Author's Note: Okay... Here we go. This chapter is a little "angsty" I suppose. BUT... I think compared to some other stories, it's mild. And, it doesn't go beyond this chapter, sooo... you just have to get through it. I have re-read it and now I don't think it's that bad.

Author's Note II: Personally, I think if you're early, you're on time, and if you're on time, you're late. Just keep that in mind while reading.


Chapter 3: Forty-Eight

Part I

September 16, 2007

8:00 pm

Chuck and Sarah sat in the little restaurant she had chosen for tonight. Having just ordered their food, they looked back to each other as the waiter left. Chuck not knowing anything about the quality of the restaurants in the area had left it up to Sarah to decide. Besides, he still wasn't in much of a mood to talk just yet. She had been late picking him up, and he had convinced himself that she had stood him up. She showed up twenty five minutes after seven claiming traffic had kept her and Chuck let it go at that with an "It's fine," but there was still some resentment lingering. Saying the car ride had been uncomfortable was being kind. Not only because he didn't know what to say to her now, but because she drove like a maniac. Chuck gripped the door's armrest so hard his hand was aching when he eventually let go. Of course, the fact that he had just aggravated his injury from the previous night doing so didn't help matters. Speeding like a bullet through the streets, he wondered how it was that traffic could have stopped her from getting where she wanted to be, if she had really wanted to be there that is.

Sarah turned to face Chuck; as soon as she did, she could see the disappointment and small hint of contempt in his features. The brown eyes that held warmth in them the previous night now were wary in their regard of her. She immediately accepted her drink from the waiter, and intently studied it for a long moment. That look was her own doing, and she did not want to see it anymore. She knew he had thought she'd stood him up, and how could he not? She was late even though she set the time, not to mention, she almost never showed at all. She had been a split-second decision away from completely standing him up instead of just being late. She couldn't really blame him.


September 16, 2007

6:30 pm

Chuck stepped out of the bathroom of his hotel room, freshly showered. He was half an hour away from his date with Sarah and the twists and turns happening inside his stomach were making the wait feel like exquisite torture. He hadn't looked forward to something so much in years. He was giddy with anticipation of what would happen once she came knocking.

He got back to his room after leaving Sarah for the day and he plopped down on his bed. The events of the past night had left him happy but tired. Sarah sure could walk. So, he set his alarm clock and fell fast asleep. Some sleep was better than none, after all; and he wanted to be wide awake for tonight. Had he fully processed that he had a date with a beautiful woman that night, sleep would not have come so easily, or at all. But the whole thing was so surreal it was taking longer than it usually would.

Chuck's alarm went off at 2 pm. He awoke reaching over to his left to silence the alarm, the haze of sleep still clouding his mind. Slowly his mind cleared, and suddenly his eyes shot open. Everything was coming back to him, including him asking Sarah out on a date and her saying yes. He pushed himself up with his hand. Unfortunately, it was his bad hand and immediately felt the pain. "Argh! What the hell!" That part of the night came back to him too.

He let the pain subside, after five minutes the excitement had taken over. He got off the bed, got dressed, and left. He had some things he needed to pick up. He wanted this date to be perfect. He spent the afternoon out buying a new dress shirt, pants, and even shoes. His Chucks just wouldn't do tonight. Finally, he picked up a bouquet of flowers for Sarah. This date would definitely take a bite out of his wallet, but he was okay with that. He just wouldn't buy any new games for a couple of months, it was worth it. He came back to his room and immediately got in the shower.

Chuck had dressed and was tying his new dress shoes, definitely not comfortable like his Chucks. It was fifteen minutes 'til Sarah got there, so now it was just a matter of waiting. He lay down on his bed with his hands clasped behind his head. This wasn't exactly long term, but it was a step in the right direction. One he hadn't been able to take in five years. Maybe his luck was finally beginning to turn.

Seven o'clock came around and for the past five minutes, he had been staring at the door anticipating the knock. Seven o'clock went and no knock. Five minutes, she can be five minutes late, it's no big deal. 7:05 came and went, still no knock. At this point, Chuck stood up and went to stare out the room window. Any second now... The time came to 7:10, I mean, she did say yes, right? She wanted to go out with me? At 7:15, his thoughts began wandering down a path that never equated to anything good for his self-esteem. Was she just playing with me? She didn't have to say yes if she didn't want to. 7:20 struck, and there was no going back. Man, how pathetic am I? Well, at least I can spare Ellie the knowledge I got stood up. I'm sure Sarah got a big laugh out of this. Good thing I'm out of this place tomorrow and I don't ever have to see her again. Chuck sat at the edge of the bed and just placed his head in his hands for a few minutes. In the minute between 7:24 and 7:25, he stood up to throw the flowers in the trash can by the door. As he turned around to change out of his clothes, there was a knock at the door.

He looked through the peephole at the image of Sarah being distorted in the glass. Huh. Chuck opened the door to see what she had to say for herself, maybe tell her off.

"Hi, Chuck. Sorry I'm late. I got stuck in traffic and my phone's battery is dead so I couldn't call."

Well, I suppose that makes sense. I should give her the benefit of the doubt. She is here. "It's fine."


September 16, 2007

7:25 pm

For the past two minutes Sarah had stood in front of Chuck's door, still not sure of what she would say when she knocked and he opened. Not sure if she could knock the door, not after what she had almost done to the poor guy. Screw it. She was here; she might as well go through with it. Besides, she was fast on her feet, she'd come up with something. With that, Sarah raised her hand and the impact of her knuckles on wood reverberated through her ears.

Sarah had just gotten back to her apartment after leaving Chuck. She headed straight to her bathroom for a nice relaxing shower. She had not felt this good in a long time. The time spent with Chuck had been refreshing for her after years of dealing with the scum of the earth and fellow agents. She couldn't wait to spend more time with him later on. After showering, she put on a bra and panties, went through her clothes, and picked out her best dress; she knew the perfect heels for it. She laid it out on the bed and crawled in for a nap with a smile on her face. Seven o'clock couldn't come soon enough.

She woke at 5:30, plenty of time to get ready. She went to her mirror and started to put on her make up, still excited about her date. As she stared at her reflection, though, her mood began to shift. What was she doing? This wasn't her. She couldn't afford this kind of distraction. She was suspended, but not fired. It wouldn't come to that; there was nothing tying her to whatever Bryce was up to, and her boss would come to that conclusion because it was the truth. She had acted impulsively and that could get an agent killed. What if Chuck had been the enemy? She had let her guard down and that could've ended up with her dead. Of course he wasn't the enemy... he was worse. He was a glimpse into something she could never have. Why would she torture herself like this? There was no way she was going to go meet Chuck. She'd finished putting her make up on, but that's as far as she went. She got up, went to her bed, and sat against the backboard with her legs stretched out in front of her. This was definitely not how she had pictured her evening going.

It was now 6:40, and for the past hour and twenty minutes, Sarah had been berating herself for her actions with Chuck on one hand, and on the other berating herself for standing him up. He seemed so happy when she agreed to the date, and he was the nicest guy she'd ever met. How could she do that to him? She pictured him in his room waiting for something that was never going to happen. How long would it be before he realized she wasn't going to show? The look on his face when he finally did figure it out. She couldn't take that, she didn't know why, but she just couldn't. She jumped out of bed, slipped on her dress, coat, and heels, and quickly went to work on her hair. Not the best she'd ever looked but there was no time for that. One date, what could it hurt? He was leaving the next day, so why not give him this. Go, have dinner, make polite conversation for a while, then bid him goodnight, and that was that. She was trained for this sort of thing; it should be a piece of cake.

6:50. Damn. I'm gonna be so late! She was out the door, and headed down to her car at a walk-jog. She was sure she could come up with an excuse on the way there; she had plenty of time for that.

She heard the door unlocking, then opening. It was 7:25 and her heart was racing. How would he look? How would he react to her being this late? What would she say? One look at him, and her thoughts turned to quicksand. Being swallowed up faster the harder she fought to get them out. There was a small trace of surprise on his face, not to mention hurt. And then, she noticed it. The way he was dressed, not at all like last night. These were more formal clothes he had on: light blue shirt tucked into his black pressed pants, and black dress shoes on his feet. They were clearly new. He'd gone out of his way for this, and she had thought of not going anywhere at all. Then she heard herself say, "Hi, Chuck. Sorry I'm late. I got stuck in traffic and my phone's battery is dead so I couldn't call." She didn't know where that came from, but it sounded like a good excuse considering she had nothing a second ago.

"It's fine." He took a second to let her off the hook, though not totally buying it, she knew. She hoped the rest of the night would be better... and she really hoped that no one from work called because that would not go over well at all.


Author's Note: Okay, you got through that. Your reward? Another chapter.