors.
"Sometimes," Dr. Gray continues, oblivious to her obliviousness, "a traumatic relationship experience can lead to, essentially, a loss of identity. Has anything like that ever happened to you? Have you ever met someone you feel so deeply about that reality seems to lose its hold on you?"
Sarah swallows and takes a deep breath in an effort to slow her rapid breathing.
She wants to cry out for him, to feel him in her arms, but she's not even sure if he's still alive. She's not even sure if she's still living. She's existing, a mere specter. But just the thought of him keeps her going, and there's no way she's going to give that up so easily. He's been buried in her heart, her own private source of strength, an endless fountain of pure, blissful memories.
She stays silent, her lips tight, and looks up at Dr. Gray. Sighing, he leans back in his chair.
"You don't want to talk about that, do you?" he asks rhetorically.
She sees the wheels in his mind turning, sees him struggling to comprehend whether her silence is an affirmation or mere meaningless silence.
"Okay," he says resignedly, "let's try your favorite topic. Tell me about your job."
Glancing out the window at the leafy trees in the courtyard, she's tempted to, once again, say nothing. But this push and pull is their favorite time of the sessions.
Her lips twist into a coy smile as she calmly announces, "I'm a spy."
Dr. Gray nods at the expected answer. "And what kind of work did you do?" Sarah looks him in the eye until he boils under the pressure and breaks the gaze. He clears his throat and says, "Right. No details. Of course." Frowning, he leans forward and sets his notepad down onto the coffee table. "Can you tell me, then, about your partners?"
The smile fades from Sarah's face.
Her partners . . .
And just like that, she's gone again, lost in a frightening jumble of emotions and regrets. She still can't recall much of that day, just vague images and impressions.
Blood, gunshots, an explosion.
And through it all, her own voice.
"Take care of him, Casey. Take care of yourself."