Important. This is an AU one-shot drabble. All you need to know is Chuck got kicked out of Stanford. No agencies or Intersect involved.

Thanks to Verkisto/V/OC for reading this over for me. You all should thank her, too. It may be short, but she found a lot of things to change. I own mistakes, but not Chuck. This was originally to celebrate Brickroad16's 50th story/post, hence the pancake reference. KUDOS goes to whoever picks up on the importance or reference with the table number.

Remember, for every author, a review is rainbows and magical ponies... Especially when sharing their work is gray storm clouds and car accidents.


The Remedy

He was sitting in the back corner of the diner where the florescent lights were less harsh. His elbows were glued to the table with a concoction of syrup and dirty water from a dishtowel, but he thought nothing of it. Instead, he buried his face in his hands, rubbing his palms into swollen eyes. The pressure erased the burning from a lack of sleep and an abundance of tears he could not seem to prevent.

He looked up from his hands only when he heard the clatter of a cup slamming onto his table. Staring out the window, he picked up his mug and pressed it to his lips. The harsh, bitter taste burned in his mouth, but he did not seem to notice.

In the window, he saw his reflection. His eyes were red, as he suspected, with dark brown and gray circles underneath. Unseen, his stomach and heart ached with a pain he never imagined he would recover from.

It had been a year since Jill broke up with him, since Bryce got him expelled from college. The woman he thought he loved not only hurt him by not believing him but also betrayed him by sleeping with the man who caused the situation to begin with. Bryce Larkin single-handedly ruined his life.

While the calamity impaired his every day, it was seeing his sister so worried about him that stung the most. He would look at her and have nothing to say, no words to express how he was feeling or how much he wished it could be different for her sake.

He knew she only put up with Morgan because his friend provided him with a short reprieve from the pain he was suffering. He knew she hated watching him waste his days away at the Buy More when he could be doing something great. He understood what she felt because he felt it as well.

It was exactly a year from the day he was forcefully ejected from his bright future and he still was not ready to move on. Ellie had decided to try and push him along, but Devon's "awesome" pushes had driven him straight to this diner at one in the morning.

The potent smell of bacon and syrup soaked into his clothes the longer he sat and stared. He did not know why he ended up at the classic little diner; he had never been there before nor did he have an appetite.

A sweet, innocent voice asked, "What can I get for you?"

For the first time since he had entered, he made eye contact. Unconsciously, he felt his back straighten. Five minutes prior he was trying to make himself smaller, more invisible. Now all he wanted was to smile and make the random girl taking his order do the same.

"Just a stack of pancakes," he answered, handing her the heavy menu.

She cocked her head to the side and tapped her pen to her lips. "Are you sure that's all?" He started to confirm his initial order, but she interjected, "You seem like a chocolate chip, whipped cream, and powdered sugar sort of guy. Maybe even with a smiley face on it."

For the first time in far too long, Charles Bartowski grinned from ear to ear. "That sounds great, uh," he trailed off, looking for a nametag. "Grunka?"

She blushed, smiling. After returning her gaze to the man sitting in table thirty-one, she laughed. "Oh, no." She tucked the pen with little dimples from chewing the lid behind her ear and held her notepad underneath her arm, sticking her hand out to him. "I'm Sarah. I'm just borrowing a co-workers uniform. Mine is at the dry cleaners."

Maybe it was because of how beautiful he found her, but something about the simple, normal statement did not fit in his mind. She could be living her life, starring in a movie or saving the world, like he could, yet she found herself at a diner in the early hours of the morning just like him.

He shook her hand. They both snickered when the skin of their hands stuck together like glue from touching the restaurant's many surfaces. He recovered and, wiping his hands on his jeans, said, "I'm Chuck." He felt a large weight lift off of his body as the sickening pain slowly began to leave.

Even if it meant walking around tainted with the smell of maple and pork all day or night, Chuck knew that he had finally found where his happiness had been hiding and would be constantly returning in hopes of sharing chocolate chip pancakes with a gorgeous blonde.