Title: drowning on dry land

Summary: He's sweet and smart and so warm, it makes her want to cry.

Character/Pairing: Sarah Walker, Chuck/Sarah

Rating: G

Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, although I wish Zachary did.

Note: A look into Sarah's psyche before and throughout the series. Mentions of Bryce (and spoilers for the Season Two finale). This is my first entry in the Chuck fandom. Comments are always appreciated, please no flames.

You were like a breath of fresh air, like I was drowning and you saved me.

Bryce dies.

Director Graham briefs her quickly and she walks down the hall afterward, not quite sure where she's going. She reaches the bathroom and locks the door behind her before sliding to the floor, her back pressed against the cold wall. She thinks she would vomit if only she could muster the energy. Instead, she takes in a shaky breath and silently cries, a hand clasped over her mouth.

Bryce is dead, she thinks. Nothing will ever be the same.

(Nothing ever is.)

She meets the asset.

He's tall and handsome and reminds her of Bryce so much it hurts. (There's still so much she doesn't know about him.) She slips him her number and walks out, strides long, her smile faltering only once her back is turned. She sits in her car for long minutes afterward, breathes in and out slowly, clutching the steering wheel tight.

Her knuckles turn white from the pressure.

A mild breeze blows blonde wisps into her eyes.

She tucks a lock behind her ear, feels the sun unbearably warm upon her face. She watches them lower Bryce into the ground and feels like she's drowning, the weight on her chest pushing her down down down. When she dreams of him, he's alive and whole, standing on a beachy shore. She kicks her feet, tries to swim to the surface but never reaches him, despite her best efforts.

(He is always just beyond her grasp.)

Chuck stands beneath a tree a few feet away, staring intently at her. She gives Bryce one last look before walking off.

She meets Chuck for lunch each day.

Part of it is the cover (they are a couple, after all) but part of it is that she likes spending time with him. He's sweet and smart and so warm, it makes her want to cry.

(Her own personal sun, warming her from the inside out.)

She stumbles over her own two feet as she approaches him one day and he's quick to reach out a hand to steady her, laughing at her clumsiness. She smiles, looking down at their clasped hands.

And just like that, she breaks the surface.

Bryce dies. (Again.)

And it hurts of course, but not like the last time; it doesn't hollow her out, doesn't sink her like a stone in water. She grabs Chuck's hand, squeezes it tight as they lower Bryce into the ground for a second time.

She almost feels guilty for the relief rushing through her.

It snows their first Christmas together.

(He says it's a sign and she smiles, shaking her head but deep down she thinks it is too.)

Chuck's never really seen snow before so they spend hours playing in it, building snowman after snowman. She teaches him the best way to incapacitate an opponent during a snowball fight (an occupational hazard) and laughs when she catches sight of him deep in concentration, mittens packing a ball of snow, trying to get it just right.

They make snow angels outside Casey's door and laugh breathlessly when he stomps through the imprints to chase after them.

They get married.

The ceremony is small, just them and their family and friends. (Because she has family and friends now. The thought makes her heart leap.) Afterward, Chuck pulls her aside and dances with her slowly, quietly humming in her ear. She wraps her arms around his neck and holds him tightly, nearly smothering him she's sure, but he doesn't complain.

She feels him smile against the skin of her neck and holds him tighter.

She dreams of Chuck beside her (always beside her) on a beachy shore and snakes a small hand into his own before drifting back to sleep.