AU. Chuck and Sarah have been living together for their cover for several months prior to this, are sharing a bed, but have otherwise been maintaining a professional distance between themselves.

"Sarah, watch out!"

She shoots the man in front of her, then her heart stops when she hears a shot behind her. She spins around, and sees Chuck fall to the ground. There is another enemy agent standing behind him with a smoking gun. She shoots him in the throat and turns back to the front, but there are no new threats. Chuck is groaning on the ground. "Chuck! Are you okay? Talk to me!"

"I'm fine," he wheezes.

She takes him at his word, and quickly checks that the two men she has shot are dead and no longer a threat before she goes to check on him. He is still on the ground, trying to breath normally. She kneels down beside him and helps him sit up. "Where were you hit? Are you hurt?"

He wheezes out, "I'm fine, it hit me right on the vest. I'm just a little sore."

Now that she knows that he isn't hurt, she's angry. "Why didn't you stay hidden in that room like I told you? You could have been killed!"

He looks guilty. "It was dark in there. I tripped and stumbled into the hall. I didn't mean to come out here..."

She stares at him with a raised eye brow. "We don't have time for this right now. Get back in there and stay there while I finish checking this area. But just so you know, we will be talking about this later, Chuck. Stay in there, and stay quiet. I'll be back in a few minutes." She watches him walk into the room, shakes her head, and then continues her sweep of this floor. She moves cautiously as she checks each room for any other threats. She covers the floor without finding any other problems, and returns to where she left Chuck. She calls Casey on her watch. "Casey, all clear on this floor, two enemies down. How's it look where you are?"

"All clear here, no enemies encountered. Why don't you and Bartowksi do a walk-through and see if he flashes on anything. I'll call for a team to go through this site for evidence and to do cleanup. I'll meet you in the lobby in fifteen minutes and we can get out of here."

"Roger, see you in fifteen."

She calls Chuck from the hallway. "Okay, Chuck, it's all clear out here. Let's do a quick walk-through and see if there is anything interesting."

Chuck comes out, blinking in the brighter light of the hallway. "Okay, Sarah, let's do it."

They do a survey of the building, but Chuck doesn't flash on anything. They meet Casey in the lobby, brief him on their non-results, and drive home. When they get back to their apartment they start to get ready for bed. She sees him wince as he unbuttons his shirt. "Are you okay?"

"My chest is just a little sore, it's nothing."

"Let me take a look at it, please."

"I'll be fine, there's nothing to worry about."

"I'm already worried about it. Now you can take the shirt off of your own volition, or I can remove it. Which way do you want this to go?"

He gives her a sour look, but pulls his t-shirt over his head. She can see a red mark on the top of his sternum that is already bruising. She walks over and touches it gently. "That's going to be sore for a few days." She looks up at him. "I assume that's from when you stepped in front of me and got hit?"

"I told you, I didn't step in front of you, I just tripped."

She smiles at him. His lies are about as convincing as those of a five year old caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Yes, that is what you told me." She looks at the mark again, and notices that it is at precisely the same height as her nose. If he hadn't gotten in the way, it would have gone straight through her head. He'd saved her life. "You need to be more careful with your safety. You are unique and uniquely valuable. Think of all the lives that would have been lost in the last year, if you hadn't been here doing what you did. There are other agents to do my job, but there is no one else like you. You have to take better care of yourself." She reaches up, grabs his chin with one hand, and gives his head a little shake. "Don't take unnecessary risks. It isn't your job to protect me; it's my job to protect you. With that being said, thank you. You probably saved my life." She smiles up at him. He was a terrible intelligence asset because he had no sense of how valuable he really was and he took avoidable risks. He was a great partner, because he always watched out for her and tried to keep her safe, no matter what the risk was to him. He was probably the only person in her life since her mother died that she could say that about. Thinking of her mother, her smile turns mischievous. "Let me see if I can help make it better." She puts her hands on his chest and leans forward to plant a gentle kiss on the red mark, and he inhales deeply. "Did that hurt?"

"No, no, that's nice."

He's definitely flustered, which she finds way more entertaining than she should. She stands in front of him with her hands on his chest and looks at him. He's clearly very aware of how close she is and she enjoys seeing his breathing speed up and his face flush when she stays there. She can hear her own heartbeat pounding in her ears. With her peripheral vision she can see that his nipples have hardened. She suspects that isn't the only the thing but doesn't look down to check. "You know, if that bullet had been two inches higher, you would be dead right now, and I would be very upset and angry with you."

"It was an accident!" he insists.

She smiles again at how transparent he is. It's a terrible trait for a spy, and a wonderful trait in a person. But then no one ever claimed that spies were good people. "We'll let your version stand for tonight, but thank you again for saving me. Why don't you finish getting ready for bed? Make sure you take some aspirin or ibuprofen before you lie down. Leave your shirt off and I'll get some ice to put on that."

He grabs a pair of pajama pants and heads to the bathroom, while she goes to get some ice from the freezer. She walks back into the bedroom and puts a bowl with ice on her nightstand, as Chuck comes out of the bathroom. She likes the way he looked wearing just his pajama bottoms quite a lot. "I'll be back in a minute." She grabs her pajamas and goes to the bathroom to get ready for bed. She washes her face and brushes her teeth, then changes into her pajamas.

Walking back into the bedroom with a washcloth in her hand, she sits down on the edge of the bed beside where Chuck is lying on his back, and she gently folds the blanket down. She takes some ice from the bowl, wraps it in the washcloth, and places it gently on the red spot on his chest. He smiles shyly up at her, then shivers a little.

She pulls the blanket up as far as she can to keep him warm. "Just a few more minutes, Chuck. Take my word for it, you'll be glad we did this tomorrow."

"It's okay, I'm just a little chilly. I'll be fine."

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm a little sore, but it's no big deal. Really."

"Okay, I'll stop fussing at you and let you get some sleep." She takes the ice away and drops it in the bowl. She pulls the blankets up over Chuck, then walks around the bed and switches off the light, and gets in bed. They lie on the opposite sides of the bed, not touching, which is how they normally start the night. During the night they usually move together, and wake up in each other's arms, but so far the first one to wake up moves away, and they have pretended that nothing has happened. She feels him give another shiver, and she moves closer to him. "Let me warm you up a little." She presses herself up against him, and wraps her arms around him. She feels him tense up then relax as she holds him. After a few minutes he starts to feel warmer, but she doesn't let him go. It feels so good to be pressed up against him like this. She moves her head onto his chest, and listens to his heart beat. It's going faster than it should be before sleeping, probably because she is so close to him. She shouldn't be doing this, but it is so comforting to hold him and listen to his heart, and to know that he's alive and safe. Her hand moves up to the bruise on his chest, and she strokes it gently. She'd been afraid he'd been killed when she heard the shot and saw him fall tonight.

She starts to think about what it would be like if he had been killed, what it would be like to sleep in an empty bed again, to never hold him again or see his smile, and she starts to cry silently.

"Sarah, are you okay?"

Of course he'd notice. He notices every little thing she does, every tiny slip she makes. He knows her better than anyone ever has, and she's hardly told him anything. God, how is she going to live without him when this all ends? How is she going to live without him if he dies? Her tears come faster and she starts to sob.

Chuck wraps his arms around her tightly and kisses her hair. "It's okay, Sarah, everything's fine, there's no reason to be upset. Shhh."

His arms feel so good around her, but what is she going to do if she loses that? "You almost died!"

"So did you. But we're both still here and fine. It's all okay."

But if that bullet had been two inches higher... "One day it's not going to be!"

"Maybe not. We can't know the future. But tonight, everything's okay. We're both here, we're both fine, and everything is okay. Don't be sad."

She presses herself even tighter against him. "I don't want to I lose you, Chuck. I don't want to go back to living without you."

He presses a kiss on the top of her head. "I don't want to try living without you either, Sarah Walker. We'll take care of each other, and it will all work out. You'll see."

She climbs on top of him and kisses him hard. She's seen too many good people who didn't come back from routine missions to really believe him, but she can almost believe it because he's the one who's saying it. She can feel him start to respond to her kiss and her body draped over his. She knows this is wrong, but she won't lose him without ever having him in the first place. She'll worry about the consequences tomorrow. Tonight they are alive and together. It's enough.

The Morning After (Monday)
He wakes up with a smile, until he realizes that the space beside him in the bed is empty and cold. He winces as sits up and has a sharp pain in his chest. He reaches down and gingerly touches his sternum, where an ugly bruise has blossomed during the night. He sees a note on his nightstand from Sarah, saying that she has gone for a run. He falls back down on the bed and covers his head with his pillow. Crap. She doesn't usually get up this early to run, particularly after a late night mission. She doesn't want to see him. She regrets last night and she can't bear to face him this morning. Crap, crap, crap. Not this again. He's been through this before, but he hadn't been ready for it from Sarah. He thought they'd wake up together and not have to pretend about their feelings any more. After all this time, he didn't think she would have done this if she hadn't really wanted to take their relationship to the next level. He knew he was no Bryce, but she had certainly seemed to be enjoying herself… But then who could ever tell how she really felt about anything? Maybe she was just being polite. Maybe it was just "Thank God you're alive sex," and this morning she realizes what a mistake it was. Crap. He gets ready for work in a daze, but she doesn't come back before he leaves. He laughs bitterly as he walks out to his car. She's probably tracking his location, and she isn't going to come back until he leaves. He sighs. It's going to be a long day.

He moves through his day mechanically, wondering what to do about this mess. There's a lull at four o'clock and he has some time to think about what's happening. He's sure he must have talked to people during the day, but he has no idea who it was or what he'd said to them. He sighs. Some days the bunker almost sounds good. At least there he wouldn't have any false illusions about having a life or a relationship or anything. It's almost worse to have the illusion of a perfect girlfriend and the hope of making a great life together than not having anything at all. Going from spending last night in heaven to being rejected and alone again this morning is just too much to process quickly. He knows that he's going to get to hear the "mistake" talk again, like the one after their kiss by the docks when they found Bryce, except worse, and he's not sure he can stand to hear it from her yet.

Fate cooperates for a change, and Big Mike taps him to stay late and close the store because Emmett has called in sick. He calls Sarah to tell her he'll be late, but the call goes straight to voice mail. He leaves her a message telling her that he'll be late and why, and hangs up. Great. She won't even take his phone calls. It's worse than he thought. After the docks, she was still talking to him at least, even if she had been distant. He wonders if she is talking to Beckman about a new assignment. He's screwed this up big time, and there's no way to stuff this genie back in the bottle.

When he gets home, she's already in bed, either asleep or pretending to be. He takes his pajamas into the bathroom and changes quietly, then gets into bed beside her, carefully not touching her. He turns his back to her and lies stiffly, staring at the wall for a long time before sleep comes. Being in bed with someone who doesn't want you to be there is lonelier than the emptiest bed ever was.

She wakes up at 5:30 like she planned to. Chuck is sleeping on the other side of the bed, as far away as he can get, facing away from her. She should wake him up and talk to him, but she can't think of what to say. Sunday night had been wonderful, but now he was going to expect her to open up to him and share her life with him. She's done so many things that she doesn't want to talk about with him, things he could never understand or forgive. He thinks that she's so wonderful, and she can't bear to watch his face when he learns the truth about her. There's no way that she can hide behind her agent status now, he'd never let that slide. But it had been so good to love him the way she had wanted to for so long…

He'd had to work last night, and she'd made sure to be in bed before he came home so they wouldn't have to talk, but she can't avoid it forever. She gets up quietly, picks up some clothes from the dresser, and goes into the bathroom. She washes up quietly, gets dressed for the day, and fixes her hair and makeup. She puts her nightclothes in the hamper, and goes to the kitchen to make a quick breakfast. She looks at the clock, and it's only 6:30. Chuck will probably start waking up in the next half an hour. She starts to panic when she thinks about what will happen then. He's so cute when he's just woken up, with his hair tousled in the most enticing way. You practically had to run your hands through it, and once she was doing that, it would be so natural to kiss him…

But then he'll want to talk about Sunday night, and she doesn't know what to say to him. It was such an amazing night, and she can't remember ever feeling that way with anyone else. But the way he'd looked at her afterwards, like she was the most perfect thing in the world… She panics again. She is the furthest thing from perfect, but he doesn't know that. He's going to have to find out soon, but she doesn't want to watch that adoring look fade from his face, and never see it again. She grabs the notepad from the fridge door, and quickly writes him a note saying that she has to run some errands. She creeps into their bedroom and puts it on his nightstand, then hurries out of their apartment. She gets in her car, and just starts driving. When she pays attention, she realizes that she is driving to work. Okay, fine, that will do. She can go into the Castle and catch up on some paperwork. That will distract her for a while, let her calm down, then she can start her shift at the Orange Orange. That will be worse, with too much time to think, but she'll face that hurdle when she gets to it. He's working second shift today, so they wouldn't normally see much of each other unless he stopped over before his shift, or she stopped after hers. She can't face him yet, she has to figure out what to say. Hopefully he won't stop on his way in and give her some more time to think about how to handle this.

She gets really nervous as the time gets close to the beginning of his shift. She pulls up his location on her computer, and gives a sigh of relief when she sees that he is stall at home. He would have left sooner if he were going to visit her. She watches his progress as he gets closer to the plaza. It's almost the start of his shift, and he goes straight to work without seeing her. She has a quiet and confused day at work, but she can't figure out what to do next. Casey is working with Chuck today and is handling his security, so she's free to drive home as soon as her shift ends. She glances longingly at that Buy More as she walks to her car, but she's just not ready to talk with him yet.

She eats something when she gets home, but she couldn't tell you what it had been. She keeps moving, doing laundry, cleaning her gun, sharpening her knives, mopping the kitchen floor. She's running on autopilot, and not really thinking about anything. She's always been good at disassociation, and it has let get through some of the terrible things she's had to see and do on her hardest missions, with her sanity mostly intact. It isn't anything she's had to do since she's started this mission, and it feels wrong to let go of herself and disappear in her own head, but it is more comfortable than thinking about what her next talk with Chuck is going to be like. Thinking about Chuck, she checks the clock and sees that his shift should be ending soon. She gets ready for bed and lies down so that she can be asleep, or at least pretend to be, before he gets home.

He wakes up early, and, surprisingly, she's still in the apartment, but awake and dressed for a run.

He takes a deep breath and tries a tentative smile. "Good morning!"

She gives him a wooden smile back, but her eyes are haunted. "Good morning." She has circles under her eyes, and she looks very tired for someone who has been in bed early for the last two nights. "I'm going to go for my run. Good luck at work." She slips out the door before he can say another word to her.

He sighs and sits down on couch. She can barely stand to say hello to him. He closes his eyes and shakes his head. He's not going to the talk, because she can't even stand to be with him long enough to deliver it. He feels like he should apologize but he's not sure for what. Maybe for not being Bryce or Cole, for just being Chuck. What's going to happen next? She's not even talking to him, so she can't fight with him. She's pretty simple to predict. If she can't fight, she'll want to run, but she can't run unless the General changes her orders. That's probably what she's waiting for. She'll just pretend he isn't here until she gets new orders, and then she'll leave, without ever saying a thing to him about it. Is there anything he can do to fix this? Probably not.

He gets ready for work quickly so she doesn't have to run for too long before she can come back to her Chuck-free apartment. At least he can leave her alone. That's all she really wants from him, to not have to see him. He's swallowing his emotions so hard that his throat aches and his stomach hurts. He hasn't felt this bad since right after he had to leave Stanford. He rushes out the door like he's fleeing the scene of a crime.

The day passes in another blur. Thankfully, he doesn't flash on anything, so he doesn't have to deal with Casey. He's not hungry, so he just works through lunch.

He goes home after work and makes dinner, while she finishes her shift at the Orange Orange. She comes home, and the awkwardness of the morning is amplified. He tries to make eye contact a few times, but she is resolutely avoiding meeting his eyes. He settles in to pretend to watch television while she does work on her computer in the bedroom. He makes sure to stay up late so she can get ready for bed without seeing him. He's going to scream if he has to get in bed while she pretends he isn't there. Okay, fine. If she doesn't want him around, he can do that. It will be better to spend the night alone than to wake up here and have her look through him again in the morning.

When the light goes out in the bedroom, he sits for a few more minutes, then grabs a sheet of paper and writes a note. He tapes it to the bathroom mirror, quietly gets some clothes from the bedroom, and leaves the apartment.

She wakes up alone, and is torn between sadness and relief that Chuck isn't there. She looks more closely at his side of the bed and realizes that he hadn't slept there last night. Great. While she's been busy having an anxiety attack for the last three days, she's scared her boyfriend/asset away. Perfect. Great job, Walker. She gets up and goes to the bathroom, after checking to see that he hadn't fallen asleep on the couch. The first thing she notices in the bathroom is a piece of paper folded in half with her name on it, written in Chuck's mostly legible handwriting, taped to the mirror. She unfolds the paper and reads:

Dear Sarah,

I know you are having problems talking about what happened, so I'm going to try and make things easier for you. While Sunday night was one of the most wonderful things in my life, it seems pretty obvious that the feeling wasn't mutual. I've always known that you were out of my league, and I guess you know that now, too. I can see how hard you are struggling to figure out what to say to me. I know this is harder because I am part of your job and you can't just leave or kick me out the way you might like to. I'm going to give you a little time where you don't have to see me to help you get your head straight. I went to spend the night at the Castle, and I'll go to work from there. After work I'm going to go over to Morgan's to play some games, and I'll spend the night there. I'm wearing my watch, so you'll be able to track where I am. I'm opening on Friday, and I'll come over to see you for lunch to keep up our cover. I won't bring this up again, and you don't have to say anything about it to me. We can just go back to the minimal contact we need to maintain our cover, I won't push for any more. If you need me to spend more time away from the apartment, I can try to do that. I hope you don't feel you have to ask for a reassignment over this. I'm sorry that I've upset you this badly, it was the very last thing that I wanted to do.


She sags back against the wall. Oh, shit. He thinks he was horrible in bed and she can't stand him and that she has been trying to figure out how to break it to him...

Of course he does. After all, she's been treating him like he has leprosy for three days, when she wasn't too busy hiding from him. And the only other woman he's slept with in a decade has betrayed him multiple times, he's got no reason to feel confident about himself. Sometimes the fact that he doesn't know that he's a catch is kind of charming but the flip side of that is that he's pretty vulnerable in some areas.

What's wrong with her, why can't she just open her mouth and talk to the guy who has shown in every possible way that he deserves her trust? The one who stepped in front of a bullet to save her. Who is currently off sleeping in a cell so she doesn't have to be upset by seeing him in their apartment. She follows that thought to its conclusion… Who thinks she is so disgusted by the sight of him that she can't stand to be in the same room with him. Right after they made love the very first time. God, could she hurt him any more if she tried? She looks at the time. She can still catch him before he goes to work, if she hurries. She gets ready quickly and runs out to her Porsche to drive to the Orange Orange.

After she parks, she checks her tracker to confirm that Chuck is still in the Castle. She goes straight through the Orange Orange and into the walk-in freezer, where she scans into the Castle's entrance. She walks quietly into the main area, but she doesn't see him. She walks back to the holding cells, and finds him lying down in one, still asleep. She sits down on the bunk, and runs her hand through the soft curls of his hair that she loves so much. He turns his head into her touch, and she can see the evidence of last night's tears on his face. Oh, God. He deserves so much better than her, someone who could love him the way he deserves to be loved, not some screwed-up nutcase like her. Then his eyes open, and he looks at her with those beautiful brown eyes, and she freezes. He looks at her sleepily and gives her a smile that makes her heart catch. She can see the exact instant when he remembers this past week, and the smile turns into a grimace. He closes his eyes and flinches like she's struck him, and turns his head away. She'd better start talking soon, if she doesn't want to lose him forever. "Um, hi, Chuck. I missed seeing you this morning."

He's still looking away from her, but he answers. "I've missed seeing you for the last few days, too. Why are you here? I thought the plan was to avoid being with me as much as possible."

"I'm so, so sorry, Chuck. I've just been really confused. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just wasn't thinking straight. Your note shocked me enough to wake me up out of my craziness." She is quiet for a moment, but she doesn't take her hand off of his hair. "Why did you think I wanted to break up with you?"

"Because I've had this happen to me before. I was Bryce's roommate, remember? Girls weren't above trying to use me to get to him. They would come to 'hang out' with me, hoping to see Bryce, and a couple of times we got drunk enough while they were waiting that something happened. And when they woke up the next day and realized that they'd slept with the geek instead of the god, they'd treat me just like you have." She winces at the pain and bitterness in his voice. "They would sneak out as fast as they could the morning after, avoid seeing me when they could, avoid talking to me or making eye contact when they couldn't avoid seeing me, and generally treat me like a piece of toilet paper they'd accidentally gotten on their shoe and couldn't scrape off. After the second time, I quit answering the door when he wasn't there, and I made sure that it never happened again. I didn't want to be a mistake for some other girl to make. I'd mostly put that behind me, but it all came back to me this week. When you ran away the morning after, I knew you regretted what had happened. When you ignored me and hid from me for three days, I knew that I wasn't a little mistake to you, I was a huge mistake, and it was so bad that you couldn't even figure out what to say to me. If I wasn't your assignment, you'd probably be on a different continent by now, using a different name, and doing your best to forget that you'd ever met me. You're probably waiting for orders to go do that right now." He turns and looks at her, his eyes dull with pain. "And you probably won't even say good-bye before you leave me. I'll just be another bad situation that you left behind you." He turns his face away again.

"Chuck, you're wrong, that isn't what's happening here."

He turns his head back and looks in her eyes. "I know I don't deserve you, but I love you so much that I had to try, you know? Why don't you tell me what you've been trying not to tell me? Don't worry about how it sounds. Whatever it is, I probably can't feel any worse than I feel right now. Just tell me why I'm a mistake and why we can't have anything together. Okay? Just get it over with and say what you don't want to say to me. Don't drag this out any more."

She looks him in the eye, although hers are a little blurry from the tears rolling down her cheeks. "Chuck, you're not a mistake." Her voice breaks on the last word, and she stops and swallows around the lump in her throat. "You could never be a mistake. You're the best person I've ever known. I don't mean pleasant or nice or talented or smart, although you are all of those things. I mean best. You care so much for people, and you'll sacrifice anything for the people you care for, including your life, like might have happened on Sunday. If that bullet had been two inches higher, you would have had your throat torn out instead of having that bruise on your sternum. You always try to do the right thing, no matter what it costs you. I know why you were the only person that Bryce could trust the Intersect with, even though you were the last person who deserved to be saddled with it. You are the only person I've known in my entire life that I think I could really trust. And being this close to you scares me to death because I'm not a good person. I'm a terrible person."

He looks outraged. "That's not true! You're a hero, you save people, you save me! And I just tripped, I wasn't sacrificing anything."

She puts two fingers across his soft lips. "Shush. You asked, don't interrupt. I know what you did and why you did it, and you're a very bad liar, so don't go there. Yes, I have done some good things, and that is what lets me keep going. But I've had to do terrible things as part of accomplishing the good things. And before I joined the CIA, I did terrible things and didn't even have the justification of a good cause. The look in your eyes after we made love was so perfect and pure and trusting… you looked at me like nobody has ever looked at me. I wanted to be the person that you were seeing… For a while I forgot about all the horrible things in my life, and all I could think about was how wonderful it was to be there with you, and it was just perfect. Then I woke up in the morning, and all I could think about was how that look would change if you knew about all the terrible things that I've done, what a terrible person I really am. I just couldn't stand to think about what your face would look like when you found out what I was really like, and I freaked out.

"You're right, if you weren't my assignment I might have run, but it wouldn't have been because of any fault in you. It would have been because I was so afraid of you seeing me for what I really am. I wasn't thinking too clearly, but I was trying to figure out how to have you and I couldn't see any way where you wouldn't learn more about me, and then you would leave or at least never look at me that way again. And as bad as the things I've done, I'm not a whole person, I just pretend to be one. I've never really learned how to trust other people, how to open up, how to have a real relationship. You deserve much better than me, and I'm afraid of letting you down, like I have this week. I was so afraid of talking to you about what I was feeling that I hurt you again. If we have a real relationship, I'm going to hurt you a lot, because I am so very bad at relationships. And you deserve better than that."

He reaches up and puts his hand over the hand she still has tangled in his hair. "I know you have some issues, but everyone has some issues, including me, obviously. If you hadn't noticed, being abandoned or betrayed by every one I loved in my life except Ellie has left me with a few sensitive areas. You're the one that I want in my life. I can't imagine ever wanting anyone else. I know you have had to do some hard things, but I think that you are wonderful. I've spent the last three days trying to figure out how I could be happy living without you, since that seemed to be where we were heading, and I just couldn't do it."

"Chuck, you have a few self-confidence issues, but they are buried in the middle of the nicest, smartest, most decent person in the world. All you need is someone to give you the love you deserve for a few years, and you'll be perfect. Me, I'm two steps away from being a psychopath. All the agents at my level are, normal people can't do the things we have to do as part of our work. I have more issues than you can count, even my issues have issues, and I don't know if I can be fixed. I'm a danger to anyone I'm close to, physically, emotionally, every way, and when I finally lose it, I don't want to take you down with me. But when I think about being with you, it's like a glimpse of heaven."

He smiles at her. "It might come as a surprise to you, but I had actually noticed that you are a teensy bit closed off emotionally. And I don't think that you are as damaged as you think you are. I can wait for you to learn how to express yourself. Maybe I can even help you learn how." His smile dims. "That is, if you want to learn. With me, that is. I know I don't have much to offer you, but I think I could love you better than anyone else ever could. If that's enough for you."

"You're wrong, you have more to offer than you know. Part of me wants that more than anything. And part of me is so scared that I can hardly think."

"You don't have to decide right now. If I come home tonight, will you talk to me? About anything? I don't think I can handle another day of you pretending that I'm not there. I had to leave before I lost it. The last couple of days… weren't good for me."

"I promise that I won't hide from you anymore. I'm really sorry for hurting you. I know it sounds strange, but Sunday night was so wonderful that it scared me to death. If I freeze up again, I want you to understand that it's because of a problem in me, not a problem with you. If I want you to go away, I'll tell you to go away. I promise. Pushing people away I can do, it's just letting them in that's hard for me. Okay?"

"I can work with that."

"I'm sorry I drove you out of your own home. I just wasn't thinking."

"It's okay, I'll get over it." He gives her a grin. "The beds here are surprisingly comfortable, actually."

She looks around then looks back at him. "If it weren't for the video surveillance, I might like to explore that statement more thoroughly. Tell you what, why don't you wash up, and we can go grab a quick breakfast together before your shift starts."

He smiles again at her. "That's an offer I can't refuse."

"Let's get going then. And I'm not done apologizing yet. If you aren't next to me in bed tonight, and still there tomorrow morning, it won't go well for you. On the other hand, if you are there, I promise that it will go very well for you indeed."

His eyebrows raise and one side of his mouth turns up. "Another offer I can't refuse."

"I'm not very good at this, Chuck, but I promise to try to learn as fast as I can. If I forget to say it sometimes, please remember that I think you're a really amazing person and as badly as I show it, I do love you."

He smiles at her with what she thinks of as his "Sarah" smile, the one that he only uses with her. "I love you, too."

"Let's get out of here and go face the world together."

"That pretty much describes my idea of a perfect future. I can face almost anything, if you're beside me. Let's do it."

A/N. Just a little something I wrote while I was trapped near a computer for a few hours last month. Just came back to it and polished it a bit this weekend. It's playing with some of the same themes as Secret Order, but now I've gotten it out of my system and am ready to move on to something different.