Author's Note: You guys are AWESOME. You know who you are. Thank you for your help. That made my day. Seriously. There was a delay with this one because, frankly, I didn't know how to write Sarah and Ellie. I know how to write them in relation to Chuck, but not the two of them individually. I hope I came up with something acceptable:


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Chapter 8: The Return

Thursday

November 29, 2007

2:35 pm

Sarah walked back into her old hotel pulling her suitcases behind her. For now, it would do as a temporary home. After having stopped to rest on her way back to Los Angeles a couple of times, she had driven for the last twelve hours straight. She had been a bundle of nerves the entire time, wanting to race her way back one second, not being able to step on the gas the next.

Thoughts of what she could possibly say to Chuck racing through her mind the entire time. She'd desperately wanted to call him from her apartment to try to explain, so much so that she'd rushed out and gotten a pre-paid phone, she'd had to turn in her Agency issued one. But every time her finger hovered over the call button, she couldn't bring herself to press it, instead choosing to throw the phone back onto the bed. She didn't know what she could say for one, and two, there was nothing stopping Chuck from hanging up on her, if he even answered in the first place. She decided that waiting until they could be face to face was the best option. That way, she could force him to listen to her... if she needed to.

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Thursday

November 29, 2007

2:50 pm

As soon as Sarah put her bags down in her room, she pulled out her cell and dialed Chuck's number from memory. She couldn't wait any longer: she'd find out if he was at work or at home and head on over. Instead of him picking up though, all she got was a "number no longer in service" automated message. She dialed Casey next and the same message greeted her once again. She was frustrated. Of course, they'd changed their numbers. She'd have to go find him the old fashioned way but, first, she needed to clean up. She opened up one of her suitcases pulled out some clothes, a towel, and small bag, then headed to the bathroom.

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Thursday

November 29, 2007

4:37 pm

Sarah squeezed into the first parking space she spotted in the crowded lot. That was one more reason to dislike the holidays, annoying shoppers keeping her from talking to Chuck. She quickly got out of her car and made her way to the Buy More entrance. She stood just inside the doors and scanned the floor for any sign of Chuck. After not being able to spot him, her gaze turned to the two men manning the Nerd Herd desk. Jeff and Lester weren't her first choice to approach but seeing as Morgan was nowhere to be found, she really didn't have much of one. Sarah was half-way to her destination when Big Mike stepped out of his office, donut in hand. Immediately, she changed direction and headed for him instead.

"Big Mike?"

"Blondie?" He pulled the donut from his mouth. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm looking for Chuck. Is he working today?"

"Bartowski quit," he said woefully. "Came in here a few days ago saying he was giving his two-week notice and taking his unused vacation days, haven't seen him since. Who's going to keep these freaks at bay now, huh?" He leaned in and whispered. "They scare me, Blondie." He bit nervously into his donut and walked away.

"Hey, Big Mike?" She called out. He turned to look at her. "What about John Casey?"

"Don' kno'," he mumbled through a full mouth, "hasn't bothered to show for his shifts." He turned back around and kept walking.

Sarah turned to walk out, completely perplexed. What had happened in such a short time that had caused Chuck to quit and Casey to stop showing up? A thought wormed its way out, along with a feeling of dread. What if they'd thrown him in a bunker? She was the one that fought to keep him out of it in the first place, when she left, she also left Chuck with no one in his corner. She left him vulnerable in more ways than one... what had she done? Why hadn't she thought of this before? She'd been so caught up in her own problems she never once considered the consequences for Chuck. She raced out of the Buy More, her heart was threatening to burst out of her chest. She looked over at the Wienerlicious: closed up. Sarah jumped in her car and sped off towards Echo Park. Ellie would be able to tell her something.

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Thursday

November 29, 2007

5:45 pm

Ellie was just headed out for her shift at the hospital. It didn't start for another three hours but she wanted to have dinner with Devon in the cafeteria first. She'd just locked the door to the apartment. She looked down as she put her keys into her purse and started to turn around when she was startled by the sudden appearance of somebody right behind her.

"Ellie—"

"Ah!" She jumped; her heart was racing with fright.

Sarah winced at the high pitched shriek and immediately regretted sneaking up on her. "Sorry," she offered politely.

Ellie put a hand to her chest, trying to calm herself down when she saw no danger. "Sarah?" Ellie registered who was standing in front of her. "What are you doing here?" She said bluntly.

"I'm looking for Chuck." Sarah smiled sweetly. "He went and changed his number on me." She never saw the slap coming.

Ellie gasped. "Oh my god!" She brought her hands up to cover her mouth. "I am so sorry!"

Sarah was seeing stars; she'd never been slapped that hard before. She looked on, stunned, at Ellie Bartowski. She didn't try to alleviate the throbbing from her cheek. She didn't move an inch, not even to wipe the tears that escaped her eyes from the pain.

Ellie saw the rapidly developing hand-shaped bruise on Sarah's cheek and was mortified. "Oh god," she scrambled to dig through her bag and retrieve the house keys. "Sarah... I didn't mean to—Oh god... what did I do..."

Sarah managed to overcome the shock but she was still thrown by Ellie's behavior and more than a little hurt that the other woman would treat her so harshly. "This was a bad idea," she said turning to leave. "I—I should go." She needed to put some distance between them.

"No, wait!" Ellie's hand shot out and pulled Sarah back. "Let me take a look at that bruise first, it's the least I can do."

If she was anyone else but Chuck's sister, Ellie wouldn't have still been standing. "I don't think that's such a good idea," she said, trying to keep calm and under control.

"Please?" Ellie pleaded. She was feeling horrible about what she'd done.

There was a reason she had come over in the first place and now she had leverage: Ellie was clearly filled with remorse. She would feel compelled to tell her what she wanted to know. Sarah took in a deep breath and released it. She finally nodded and silently followed Ellie in after she'd opened the apartment door.

"Please, sit," Ellie said as she kept walking further into the apartment. "I'll be right back."

Sarah sat down and brought up a hand to touch her cheek, flinching slightly at the added pressure. A small, sly smile worked its way onto her face: That was a hell of a slap. Ellie could really do some damage if she was properly trained. She heard footsteps coming closer and quickly put on a blank expression.

Ellie placed her first aid kit on the coffee table and took a seat next to it. "May I?" Sarah gave a slight nod but kept her expression stoic. Ellie grabbed Sarah's chin gently and turned her face so she could examine the affected area. "Okay, it's not as bad as I thought." She pulled out a small tube. "This will help reduce the size of the bruise," she said as she applied the ointment. "I'm sorry about slapping you. I shouldn't have done that... no matter how much of a bitch you were to my brother," she added unflinchingly.

Sarah's eyes widened. "Excuse me?"

"No, I won't," Ellie said as she went about applying an even layer of cream over Sarah's bruise. "He told me what happened between you two. How you just left him and didn't even have the decency to break up with him." She shook her head indignantly. "I mean, my god, Sarah, you know his history. Ignoring his calls for days on end and leaving without a word? And with your ex no less? I really thought you were better than that... I guess I was wrong," she said sadly.

Of course he told his sister, Sarah thought. At least Ellie didn't know who that ex was or a bruise would have been the least of her problems. "I— that's not— it's not— what I mean is," she struggled to come up with a reasonable explanation before finally sighing in defeat. There was no way she could explain without telling her things Chuck would definitely not appreciate his sister knowing. "I have no excuse," she finally said. "I made a mistake... a big one. Maybe the biggest I've ever made," she admitted as she thought about how messed up things were now. "Nothing happened with my ex, I swear to you," she said as earnestly as she could. "I got caught up in a moment and acted foolishly thinking I could recapture the past but I realized Chuck is what I want," she assured. "I just hope he can forgive me and give me another chance."

"Well, that's going to be a little hard," Ellie said, packing up her kit.

"What do you mean?" Sarah asked quickly.

"Chuck's gone."

"What? When? Where?" She started to panic.

"He left Monday," Ellie replied as she got up and started walking to the kitchen. "Got a new job and had to go to New York for training." That was obviously not the truth, Sarah knew. There was no way Graham or Beckman would allow that. "Won't be back for six months." She started wrapping some ice cubes in a small cloth towel. "I still don't get why he had to go all the way over there," she said as she started back.

"Are you sure about this?"

"Of course I am, he told me himself," she answered, affronted, "said he needed some time away from the memories."

The dig didn't go by unnoticed but that wasn't what Sarah cared about. If Chuck had been thrown in a bunker, he wouldn't have had the chance to say good-bye to his sister. This was something else. She didn't think six months was enough time to turn Chuck into an agent but she wouldn't put it past Graham to try. That meant they would force him to change, for the worse. This was her fault. She'd failed him once, she wouldn't fail him again. She wouldn't abandon him this time. Whatever they turned him into, she would be there for him. The coldness of the ice on her cheek snapped her out of her thoughts.

"Twenty minutes on, twenty off, for the next two days," Ellie told her. She checked the time. She'd wasted enough of it and she'd been as hospitable as she was going to be. "Sorry you wasted your time," she said as she got up, "but as you can see, you're too late."

"Not yet, I'm not," Sarah argued. Ellie quirked an eyebrow. "You said he'd be back in six months, I plan to be here when he gets back," she explained.

"Sarah, come on." The idea sounded absurd to Ellie. "You obviously don't care enough about him to not leave him the first chance you got, do you honestly expect me to believe you're going to stick around for six months when he's not even here?"

"I don't care what you think," she retorted. "I'm going to wait for Chuck, I'm going to ask him for another chance, and I'm not going to screw it up this time."

Ellie shook her head as she picked up her purse once again. "Suit yourself," she shrugged. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get to work."


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Author's Note: Sorry if it seems like I pointed out the date too many times in this chapter but, trust me, as the story progresses and you see that you're following Chuck and Sarah along different time-frames, it's going to make things less confusing when they meet again. I'm a little under the weather right now, so it's hard to concentrate on writing; that means the Spirits update is getting pushed to later in the week. Also, if I had $300, I would so be at Chuckfest. Oh, well.