A/N: Uhhh. This may be my favorite thing I've ever written, fan fiction or not.
The first time Sarah comes into Lou's shop, Lou is surprised. Lou and Chuck have been broken up for a week or so now and, through the sandwich shop's windows, she's seen them occasionally. Seen them acting as if they had once been close and now there was some sort of invisible barrier between them and she feels a little bit guilty because she can't help but feel some of the blame for that lies on her. She expects some kind of argument, or a retort of some kind, but instead Sarah just orders a sandwich. Pastrami, honey mustard, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, and sprouts on rye. Cold.
She orders it like she's ordered it a hundred times before, in some past life that's suddenly reentered her consciousness. Lou thinks that Sarah probably likes the sandwich, probably at one point it was her favorite, and that she's going back to it to see how much her own palette has changed. Sarah takes it to go, saying nothing more than her order and a polite smile (one that, Lou thankfully notes, holds no bitterness towards her) before she leaves.
Lou wonders how she liked it.
It's about three weeks later when Sarah comes in and orders turkey and muenster on eggbread, grilled. She looks happier than Lou has seen her since before Lou and Chuck got together, and she looks quietly over her shoulder towards the BuyMore and, after a moment's pause, orders a second sandwich of the same kind. Even without that particular sandwich order, Lou thinks Sarah's smile would give her away.
For months she comes in and orders the same sandwich, with varying levels of enthusiasm and it's like she can see their entire relationship, all of its ups and downs, from how Sarah asks for her sandwich. Sometimes she takes it to go, and practically skips across the parking lot to the BuyMore. Sometimes she eats it there, staring at the sandwich with an intense look of concentration on her face, as if she can't quite figure out how it's so delicious, how she keeps coming back for more of it, when it's so simple and unassuming.
Lou knows the feeling. Different flavors pop out at you every time, and it definitely depends on what toppings you put on it. Sometimes just some lettuce brings out the flavor of the cheese in a way you didn't expect. Sometimes the right condiment makes you feel like it's a completely different sandwich and you're eating something totally new. She watches Sarah take a bite, and the surprise on her face shows.
Despite looking at them through the glass and it seeming like they're closer than ever, Lou can't help but wonder what it means when, after a few weeks of walking with a glow over to the BuyMore, two turkey, muenster and eggbread sandwiches in hand, Sarah stops coming in to the store completely, as if her and the sandwich have been completely broken off, cold turkey (no pun intended), and it was more than she could bear to be in the same room as the sandwich.
And, simultaneously, a brunette woman starts coming in and ordering it, a smile on her face a mile long. She talks a lot, about a variety of topics that go over Lou's head, and she apologizes, says she's new to the Burbank area, and introduces herself as Jill, then takes to her sandwich with no reservations or problems. Never overthinking it, just eating it as naturally as if she had been having that exact same sandwich for years.
It's about a month before Sarah comes back in, and she seems a little reluctant, looking from side to side as if she's trying to convince herself to come back in or trying to convince herself to stay away, but she orders her sandwich all the same.
Turkey. Muenster. Eggbread. Grilled.
Then, one day a few months later, Sarah comes in and orders a new sandwich. Mustard butter. Chicken. Watercress. Salt and pepper. Tabasco mayonnaise.
"Trying something British, huh?" Lou remarks happily as she hands Sarah the bag.
Sarah stops abruptly, her eyes going almost imperceptibly wide and she fumbles with her debit card.
"Uh, sorry?" Sarah asks, "What do you mean?"
"The sandwich," Lou remarks, helpfully, shaking it in Sarah's direction, "It's a traditional British sandwich, isn't it?" She asks.
"I, uh," Sarah hesitates, and she looks confused or guilty for a moment, "I wouldn't know."
"Don't worry," Lou laughs happily, and they exchange the sandwich for the payment, "I won't tell the Chuck that you're cheating on it."
And Sarah goes stiff again, but smiles, and walks out without another word.
It's the only time Sarah ever orders that sandwich. While tempting, Lou admits, it probably isn't her taste. She never thought Sarah seemed like the type to be too into British stuff.
For four months, it's nothing but her usual whenever she comes in. And slowly the smile grows on her face whenever she orders it. Sometimes she banters with regulars that she sees, sometimes she even manages small talk with Lou (and Lou does her level best not to make it awkward, or ask about Chuck, after what happened the last time she mentioned his name to Sarah).
One day she comes in, about the happiest that Lou had ever seen her. Normally Sarah seemed to be attempting to keep her emotions in check, her smile in reserve, as if something was holding her back. But she orders her sandwich and, after about two years of staring at it strangely before eating it, this time she simply takes a bite, savoring each new flavor she encounters, making sure to even lick the condiments from her fingers.
She's gone for a week and when she comes back, her attitude is completely changed, and she avoids the store with a defiant, headstrong will. But Lou catches her throwing furtive glances towards the sandwich shop and the BuyMore every time just before she enters the Orange Orange.
It's a good seven or eight months before Sarah seems to work up the nerve to enter the store again, and all she orders is ham on white bread. No toppings. No cheese. No condiments.
"Kind of boring, isn't it?" Lou asks, smiling but serious.
Sarah just shrugs and leaves, though Lou thinks she sees Sarah take a longing look at the eggbread.
She watches Sarah with interest over the month or so that she spends with the plain ham sandwich. She seems happy enough with it, though not ecstatic. It's simple. It's easy. It's not going to surprise her with subtle hints of flavor that crop up in the grilling process. It's just going to be a plain ham sandwich. And while that's fine, Lou knows that you can't stick with a plain ham sandwich forever. Eventually you're going to get bored, regardless of how much you happen to like ham. But she doesn't give her customers advice on their sandwich selection, so she just makes it with a smile, noting how Sarah hasn't smiled back in a long time.
Sarah walks in to the store with the largest smile on her face that Lou has ever seen.
Sarah doesn't even have to go to the counter for her order before Lou says to her staff:
"One Chuck, please!"
Sarah's eyes light up even brighter.
"Thanks, Lou," Sarah says, with such sincerity that Lou has to smile back.
"Hey, you can't stay away from the Chuck too long, can you?" Lou asks, playfully.
"No," Sarah agrees, her smile a hundred different kinds of happy, "You really can't."