A/N the First: So today is a very important day for every single Chuck fan on the planet. It is not Course Jester's birthday, though I really tried to make it so. Instead, it is... *drumroll please* Aardie's birthday!

If you don't know who The Great Aardvark is, I both pity and envy you. Pity you because Aardie is one of the coolest people on the planet, and envy you because now you get the awesome experience of meeting him. Seriously, I could go on for hours about just how great Aardie is. I met him through the Google Group back when I was an unknown, penniless writer, and since then, I have come to esteem Aardie as not only a great author (read his take on Ellie and Chuck handling Orion's death, it is masterful), but as a great person and an even better friend. Even though I think he's annoyed at me for making him squee over the couch scene in What Fates Impose Chapter 42, and as he put it, "grown men should not squee."

So here's to you, Aardie, the first chapter of Sarah's POV from the prologue of What Fates Impose. I hope your birthday is wonderful, and thank you so much for all of the advice you've given me, and for being such a wonderful friend, and, hell, just for being you! Happy birthday, Aardie!

Disclaimer: Honestly, if you're going to sue me, please sue me over having the poor taste to have read every single published Nora Roberts novel. No money was being made here, I don't own any of these characters.


I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.

- William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, III, i, 60-62

As Constant as the Northern Star

25 SEPTEMBER 2007
SARAH'S APARTMENT
00:14 EDT

Even though it was supposed to be her day off, which meant no distractions, no cell phones, and definitely no CI-Freaking-A, Sarah's cell phone rang. Loudly. Uncomfortably close to her head. And, of course, at the worst possible moment of her sleep cycle. She dragged herself from REM sleep to wakefulness while "Jazzy Jive Ringtone #4" blared. Years of training and the necessity to be alert at the drop of a hat kept her from snapping, "What!" into the phone, though she was tempted.

Instead, she said, "Walker, secure."

"Sarah?" The nervous voice on the other end of the line was familiar, though she hadn't heard it as often in the past two years, not since she and Bryce had been transferred. But even fighting off the effects of deep sleep, Sarah could recognize Dave O'Connor on the other end of the line. "Sarah, what the hell is going on?"

Sarah pushed her sleep mask off and swung her legs out of bed. "What are you talking about?"

"What the hell are you and Bryce trying to pull? Please tell me this is sanctioned because if not, Sarah, I don't know if I should even be talking to you. I've got kids."

Instantly, everything inside Sarah went cold. Bryce called it agent mode taking over, though she didn't really have an official term for it. She pushed all of her confusion and sleepiness to the side. "I haven't seen Bryce since we met for drinks earlier tonight," she said in as succinct a voice as possible. "And he left early. Is he in trouble?"

"I should say so! He blew up government property. You had nothing to do with this?"

"You woke me up, Dave." Sarah's mind whirled through thousands of possibilities, scenarios, and statistics, even as the rest of her wondered, what the hell? Why on earth would Bryce ever blow up government property? And why hadn't he told her about it? "Tell me what happened."

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "I don't know if I should," Dave said, and she wasn't sure if it was because he didn't believe her or if there was something more going on.

"Dave."

"Sarah, this is huge." Dave sounded genuinely frightened, which made Sarah's hand pause in the closet as she reached for a shirt. "If Bryce was acting of his own volition, and we don't report this right away…it could be terrorism, and they don't—they don't negotiate with terrorists—"

"Dave," Sarah said, and her voice sounded calm and level even though her thoughts were whirling, attempting to put any info into any semblance of understandable order. Terrorism? What the hell? She hadn't been asleep that long. "You're on a secure line. This conversation stays between you and me. You've got that promise from me and you know I'm a woman of my word. But you have got to tell me what's going on."

"Bryce blew up part of the DNI." The words tumbled out in a rush.

"What? Why would he do that?"

"I don't know! I thought you might, which is why I called you before my superiors. You really had nothing to do with this?"

Sarah was tempted to point out that she stabbed things: arson wasn't usually her first priority. "I swear I had nothing to do with this. What exactly did Bryce blow up?"

"It's classified level six."

Oh shit. Bryce, Sarah thought, what have you done?

And why?

"I didn't look into the details of the room, Sarah. I'm not sure I want to know. But whatever it was…he had to subdue at least twenty guards. They're thinking he might have gotten clipped, and the NSA is furious."

"The NSA is involved?" It was getting worse with every sentence Dave spoke. Sarah shucked out of her negligee and began wiggling into clothes. It looked like sleep was about to become a rare and precious commodity. Every minute Bryce remained off the grid increased the suspicion that he really had committed treason. As much as that word sent frozen terror through her, the agent part of Sarah never backed down from the hard truth.

But it didn't make sense. Had Bryce gone temporarily insane?

"Oh yeah," Dave said. "Whatever was in that room, it was joint NSA and CIA, and it was important. Bryce hasn't contacted you?"

Sarah pulled her phone away from her ear to check. No new messages. "Not in the usual manner," she said. "He hasn't tried to contact you?"

"No, no, not at all, but I monitor the email usage, you know, make sure there are no aberrations, and about five minutes after the explosion, an unregistered account on the server sent a huge file."

"What?"

"I think it was Bryce, Sarah. I think he blew up whatever was in that room and he emailed it to somebody."

"That's a lot to pin on somebody, Dave."

"Check your computer."

She slung a pair of slacks over her shoulder to put on later, grabbed her flat-heeled boots, and hurried downstairs to her computer, juggling everything as she did so. "Okay," she said, dumping the load she'd picked up on her desk chair. "I'm at my computer, what did you want me to—" She broke off as her computer started playing grainy surveillance footage on its own, which was mildly creepy.

Of course, she forgot all about that after only a few seconds of the footage. It told a grim tale: Bryce Larkin using parkour and other gymnastics to take out one guard after the next. He was wearing the same damned suit he'd worn to meet her and Carina—though she was going by Callie right now—for drinks.

No wonder, Sarah thought as on-screen Bryce karate-chopped a guard down and vaulted over a rail, he wanted to leave early. And she'd thought he just wanted to get away from Carina.

"What's going on right now?" Sarah asked, watching with a calculating eye as Bryce continued to twist and dance his way through the guards. "Have they organized a manhunt yet?"

"Everybody's in a panic. The bureaucrats got involved and it's a regular SNAFU right now." Dave's voice now sounded ragged. "They haven't even called me yet. I should have called straight in, I know I should have…"

"You did the right thing, Dave," Sarah said, forcing as much calmness into her voice as she could. Dave made for great tech support, but she would never have wanted to serve in the field with him. "How long ago did this happen?"

"The email was sent forty-five minutes ago."

"And that was after the explosion?"

"Yes, three minutes after."

Which meant Bryce had nearly an hour of lead time, and that time would only grow as Sarah and Dave worked to piece together precisely what had happened. Sarah dumped everything out of her chair and sat down at her computer, intending to get a better look at the footage. She knew she should report in to Graham and see what he wanted her to do, but…Bryce was her partner. Even if he looked guiltier than sin at the moment, she had to give him the benefit of the doubt, right?

Right?

"I'm going to need you to hack into all traffic cameras around the DNI, and see if we can figure out how he left. If he got injured, he'll go to ground; he knows first aid knowledge to sew himself up. If we act quickly, we might catch him before he can remove any sign of his—"

"Sarah." Dave's voice was solemn now.

Sarah felt a tendril of ice curl through her belly. "What? What is it?"

"You never asked who the email went to."

She'd been more focused on wondering why the hell Bryce had evidently snapped, lost all touch with reality, and blown up a building, but if he had an accomplice—an accomplice that wasn't her, which hurt, but that whole mess of psychoses and emotion would have to be explored later, when she once again had the luxury of time—that was important. And there was something in Dave's voice that made her leery. "Please tell me he didn't send it to Al-Qaeda, Dave. I'm already starting to regret waking up."

"Not Al-Qaeda, no." There was a pause on the other end of the phone line for so long that Sarah nearly threatened to take away Dave's extensive movie collection. Dramatic pauses were well and good and all, but not when her partner was evidently a fugitive on the run after blowing up a damned piece of government property. "He sent it to Chuck, Sarah."

Sarah didn't drop the phone, though it was a near thing. "Say what?" she asked, though she had heard perfectly.

Chuck.

Damn it.

"The email transmission went straight to Bunker Seven-Seven-One-Four-Two-One-Three-Five. I logged the IP address and triple-checked." This time the pause wasn't dramatic, or maybe Sarah didn't hear it thanks to the fact that every single part of her had gone numb. She physically felt the color leach from the room. "I don't know what the hell Bryce's game is, Sarah, but it looks like Chuck's in on it."

No. That was impossible. Chuck wasn't a traitor. He cared enough for the country that he was willing to put up with the worst godforsaken assignment. There was no way he would willingly aid and abet the destruction of government property.

Sarah forced herself to swallow. "I see," she said. If having to deal with the thought that Bryce may have gone rogue had made her cold, hearing that Chuck might have been in on it was something much, much worse. Sub-zero didn't come close.

It took a mammoth effort, but she forced the daze to the back of her mind, Agent Walker taking over in place of Sarah's shock. "Is there any way to know what was in the email Bryce sent Chuck?"

"I can try to find out," Dave said.

"Good. Do that." Sarah rose, pushing away from the computer, and headed back upstairs. She had a strong suspicion that she knew where Bryce might be heading, and if she moved quickly, she could intercept him. And she would need a lot warmer clothing. "Dave, do you trust me?"

"What?"

"Do you trust me?" Sarah took her stairs two at a time.

"I don't—"

"Do you or don't you?"

"I do," Dave said after a pause. "But Sarah, this is terrorism, and this is huge."

"I know that, but we don't have any way to know this wasn't sanctioned. Unfortunately, we work for the Central Intelligence Agency, and it's an occupational hazard." Sarah yanked open her closet and this time reached all the way to the back, removing the panel she had installed the first week she had moved in. There was a packed bag inside. "I need a favor."

"What? What is it?" Fear laced Dave's voice.

"I need you to sit on that email."

"What? Sarah, that's—that's—that could get me fired! Hell, that could get me thrown in jail!"

"I'll take the fall if there's any heat," Sarah said, tossing the bag on the bed before she keyed in the combination to the safe where she kept her back-up piece. "I don't know what Bryce and," she paused just the slightest bit before saying his name aloud, "Chuck, I don't know what they're doing, but I'm going to have faith that they're not traitors and they're not terrorists. And I want you to do the same."

"But what if…"

"Then I'll deal with it. I'll be out of contact for at least ten hours, but you should be able to reach me for a little while on this number." Sarah rattled off the back-up cell phone number she had memorized six months before. "Follow your normal protocol, but don't mention the email or Chuck to anybody for twenty-four hours. And send everything you can find out on that email to that number I gave you. Got it?"

"You had better not burn me," Dave said, suddenly fierce.

Despite the anxious fear, Sarah allowed a sad smile. One of the realities of being a spy was that anybody and everybody could be burned in the right situation, and Dave was one of four people where she hoped that situation never arose. Unfortunately, Bryce and Chuck made up for two of the others, so it didn't feel like she was going to get her wish in this situation.

"I will do everything I can to protect you, Dave, and I will keep your family safe."

"Twenty-four hours," Dave said.

Sarah thanked him. Normally she would have asked him to tell the girls hello for her, but right now, that might sound like a threat, so she just bade him good-bye. Time was of the essence, she knew, but she stood at her bedside for a moment after she'd hung up, and stared at her own bedroom. For one minute—time she didn't have—she let herself, as she had heard Chuck put it once, freak out. Sixty seconds to hyperventilate and wonder what the hell had just happened.

And then she took a deep breath and released the magazine from her gun to check for ammunition. It was loaded.

She shoved the magazine back in and took a deep breath before she tucked the gun at the small of her back. Normally, the weight was somewhat comforting, but right now, it felt like the ball at the end of the chain that would drag her to her drowning death.

She could only hope she didn't have to use it on her partner. And she feared that she would have to, on the man that had refused to leave her thoughts over the past two years.

Once she'd pulled on pants and shoes and ran a comb through her hair, she picked up her cell phone from the bed and dialed a number from memory. A couple of ring-tones later, an irate voice picked up. "Hey, Mitch," Sarah said, putting false cheer in her voice. "You're in DC, right? Oh, good. Remember Guatemala? Yeah, I'm calling in that favor. How soon can you get to Dulles?"

25 SEPTEMBER 2007
DOMODEDOVO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
20:52 MSD

"Au Revoir," Sarah said into the first burn phone, and hung up. Even though Jean-Paul was one of her favorite contacts, she longed to put her hand to her forehead for even a brief moment, to try and quell the vicious headache that had been sitting behind her right eyeball. She knew better. Very soon, the CIA would obtain copies of the surveillance footage from the airport in Moscow. And Sarah did not want to show them what she truly was: a woman about two wrong words from shattering into a thousand pieces. So instead she would give them the calm façade that she had worked hard to craft when she had been handed the Sarah Walker name.

Samantha wanted to curl up and cry. Sarah, likewise, wanted a nap, but that wasn't on the agenda, so she might as well suck it up.

She pocketed her cell phone and rose, collecting her bag. She had thirty minutes until she was supposed to meet her contact. It was best to eat while she could, though her stomach seemed to curl inward at even the merest thought of food.

It figured. It was hard to stomach the thought of eating when both of your partners looked like they had gone behind your back and committed a major act of treason and terrorism.

Dave had sent the promised data. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like the file Bryce had emailed to Chuck had been filled with intelligence beyond top-secret. Dave had included another file, prefaced with the words, "This sounds like something Asimov would write, but I think it's related and you may need it. DELETE AS SOON AS YOU READ."

And though she had no idea who Asimov was, read she had. That had been on the flight from Amsterdam to Moscow, another government favor used up and burned. Now, over an hour later, she still wasn't sure if Dave was kidding. Subliminal data encoded into pictures that could be read by people rather than computers? Human databases? It was far too bizarre to even contemplate, but the file that Dave had sent her had been a very serious briefing on the subject. The technology existed, and Dave seemed to think Bryce and Chuck had stolen it.

It wasn't nearly as damning as the other bit of information Dave had fed her: Chuck had sent some satellite images of the DNI building to Bryce two weeks before.

Every new sign pointed to Chuck and Bryce being in on this together. Some foolish part of her had been holding out hope that this might all be Bryce's folly, that he had just dragged Chuck in, that Chuck was just some innocent bystander. It wasn't much, and it didn't stop the ulcer forming in her stomach. And sure, it was traitorous as hell to a partner she had been with for years, on and off, but the thought of Bryce as a traitor and a terrorist was much easier to handle than Chuck.

She kept her features schooled as she purchased a couple of protein bars and water from the only café open in the terminal and she ate every bite of the protein bars and drank every drop of the water. Her body felt a bit as though somebody had used her for a punching bag. She imagined that even without the constant worry and panic and suppositions that she would be exhausted, given that she had hopped from one flight to the next with very little time in between. And she had an air-drop, petty larceny, and a long night still ahead of her.

She hoped Chuck was still at the bunker.

She feared that Chuck was still at the bunker.

"Excuse me, you wouldn't happen to have a light, would you?" The voice hinted at British, though the main accent was continental. Sarah nearly jumped and kicked herself for getting so lost in her thoughts that she had allowed her guard to drop. Her contact, a man she knew only by his picture, had apparently found her without her being even so much as aware of his presence.

"I beg your pardon?" she asked in Russian.

The contact grinned. "You'll have to forgive me. Two strangers meeting in an airport should always have some sort of code phrase, so I decided to make one up. I am Yuri. I believe you are a friend of…Candace's?"

"Indeed." Sarah shook Yuri's hand. "Lisa Jones."

"Very nice to meet you, Lisa Jones."

Trust Carina not to mention that Yuri had the body of an underwear model under his expensive jeans and turtleneck, Sarah thought as she and Yuri sized each other up. She was operating on very little but faith and her own savings now, so she would have to trust that Carina's "friend from way back" knew what he was doing. At least he hadn't asked any pesky or incriminating questions when she had called from Amsterdam to hire him.

"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" Yuri asked, switching over to English.

Coffee would never agree with her stomach, though the caffeine would help. Sarah smiled. "I'd love a cup of tea."

Yuri paid for the tea, which, considering how much she was paying him for his services, she couldn't help but appreciate. She added too much sugar, and the first sip cloyed her mouth, but she didn't care. She just tapped the spoon against the rim and set it on her napkin. "Were you able to get all of the equipment I requested?"

"It was not easy, but…" Yuri shrugged. He gulped his tea, even though a small sip had scalded Sarah's mouth. "But I did not get where I am today by not being the best. You will want to look over, yes?"

"I will."

"My man, Ilya—my brother, you know—he is doing the final checks on our plane, and then we will meet him on the runway."

Sarah took another sip of the too-sweet tea. "I'll do the checks mid-flight." She would prefer to check over the equipment on the ground, but time was of the essence. Chuck and Bryce, if they were truly working together, had about ten hours on her at this point, and their lead-time would only increase.

It would only increase farther if she had to turn around due to faulty gear, though.

"Actually," Sarah said, "I'd like to do the checks pre-flight. How soon can we get to the plane?"

"Finish your tea, and then we will see my plane."

26 SEPTEMBER 2007
UNLISTED COORDINATES, SIBERIA
02:19 OMST

If Sarah Walker believed in luck, she would have spent the past twelve hours cursing hers, but even she had to thank her lucky stars that she had survived the jump from Yuri No-Last-Name's plane. Even though she had inspected the chute, the cabling had caught, and she'd been forced to pull the reserve, which meant her landing was quite a bit harder than expected. She could only be grateful she made it through the experience with only her bones rattled.

She policed her drop-site, tucking the chute back into the pack, while her body all but vibrated from the force of the impact. Siberia, in the middle of the night, was eerily akin to the desert in that there was no noise save for a little wind that rustled beneath her cap. The last time she had been here, it had been the middle of November, but in the dead hours of the morning, it seemed just as cold and just as desolate. Night-vision goggles and a GPS meant she didn't have a problem navigating. She simply tried not to think about the few horror movies that she had seen over the years as she jogged, heading for the nearest sign of civilization.

The jog was a hair under ten kilometers. She jogged the first four still toting the parachute, but stopped just before three a.m. to bury the pack. She wouldn't need it again, and her body was already beginning to drag from exhaustion, so she would just let the bag be a mystery for some random hiker that might stumble over it someday.

The remaining few kilometers gave her far too much time alone with her thoughts, which had been her problem since she had convinced Mitch to fly her from Dulles to Amsterdam. Her only reprieve from thinking had been a tiny catnap on the plane from Amsterdam to Russia. And, she thought somewhat wryly, on Yuri's plane. Yuri and Ilya, who could have passed for twins but apparently weren't, hadn't shut up for a single minute of the flight. It should have been annoying. It had instead been a relief.

So as she jogged, trying to ignore just how leaden her arms and legs and chest felt, and reviewed what she knew. Two weeks ago, Chuck had emailed Bryce satellite heat scans of the DNI. Twelve hours before, Bryce had broken into the DNI, stolen intel, blown up the site, and had escaped. He had sent a large email to Chuck that contained said email. And if Dave was right, the contents of that email had been something unbelievably valuable, and unbelievable besides.

As of Dave's last contact, Bryce had not been found, and he had not reported in. The higher-ups still didn't know of the email or of Chuck's involvement.

She mentally reviewed every conversation she had had with Bryce in the past six months, but she could only determine that the bastard had not done one suspicious thing. Bryce had not dropped a single hint. Had he been playing it cool to keep her out of it? Or was he just heartless? What was his bigger plan? Why had he done all of this? Why would he recruit Chuck for this and not her, unless it really was terrorism?

She had a sinking feeling that she was too late, that Chuck and Bryce, if they were really working together, were already five steps ahead of her, that it was all futile, that she was giving up everything for nothing, but her steps across the snow never faltered and her pace never slackened.

The little town she had picked wasn't much, just a handful of houses clustered together. After three in the morning, there wasn't a single light on. She could have walked right down the middle of the town's single road if she chose. She stuck to the edges of town instead. One insomniac wandering around town and her entire plan was blown.

She found her quarry in a barn that was either on the outskirts or center of town, depending on how many steps she took to one side or the other. It took another fifteen minutes of solid pushing over the permafrost and the snow before she was comfortable enough to climb aboard the stolen snowmobile and hotwire the engine into starting. Before she did so, however, she allowed herself a quick breather, wolfing down an MRE she'd brought to keep her body fueled. She ate it cold and tried not to think about Chuck, how he had had nothing but these things, and the gifts she occasionally bribed Josh Preto into sending his way, for the past three years.

It had been seven hundred and six days since she had seen Chuck.

She buried the MRE remains and replaced the heating packs inside her gloves so that they would be warm when she drew them back on. Unfortunately, she hadn't thought to bring fingerless gloves, which meant she had to work bare-handed to hotwire the engine. It took less than a minute but even so, she was near the point of tears at how frozen solid and miserable her fingers were by the time the snowmobile engine purred to life. That, more than anything else, frustrated an actual growl out of her. God, she hated Bryce Larkin. Innocent, guilty, whatever the hell he was, right now she hated him. Annoyed, she revved the snowmobile engine, double-checked her GPS, and shot into the darkness.

In less than two hundred kilometers, she would be face to face with Chuck Bartowski again—if he was still there. She didn't know whether to hope so or not.

26 SEPTEMBER 2007
BUNKER 77142135
06:08 OMST

There were no tracks leading to or from the bunker.

That was…odd.

Even if Chuck had taken off hours before, Sarah was sure it hadn't snowed in the area, and she doubted Bryce or Chuck was precise enough in covering up their escape that it would stand up to close scrutiny. She lowered the binoculars and frowned to herself behind the facemask. The email had been sent to the bunker, so for Chuck to have received it, he would have had to be in the bunker…

Or maybe the email was a decoy and Chuck had been long gone from the bunker even before Bryce had broken into the DNI. The thought made her cold in a way that had nothing to do with the frigid air swirling all around her. Had Chuck and Bryce tricked her into coming all the way out to Siberia? She was the one person in the CIA that knew both of them best, and sending her to Siberia was pretty much the perfect wild goose chase in the critical first twenty-four hours of their escape.

She pulled her gun from where it had been tucked against her back. She hadn't brought camouflage gear, so her gray parka and black snow pants would stand out in the cleared space around the bunker, a squat little building that had not changed at all in the past two years, and sneaking up would do absolutely no good. Even though she'd disabled the sensor half a klick back, if Chuck suspected she was coming, he probably already knew she was there. So, holding onto her gun and steering with her left hand, she kicked the snowmobile back into motion and drove the last few hundred feet to the bunker's entrance.

Nothing shot at her. That was usually a positive sign, but she stayed tensed.

She didn't leave the snowmobile idling, though she wanted to in case things got tricky. Kicking off the snowshoes wasted precious time outside the entrance. Again, nothing shot at her, and there was no sign of life from outside or inside the bunker. She felt her heart begin to pound against her ribcage, and told herself it was just her situational awareness kicking into overdrive. She had no idea what she would find inside the bunker. Nerves were to be expected.

Yeah, right.

Even with the code, it took a little muscle to open the door, but she shoved her way through. No ambush, no shots. She was probably right; the email had most likely been a decoy, and she had burned her carefully planned extraction route, showed her hand to her superiors, and wasted precious time following a dead lead for nothing.

Assuming Graham didn't fire her ass for breaking ten thousand and one protocols, she was now pretty much guaranteed to be the laughingstock of the Agency.

Those thoughts bounced around, fueling her anger and hatred for Bryce as she crept farther into the bunker. The walls closed in around her just like she remembered, but she took a deep breath. There was plenty of oxygen, drugged or not, inside the bunker. She would be fine.

The office was empty. So was the kitchen. That left only the bunk room.

The door to the bunk room was open, but thanks to the humming of the generator, she couldn't hear anything from inside. Either Chuck was there, or he wasn't. If he was, he was probably sleeping. At either rate, it would take a simple step forward, and she would know.

Sarah took a deep breath, let it out. And even though she knew it was foolish and she should just do it already, she repeated the process. Her heart was still hammering, pounding erratically now so that there was no set rhythm as it bashed against her ribcage. Thankfully, her hands were steady on the gun. Shaking hands gave away an agent's secrets every time.

Get over it, Walker, she ordered herself.

Something beeped. Sarah nearly shouted and whirled, but instinct instead drove her step forward toward the noise and right into the doorway with her gun up.

Her heart stopped. She didn't know for how long, all she knew was that the pounding in her chest cut off abruptly and time seemed to freeze—and then her heart started again, this time speeding like a jackrabbit.

Chuck evidently didn't hear her, for he didn't turn. His back was to her as he fussed with something at the foot of the top bunk.

Oh, God. She had forgotten how tall he was.

What was he still doing here? Why hadn't he noticed her? What the hell was going on?

She knew she should say something, should announce her presence someway, but a lump formed in her throat, possibly from fear and anger and frustration. She couldn't have spoken right then if she tried.

She didn't have to. Chuck half-turned, reaching for something on the bed. She knew the instant he spotted her because he froze like an animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. His eyes widened so much that she could see the whites around his irises even clear across the dim room.

"Sarah?" he asked. "Sarah Walker?"


A/N the Second: Don't worry, this is not finished. There are five chapters of Part I of What Fates Impose and five very important birthdays coming up in my life over the next two months. Handy how that works out, right? :)

Just a note: I know Sarah wasn't as introspective as expected in this chapter, and I did that on purpose. Denial, travel exhaustion, and fear can take a lot out of you. Also, I know people might be annoyed that this chapter didn't end at the same point at the first chapter of Fates, but the chapters are going to start and end differently in this story since it's Sarah's and not Chuck's. Next chapter, we see Sarah take the plunge, and how will her stomach lining hold up?