Hey, everyone! Thanks to everyone who reviewed my first Chuck story last week. I didn't expect to do another one so soon, but I guess these characters are just addicting!

I meant to have this story posted before the episode aired this week because I wrote it based off the promo for the show, but it didn't quite work out that way. So now that the show has aired, this is basically an alternate take on what could've been in episode 4x13, based on the footage they showed us in the original promo, and written before I ever saw the episode. I'm quite pleased with the way the episode turned out (loved it, in fact!) but I thought I'd post this anyway.

As always, Chuck isn't mine, and please review!

Sarah Walker held her flimsy flip-flops in her hands and walked down the beach towards the water, letting the cold sand sink between her bare toes. Cowering as the cool January breeze caused loose tendrils of her darkened hair to whip against her bruised face, she searched for her target along the shadowy beach. She found him sitting just a few feet away from where the waves crashed against the shore, knees bent, arms resting against them, facing forward towards the water. Once she had locked him into her sights, Sarah slowly made her way towards him.

She hadn't expected to have to go looking for him in the middle of the night, but when she rolled over to find the other half of her bed empty and the rest of her apartment dark and desolate, she knew just where to find him. Now dressed in jeans and Chuck's gray hooded sweatshirt, with her black hair piled into a messy bun on the top of her head, she threw her flip-flops to the side and plopped down onto the sand to the left of her distraught boyfriend.

Chuck briefly glanced to his left, just to confirm that Sarah was the one who had joined him before he went back to staring at the Pacific Ocean. He didn't say hello to her, or even offer so much as a welcoming smile, but he didn't pull away when, after a few moments, she wordlessly reached over and curled her small, warm hand around one of his larger, cooler ones. She moved her thumb against the back of his hand in short, soothing strokes, and, despite the lack of eye contact on his part, kept her gaze firmly fixed upon his troubled face.

"Chuck, it's okay," she finally said softly. "It's going to be okay."

He offered no verbal response. He just slightly shook his head and covered the other side of her comforting hand with his free one, letting their hands dangle between his flannel-pajama-clad knees. Sarah moved a little bit closer to him.

"You did the right thing," she said. She paused for a long time, offering him the chance to respond (a chance he didn't take) before repeating, "You did the right thing."

Chuck dropped her hand and backed just a bit away from her. He finally said, "It doesn't feel that way, Sarah."

She shifted in the sand so that she was facing him instead of the ocean. "I know it doesn't feel that way to you yet…" she started.

"Not ever," he interrupted. "What I did will never feel like the right thing."

"Chuck," she whispered sadly, distressed by how much he was hurting.

"Look, I know it probably needed to be done, and I'm not sorry, exactly, that I did it because everyone I love is safe now, but…oh my god, Sarah, I can't even look at myself right now. I didn't think I could ever do something like that," he said.

One Day Earlier…

"You can't kill me," Alexei Volkoff teased.

He pressed the barrel of the loaded gun Chuck was holding to his forehead, as if he was daring Chuck to pull the trigger. Chuck's blood was boiling as he stared at the man who he felt had taken so much from him.

Volkoff hissed, "I have access to everyone."

In the moment that Chuck took to ponder that thought – one that was, he knew, true, as images of Casey in the hospital, his mother by Volkoff's side, and Sarah dressed all in black raced through his head – Volkoff had snatched the gun from Chuck's hands and knocked Chuck onto his back. Chuck tasted the blood from his newly split lip on his tongue as Volkoff positioned the gun over Chuck's own head. Feeling too defeated to flash and fight for himself, he silently sent a thank you to the heavens when Sarah burst into the room, connecting her foot to Volkoff's face in a powerful jump kick.

Chuck scrambled to his feet and caught the gun that was flying through the air as both Volkoff and Sarah simultaneously hit the ground. The security guard that Sarah had been dealing with wasn't far behind her. He ran into the room, and, seemingly ignorant of the fact that a man was holding a loaded gun near his unarmed boss, grabbed Sarah by her ponytail, looking to settle their score. Sarah shrieked in pain and focused on fighting back, leaving Chuck to deal with Volkoff again.

Volkoff came to quickly and didn't waste any time attempting to pick up where they'd left off before Sarah ran in and interrupted the task at hand. He took a moment to notice the newly-revealed CIA double agent and his guard engaged in hand-to-hand combat in the corner of the room before turning back to Chuck. Chuck raised the gun and pointed it at Volkoff. Volkoff taunted him and mocked him, moving closer to Chuck with each and every demeaning word. He pressed his forehead to the gun again and told Chuck to kill him.

So he did.

The world seemed to stand still as the shot rang out throughout the building. Chuck, immediately horrified by what he'd done, horrified at the fact that he had snapped and succumbed to the evil agent's mocking and provocation, dropped the still-smoking gun. It hit the ground the same time as, and right next to, Volkoff's dead body.

"Chuck!" Sarah exclaimed in a high-pitched voice that was nearly a whimper.

Chuck looked over at his girlfriend once she broke the silence, and Sarah's expression contorted into one that was filled with both shock and sadness. Even Volkoff's security guard was too shocked to remember that he had been trying to overpower Sarah. When he did, her diverted attention to Chuck caused her to suffer a hard blow to the face. Once she picked herself back up and got her head back in the game, it was only a matter of seconds before he hit the ground unconscious.

"Chuck…" Sarah said again hesitantly once they were alone.

Chuck, who hadn't taken his eyes off the bullet hole in Volkoff's forehead after his brief glance at Sarah immediately after the shooting, said nothing. The flight back to Burbank, though he was accompanied by Sarah and his mother, had been equally silent.

General Beckman commended Chuck on his actions. A still hospital-ridden Casey declared that he didn't know Chuck had it in him, adding, "There may be hope for you yet, Bartowski," with a sense of pride in his voice. Even Morgan, who Chuck knew was probably picturing the whole thing going down no different than a regular shooting in one of their favorite video games, as he had been nowhere near the actual event, thought Chuck should be considered the US government's newest hero.

And then there was Sarah. Sarah hadn't said much of anything, either, but she knew Chuck's actions were threatening to eat him alive. She was torn between the spy who would've done exactly the same thing, and the girlfriend who never thought she'd see the man she loves do something like that. A year ago, she had been so adamantly against Chuck taking someone's life. Now she just wanted to convince him that everything really would be okay.

"It'll take some time, Chuck, but…it'll get easier," Sarah promised.

"What?" Chuck asked. "Killing? I'm not exactly looking to repeat this experience."

"That's not exactly what I meant," she said.

"Look, I'm not…you know…I'm not naïve. I know that killing is a part of spying, and I know my pacifist spy routine is probably kind of ridiculous, but as much as I'd like to think I am, I'm not a regular spy. I'm not like you guys. I can do the missions, but I can't kill someone and just have it roll off my back like it does for you or Casey," he said.

"That's not what you think of me, is it?" Sarah asked.

"Doesn't it?" Chuck asked.

"No," Sarah said. "No, Chuck. I can't speak for Casey, but that part of my job does faze me…sometimes more than I'd like to admit."

"Come on, Sarah," he said. "I've watched you kill people like it's nothing."

"There are times when I'm not sorry that I do it, like that Fulcrum agent at Christmas…I did that to protect you and us, and I'm not sorry I made that choice. It was the right choice in that moment, and I would make the same choice again," Sarah explained. "But killing isn't easy, especially if it's personal like it was with you and Volkoff. And just like anything else in the spy world, the first time is always the hardest."

"So you are saying that taking another human life gets easier," he groaned.

"No, Chuck, I…" she started. She was quiet for a moment, then sighed. "Maybe I am, but it does affect me, Chuck. My red test, my first kill, will probably always be the worst day of my entire life."

"The red tests…" Chuck sighed. "You didn't want me to do that last year."

"No, I didn't," Sarah confirmed.

"You were devastated when you thought I'd killed that guy," he said. Sarah nodded. "You thought I wouldn't be the man you fell in love with if I killed someone."

"This is all true," Sarah said.

"So what about now, Sarah? I snapped. I killed someone. How can you…how can you look at me now and still love me?" Chuck asked.

"The same way you can still look at me and still love me, despite all the awful things you've either witnessed me doing or heard about me doing before I met you," Sarah said, crawling onto her knees and resting her hands against one of his. "I mean, even after all this double agent stuff, you still love me, right?"

"Yes," Chuck said immediately. "Sarah, yes."

Sarah smiled slightly. "I know it's hard, Chuck. Volkoff is eating at you the same way my red test still haunts me because that's the first time, the first moment, that we realize that we're capable of taking someone else's life, and it's hard to believe…we don't want to believe…that we really are capable of that. It's even harder to realize that the person we're so in love with is capable of that, too. I can still look at you the same way and love you the same way because the very fact that you're so upset about this proves that you're still my Chuck." She reached up and tenderly ran her hand against his cheek. "I love you. Of all the things you're questioning right now, don't let that be one of them."

Chuck closed his eyes and leaned into her soothing touch. After a few moments, she dropped her hand from his face and shifted back so she was sitting parallel to him, facing the ocean again. Neither said anything; the only sound that filled the air was that of the waves crashing against the shore. After a long time spent in silence, Chuck quietly pulled a small velvet box out of his right jacket pocket. Holding it where Sarah couldn't see, he opened it and stared at the sparkling jewel encased inside. He contemplated his next move for a moment before shifting the box between his hands and holding it out for her to see.

"Sarah," he said to get her attention.

She looked over at his face before shifting her gaze down to where his attention lay. Sarah's eyes widened when she saw the ring in his hand. She looked at him again and asked, "You're going to do this now?"

"Why not?" Chuck asked.

"Because you're…emotional and vulnerable right now. I mean, are you sure this is what you want? Are you sure this is the best time?" Sarah asked.

"It's the best time, Sarah. It's the best time because you're the only thing I'm sure of right now," he said.

"I just don't want you to regret doing this now," she said.

"I won't," he said. "I may be questioning myself and my spy career and everything else in my life, but the one thing I know for sure is that I love you, and I want to marry you, and I'm sick of something delaying this moment for us, so yeah, I'm going to do this now, and I hope that you'll let me."

She recognized the serious truth behind his words and nodded slightly, giving him the okay to continue. Chuck took a deep breath and removed the ring from its box, holding it tightly between two pinched fingers.

"Sarah," he said. "Marry me."

She glanced at the ring and glanced at him before a soft smile crept across her face. "Okay," she said softly, the same way she had responded to his request for a date a few years earlier.

Chuck smiled his first genuine smile in a while as he slipped behind her, stretching one leg out on either side of her and pulling her back into his chest. He grabbed her left hand and pulled it up to her chest, slipping the diamond onto her finger, just as he had once done with a lamp ring on a French train when their relationship was still so new. Sarah admired the way her new ring looked on her finger before turning her head to look at her new fiancé.

"It's beautiful, Chuck," she said.

"Not as beautiful as you," he said.

She closed her eyes and leaned closer for a kiss, careful not to press her mouth against the side of his that hadn't healed yet. Chuck kissed her back as best he could and wrapped his hand around her cheek. She winced as his fingers brushed against her bruised skin.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"I'm not," she said, placing another kiss on the side of his mouth.

"I know this wasn't quite the magic that I promised was coming your way…" Chuck started. Sarah pressed a finger against his lips to stop him.

"It was perfect," Sarah said. "You always wanted to do it on the beach."

"Yeah, but I imagined it happening with a lot less blood," he said, dabbing at the lip that was beginning to bleed again. "And with the light from the sunset bouncing off your blonde hair. This is all very…dark. You are going to be blonde again soon, right?"

Sarah chuckled and toyed with a lock of black hair that had fallen around her face. "Yes," she said. "I don't think this look is really me."

Sarah let go of her hair and pressed the cuff of her sweatshirt sleeve against his lip to stop the bleeding, and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. It was while they were cuddling on the beach, while Chuck was feeling so glad to be alive at that moment with Sarah in his arms, that thoughts of what he'd done came flooding back to him. He dropped his head, burying it in Sarah's neck, in the space between her head and shoulder. He breathed her in as she threaded her fingers through his hair like she knew what he was thinking.

"Time, right?" Chuck asked in a pained voice. "It'll get better with time?"

"Yes," Sarah whispered. "I'm not going to lie to you, Chuck. It won't ever fully go away, but you won't feel like this forever."

"Promise?" he asked.

"I promise," she said. "I've been there. Whenever you need me, I'm here."

He nodded and placed a soft kiss on her neck.

"Are you ready to come home?" she whispered.

"I don't know," he mumbled. He looked back to the ocean, resting his chin on Sarah's shoulder. She leaned her head against his.

"Let me take you home, Chuck. Come back to bed with me," Sarah said. "We can come back here in the morning…when it's warmer."

Chuck snuggled closer to her for a few moments before backing off a bit and agreeing. They both stood, brushing sand from her jeans and his pajama pants, and grabbed their discarded shoes. They linked their free hands together before heading back up the beach.

"Sarah," he said as they walked. "Thanks."

She nodded. "Do you think you're going to be okay?"

Chuck glanced at their joined hands; his attention focused on his ring finally resting on her finger before he looked back up to meet her gaze.

"Yeah," he said, letting her hand go and wrapping his arm around her shoulder. She, in turn, wrapped hers around his waist. "I think we're going to be fine."

Thanks for reading! I wasn't quite sure about the genre classification for this story, so let me know if you think it should be different. Please review and let me know what you thought :)