Hi all. So you all remember that WHO ARE YOU Challenge that took place a couple of months ago, right? (Okay, maybe not ALL of you, but like 40 or so people…) Well, here's what I submitted, plus some edits. FL will be posting the final results soon, but here's one entry you can cross off the list. And if you've never even heard of the challenge before this…well, I still hope you enjoy it.

Keep in mind that this was written BEFORE Season 3 aired, so it was all purely speculation on my part. Better outcome than the actual premiere? I have no clue. You tell me. ;)

Disclaimer: Chuck belongs to Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak, and NBC. The song "Taking Chances" belongs to Celine Dion and Sony Music Entertainment Canada, Inc.


Taking Chances

by crystalelements


It's been two weeks since that fateful day.

"Again."

Two weeks since Ellie's wedding, Roark's defeat, Bryce's death, The Ring's appearance…but more importantly, it's been two weeks since Chuck re-uploaded the Intersect.

"Again."

Since a flash unleashed Matrix-like martial arts.

"Not fast enough. You'll be knocked out before you even make your move!"

Since everyone was blindly thrown back into Operation Chuck, whether they wanted it or not.

"This isn't like your stupid video games, Bartowski - start taking this seriously!"

It's been this way for over an hour - yet another one of the intense NSA-issued training sessions that have been taking place over the past several days. But today's session is on offensive and defensive combat, and so far, all Chuck has managed to do is land a few uncoordinated punches that Casey simply swats away.

Now the NSA agent charges forward, aiming for Chuck's midsection. He's able to hold off a couple of blows before Casey breaks through his defenses; the punch nearly knocks the wind out of him, and Chuck staggers backwards, his eyes bulging.

"Casey, that's enough!"

At Sarah's sharp command, Chuck finally doubles over in pain, wheezing. Casey's eyes narrow as she rushes over to his side.

"You can't baby him anymore, Walker," he says tersely, folding his arms across his chest. "We still don't know how to flip the switch on this new Intersect. It's about time he learned how to protect himself, and he needs to learn it fast."

Sarah's eyes are practically screaming murder. "You know Chuck isn't cut out for this kind of training," she hisses vehemently. "You can't expect him to pick up on these moves in a day, much less fend off your attacks!"

Casey frowns. "Maybe you've forgotten, Walker, but Chuck chose to reupload that damn Intersect."

Sarah goes rigid at the blunt accusation. Casey knows that he's struck a particularly sensitive nerve, but despite the twinge of guilt, he continues anyway; it's something she needs to hear, after all.

"The moment he put that thing back into his head, he made the decision to stay in our little spy world." His eyes penetrate the blonde agent, challenging her to prove him wrong. "With a threat like The Ring on our asses, he's gonna have to suck it up and become and agent sooner or later."

"It doesn't mean –"

"As much as I hate to admit it, Sarah, Casey's right."

Sarah whips around mid-protest to gape at Chuck, who lets out a sigh. "I…" he winces as he straightens to full height, "…definitely didn't realize what I was getting myself into…but I still made that choice, and now there's no going back. I have to do this."

His next sentence is aimed at her - "I can't keep making the same excuses anymore."

For a moment, Sarah is too shocked to respond. Several emotions flit across her face before the agent side takes over; her expression slackens into a familiar unreadable mask, and she folds her arms across her chest.

"You're right," she admits, and Chuck blinks in confusion at the calm in her voice. "You chose to be a spy over getting back your normal life. Our country over yourself. It was the right thing to do, wasn't it?"

Casey arches an eyebrow and gives a non-committal grunt.

Sarah purses her lips. "Sorry, I'll let you two continue training. I actually have a bit of paperwork to finish." She turns and walks out the door, but not before tossing Chuck a grim smile that doesn't reach her eyes.

"Keep it up, Chuck. You'll be a great agent in no time."

-

Don't know much about your life

Don't know much about your world, but

Don't wanna be alone tonight

On this planet they call Earth

-

The sharp knocks against the green door resonate throughout the hallway, and Chuck steps back to wait, feet shuffling nervously.

She's been purposely distancing herself from him. Ever since they escaped from the Intersect Vault, she's thrown herself into isolation – after all, with Ellie and Devon on their honeymoon, there's really no need to hold up cover appearances anymore. He's only seen her at debriefings and training sessions, but every time he makes any attempt to hold conversation, she either offers vague, limited-word responses or excuses herself from the room entirely. For the past two weeks, the only Sarah he's seen is a ghost of her former self, a self-detached agent at her best.

Until today, that is. Her actions and words from earlier are still replaying over and over in his mind, and for once, the headache assaulting his brain isn't because of the new Intersect. It hadn't been much, but for a split second the Sarah he remembered had resurfaced…and promptly disappeared the moment he had opened his fat mouth.

He knows it's entirely his fault, but he wants answers. She's been making excuses for so long; not only for the past two weeks, but also for everything else that's been going on between them. Frankly, he's sick of it, and that's why he's here now, waiting outside her door.

If only she would answer it.

Sighing, Chuck knocks again. No response. He runs a hand down his face in exasperation. "Sarah, just – just answer the door, please? We really need to t –"

The door abruptly swings open, and Sarah gazes at him from beyond the threshold, her expression carefully guarded. Only then does Chuck really notice her appearance – her shoulders are drooping slightly, and there are hints of dark circles around her eyes that even the best makeup can't cover up. She's never looked so exhausted, and suddenly everything Chuck has wanted to say to her since this whole mess started flies out the metaphorical window.

The desire to pull her into his arms is nearly overwhelming, but Chuck forces the urge away, knowing it'll do nothing to help the situation. Instead he shoves his hands into his pockets, his gaze anywhere but on her.

"Can I come in?"

Sarah is silent for several long moments. Just when Chuck starts to think she won't let him through, she opens the door wider and walks over to the window overlooking the city, arms folding tightly across her chest. Chuck closes the door behind him, and the resounding click echoes throughout their silence.

-

You don't know about my past

And I don't have a future figured out

-

She knows why he's here, of course. It was only a matter of time before they'd have to face this, but honestly, nothing could have prepared her for the whirlwind that is Chuck Bartowski.

"I'm sorry."

Sarah tenses at the words. She's the one who should be apologizing for the way she's been acting these past two weeks, and yet here he is, putting all of her faults on his shoulders. She hates herself for it, and yet a small part of her wants to hear his explanation. Maybe, just maybe, he can fix this mess they've gotten themselves into.

When it's obvious Sarah isn't going to respond, Chuck runs a weary hand through his hair and continues. "I shouldn't have brushed you off like that. You were only looking out for me, and I completely disregarded it. I just…"

He lets out a frustrated sigh. "I just don't know what's going on with you anymore, Sarah. I've been trying to figure out what it is, but no matter how many different reasons I come up with, it doesn't make any sense. Is it because of what happened to Bryce?" At that, his voice deflates. "Is it me? Do you hate me because I ruined your chances of getting out of here?"

That's when she snaps. Completely disregarding the walls she forced up when he walked through the door, Sarah whips around and stares at Chuck in disbelief.

"Is that what you think this is all about?" She nearly scoffs. "After everything we've been through, you can't honestly believe that!"

Chuck throws out his arms in exasperation. "I don't know, Sarah! What am I supposed to think? Two weeks ago you were all set to leave with Bryce to who-knows-where! Now Bryce is dead, you're still stuck with me and this," he thrusts a finger to his temple – "and you've been acting as if I have the freaking plague ever since! So yeah, I do believe it. Maybe if you'd given me some indication of what's going on in your head for once –"

"I wasn't going to leave!"

Suddenly the CIA agent vanishes; now the only person standing before him is the emotional buildup that is Sarah Walker, her indestructible walls finally, finally crumbling to pieces.

"Goddammit, Chuck," she yells, "I was willing to give up everything to stay with you, to give you that normal life you've been waiting for! I wanted that with you! And then you went and put that computer back into your head and screwed it all up!"

Her cobalt eyes are wild, spewing over with the pent-up emotions she's been holding in for so long. "You know what, though? What makes this so messed up is that you did actually the right thing!" She lets out a bitter laugh. "I called you a hero, Chuck, and that's exactly what you are! You could've had everything you ever wanted, but you chose to help the government instead – the same government that got you into this mess in the first place! You always put everyone before yourself – I'm the one who's being selfish! So what am I supposed to say to you, Chuck? What did you expect me to say after all of this?"

A ringing silence follows the outburst as Chuck stares at Sarah in utter shock. She knows she's said way too much, but she no longer cares. Her feelings and his, they don't matter. Not anymore. Angry tears flood to the surface, and she quickly turns away before Chuck has a chance to see them.

This is exactly why she'd been avoiding him. Sure, it only held off the inevitable, and maybe she was only trying to save herself the impending hurt…but anything was better than dealing with this mess. She never wanted it to come to this. Because now…

Where are they supposed go from here?

-

And maybe this is going too fast

And maybe it's not meant to last

-

Chuck has gone completely still, gawking at Sarah's back as the implications behind her angry confession finally hits home.

"You weren't…" he croaks softly, barely breathing. "You weren't going to leave?"

Sarah doesn't answer, but Chuck doesn't need a response. Instead, Bryce's last words echo through his mind, and the color completely drains from his face.

She wasn't gonna come…she was…

"You were going to stay," he whispers in horror. "And I…oh god…I ruined everything…"

"No," Sarah says quietly, when she finally has some semblance of composure. She leans her forehead against the window. "By uploading that new Intersect, you saved us all." She closes her eyes, suddenly exhausted. "But with that thing back in your head, we're right back to step one, and I just…I can't do this anymore, Chuck. I can't. I'm so tired of dealing with it."

Chuck is silent for a long time. For several minutes, the only sounds in the room are his slow, steady breaths, her only indication that he hasn't stormed off from her admission of defeat.

She's terrified of what he might say next. Would he agree? Would he end things right here and send her packing to DC? Or would he yell at her for giving up, for throwing them both into an even further downward spiral? She braces herself, waiting for the worst –

"Then stop trying to fight it."

The words are so simple and unexpected that Sarah actually whirls around – and nearly collides into Chuck, who's suddenly right there in front of her. She stares up at him, stunned.

"W-what?"

"You're tired of dealing with it, so just stop fighting it," Chuck repeats, like he's never sounded more sure about anything in his life. "It's pretty obvious that I'm never going to have a normal life, Sarah, and neither are you. This?" He gestures around them. "This is our life, no matter how messed up it is. It's what our relationship is all about. Aren't you sick of always dancing around the fat fluorescent elephant in the room?"

Sarah tries to look away, but his chocolate eyes are gluing her to the spot. "It can't happen, Chuck, you know that," she says flatly. Even she's fully aware of the fact that the phrase is beginning to sound like a broken record, but she continues anyway. "You're back to being an asset, which means I'm still your handler, and –"

"And we're going to end up spending the next two or however more years playing the will-they-won't-they game," Chuck interrupts, "in which Casey will either shoot himself or us, depending on the severity of the situation." He offers a wry smile. "I like to think it's the former, 'cause he can't really shoot the guy with the government computer in his brain, and we both know he can't stand me without you around. All in all, though, not a very appealing thought."

It's absolutely ridiculous how he can make a joke out of such a serious topic, and all Sarah can do is gape at him in disbelief.

"Chuck, I'm being serious."

His smile dissolves into a straight face. "So am I."

Sarah sighs in frustration. "It's completely unprofessional –"

"Are you seriously still using that excuse?"

"Beckman'll reassign me –"

"You were there when she said otherwise. Asset to the asset, remember?" Suddenly, Chuck's eyes harden, fixing her with a searching gaze. "Can we please just stop this already? I'm so sick of excuses, Sarah. What are you running from?"

Except that's not what he's saying at all. Sarah squeezes her eyes shut, shaking her head.

No. What he really means is, Why are you running from us?

"I don't want to lose you, alright?!" She finally bursts out, backing away from him. "We don't even know what this new Intersect does, how it works, or what kinds of powers it'll give you! That alone is a big enough threat as it is, and that doesn't even include The Ring!" Her emotions are going off the charts, but she can't seem to stop the words from pouring out of her mouth. "I can't afford to let my feelings for you get in the way of my job, Chuck! I can't afford to lose you! Why don't you get that?!"

Chuck closes the distance between them and tentatively slips his hands into hers. His eyes are warm; she can't look away even if she tries.

She's losing this war, and they both know it.

"Because," he says softly, "Your feelings for me are the reason you do your job so well. I trust you, Sarah. I always have, and I always will. You won't let me down. Besides," he flashes his trademark heartmelting smile, "you, me, what we have…isn't it worth the risk?"

And just like that, the last of her defenses shatter to pieces. A dry sob escapes from her throat, and Sarah reaches behind his neck and crashes his lips to hers. Chuck gathers her into his arms, welcoming the kiss as they melt together in a moment of chaotic passion.

-

But what do you say to taking chances?

What do you say to jumping off the edge?

Never knowing if there's solid ground below

Or a hand to hold, or hell to pay

-

When oxygen becomes an issue, Sarah finally pulls away, looking more vulnerable than Chuck has ever seen her before. Slipping her arms around his torso, she buries her face into the crook of his neck.

"I'm so sorry, Chuck."

Chuck runs a hand through her blonde tresses. "It's alright. I think we just both needed to get a few things off our chest. It's been a rough two weeks."

She looks up at him, cobalt eyes searching his. "It's going to be even tougher, you know. We're bound to have problems."

"Trust me, I believe it."

"And protecting you is still my top priority."

"I figured it would be, what with the whole top-secret government computer being in my head and all."

Sarah hesitates, suddenly self-conscious. "I'm not…I'm not all that great with relationships, Chuck. I don't know how to express my feelings all that well."

Chuck shrugs. "Well, I express my feelings way too much. Opposites attract, maybe?"

Sarah whacks him on the arm. "I'm serious! I have no idea how to deal with this!" She bites her lip uncertainly. "What if…what if something goes wrong?"

Chuck lets out a soft chuckle. "We're going to be alright, Sarah. We'll make it work. You're worth every moment."

It's been two weeks since that fateful day, since everyone was hurtled right back into the chaos known as the Intersect. But now, for the first time in a long time, a genuine smile finally appears on Sarah Walker's lips. Eyes sparkling mysteriously, she slips a hand into his brown curls.

"Well then, Chuck…are you ready for this?"

His grin is the only answer she needs.

-

What do you say?


Random-but-sort-of-related factoid: The song choice was inspired by an episode of Glee, when Rachel (Lea Salonga) sang "Taking Chances" as her audition for Cabaret, which in turn served as inspiration for my current story, Chuck Versus the Closet Gleek, which should be updated in the next couple of days or so and is filled with more random crack. It should be fun. :D