A/N: So, nearly a year ago I participated in the who are you? Challenge, and since the results were never published, I decided to post it now, just in case anyone is interested. As you may notice, it is Christmas themed, so you could either consider it coming very late or very early. Anyway , Here it is, "ordinary hero". As usual my thanks to foxmac for the beta and the title to the fic.
By the way, I'm halfway done with the next "Pond" chapter, I'll try to send it to beta over the weekend
It all started with a flash.
They were curled up in the sofa watching the news. Well, actually Sarah was watching the news. Chuck was too distracted by how warm and soft she felt at his side. He barely had his eyes opened when he felt a tinkling sensation on the back of his head. After all this years, he could feel a flash before it even started. He concentrated on the TV, trying to listen to the reporter, as they showed the picture of a sturdy man in his late forties leaving a big building surrounded by reporters.
"This morning Emil Vartichenko was released from custody after the International Criminal Court found him not guilty on the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the murder of more than 1600 civilians on the Republic of Brantislavia, between the years 2003 and 2005. The prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo called this 'a sad day for humanity when a monster like Vartichenko gets to walk free after committing one of the most brutal ethnic cleansing in the Twenty-First Century.'
"Mr. Ocampo had lost the case when his office failed to provide hard evidence linking Vartichenko to the mass graves found in the tiny Eastern European nation.
"And in other news . . . "
Chuck felt the familiar sensation of a flash overtake him. It was a long one, and when it finally subsided, he found himself shaking with
"General, I need an explanation," Chuck shouted at the screen when Sarah entered Casey's apartment. Apparently, they have called an emergency conference with the General and Casey stood in the back, clearly surprised by Chuck's uncharacteristic behavior.
"Agent Bartowski, Chuck," Beckman began. "Please let me explain-"
"General, how could you do it?" Chuck interjected. "Vartichenko got away because of a lack of evidence but I know that you've got the evidence. I've seen it on the Intersect: video clips, photographs, signed orders-"
"Yes, Chuck," Beckman interjected. "We did have the evidence. It was uploaded onto the Intersect cube as a last addition. At that time, we just received the reports from an agent working in Eastern Europe, and uploaded it as fast as we could. However, the server in which that data was stored was destroyed in a Ring attack, and while we had planned to do a back-up of the data stored in the Intersect cube-"
"-You never got to do it since I destroyed it," Chuck finished as realization dawned on him.
"I'm sorry, Chuck, but the only existing copy of that data in our hands is in the Intersect. All the physical evidence was destroyed by Vartichenko, and since there is no way to extract it from your head . . . " Beckman's voice trailed off.
" . . . You couldn't present the evidence in the court," Chuck finished. "So he got away because of me," he added dejectedly as he sat down on Casey's couch, his face pale.
Sarah rushed to his side and took his hand between hers as she tried to offer him some comfort. A few minutes later, Chuck got up and wordlessly left the apartment.
Sarah wordlessly looked at Beckman and Casey and left to follow him.
Sarah found Chuck sitting on their bed, legs crossed and head hanging low. She sat down beside him, legs folded under her and put a comforting hand on his knee. She noticed that he was shaking.
Unable to contain his sobs any longer, Chuck began to cry. Without knowing what to do, Sarah ran her hand through his hair, while trying to whisper reassuring words. He collapsed on the bed, his head resting on her lap as she continued to stroke his hair. They stayed like that until he sniffled.
"It is my fault, Sarah," Chuck said brokenly. "I destroyed the Intersect cube and because of that, that monster is going to walk free."
"That's not true, Chuck," Sarah rebuked him gently. "And you know it. You did what needed to be done."
"Come on, Sarah," Chuck refuted, shaking his head. "I mean, how many times we were able to do things that appeared impossible. Retrieving an Intersect cube wasn't so far-fetched. But I rushed my decision and destroyed it."
"You were a hero that day, Chuck," Sarah said with conviction. "Like always." She paused, looking at him closely. "What's this really about, Chuck?" she asked a moment later.
Chuck hesitated before replying, "I can see it, Sarah. In my head. It's all there. Everything that man did. I can see it but nobody else can. Because of that, 1600 people never got to see justice served."
Sarah didn't know what to do. Never before had she found herself in a position to have to comfort a loved one. She felt torn and powerless over her inability to bring some closure to the man she loved. In her mind, she began to calculate logistics. With her training, she knew she could do it, she could assassinate Vartichenko and bringing back some solace to Chuck.
Then Sarah looked at the man crying on her lap. Her Chuck has a gentle and kind soul. He didn't want revenge, he wanted justice, and she couldn't even give him that. When she saw him hurt, her first initial reaction was to be an agent and was ready to protect him. But he didn't need Sarah Walker the agent, he needed Sarah Walker the girlfriend.
Unable to do anything else, she bent down and kissed his forehead. She laid down behind him, her arms around his chest, her mouth next to his ear whispering words of love and comfort.
The last week had been difficult for both Chuck and Sarah. He was depressed and she couldn't find a way to cheer him up. She had never seen him like this, not since they got together. He wasn't feeling guilty as she first suspected, he was feeling the weight of their lives on his shoulders. Being a spy meant having the ups and downs that goes along with it. When you win, it meant that you were able to stop the bad guys, protect the innocent, and leave the scene unscathed. But when you lose, the consequences were severe.
As a team, their record was nothing short of incredible. But now, for the first time, Chuck felt the aftermath of a defeat. The destruction of the Intersect cube was necessary, and Sarah knew that he understood that. But without the benefit of a proper training, having to face the repercussions of a failure was proving too much for him.
And that damned Intersect didn't help. From time to time since that night, Sarah noticed that Chuck would fazed out, his expression becoming anguished. She supposed that he was reliving the flash. After all, the Intersect was dominated by his feelings. And now, his feelings were insisting on torturing him. Even for a trained agent, learning to live with your failures was difficult. But how could you do it when your mind keeps showing you unspeakable horrors?
He must feel so powerless, Sarah thought. Chuck saw something that needed to be righted and yet he can't do anything to stop it. She had always told him that he can do anything, and now he was learning, the hard way, that it wasn't true. That, in a way, she lied to him, and that broke her heart.
Sarah was sick with concern. Her Chuck was a kind man. She remembered how his voice had sounded so innocent a few years ago when he thought that the dead bodies he saw in some pictures were just people sleeping. But now, he had burned in his head the images that would disturb a more hardened man. She had talked with Casey about this, and he had confided in her some similar things he had seen in the past. The tremble in Casey's voice and the anguish in his eyes told had her that even a hardened NSA veteran was also affected by such sights, and now Chuck had to live with similar scenes ingrained in his mind.
Sarah missed Chuck: his jokes, the joy in his voice, his smile. She missed her Chuck. He needed her and yet she didn't know how to reach him. Then a plan began to form. It was difficult and it would take a lot of resources but she knew that she could do it. She look at him, sitting in the couch watching TV, his expression blank. She stood up with resolution and walked to their room.
Hang in there, Chuck, Sarah thought with determination. I'm coming for you.
Chuck came back home from another shift at the Buy More. Even if it the whole place was CIA/NSA substation now, he still had to work his shifts to keep up appearances even on the day before Christmas. He arrived at the apartment hoping to find Sarah there. As he entered the living room, he was surprised to find that it was empty. Removing his tie, he walked in to his room.
Sarah was waiting for him there, sitting on the bed with her legs crossed. She was wearing jeans and a red blouse, her brown boots were lying on the floor next to the bed. A laptop was on the bed in front of her.
"What's going on, Sarah?" Chuck asked curiously.
"Come here, Chuck," Sarah said patting the space beside her. "There's something I need to show you."
Chuck sat down next to her and Sarah gave him a quick peck on the cheek before she pushed the space bar on her laptop. An image of a man in military uniform appeared.
"This is General Stanfield. Remember him?" Sarah began. "You saved his life on our very first date. He was the one who arrested Vartichenko and ended his regime."
Chuck cringed when he remembered what had happened that fateful night.
"You saved him and hundreds of guests that night," Sarah continued. "You saved them without any training or experience. That's when I first knew you were a hero."
Sarah saw a little life come back to Chuck's eyes. She pressed the space bar again and a picture of a young Asian couple getting married with a third, slightly older woman at the side of the smiling couple appeared on the screen
"I'm sure you remember Mei-Ling and her brother. He got married last June and he's expecting his first daughter for January. Mei-Ling is still working for the CIA in Langley and dating an analyst. She was the one that sent me this picture."
They spent more than an hour like this. Each time, Sarah showed Chuck a picture of somebody that the he had helped or saved. She had spend the last days frantically going through their mission reports, contacting everyone that she thought might help and preparing this. She was touched by the number of people that jumped at the opportunity to help Chuck back.
The laptop eventually came to a scan of a news report of a drug bust.
"Carina sent me this," Sarah told him when she noticed the puzzled look in Chuck's face. "Last month, she stopped a gang that had teenage girls in Third World Countries into drugs, and then sold them in Europe as prostitutes. She said that, without you saving her that last time she was here, this people will still be at large. When I told her about my idea, she also offered to come here and personally thank you."
"And you adamantly declined." Chuck looked at Sarah's serious demeanor to what she considers as hers with a small appreciative smile in his lips.
Sarah pressed the space bar again and this time it showed a surveillance picture of Casey and Alex sitting in a diner, laughing. It was the most relaxed Chuck had ever seen Casey.
"I took this without their knowledge," Sarah stated, without any guilt or remorse in her voice. "But this isn't about you saving Casey's life, even if you've done it several times. This is about you saving him as a person. Before coming here, I knew Casey by reputation. He was a cold-blooded and remorseless killer. Now he has a daughter, friends, and a whole family with us. He tries to hide it but I know he loves you, that he loves us. In a sense, you bring him back to life. You have that effect on agents, Chuck," she added with a shy smile.
Sarah hesitated before pressing the space bar again. Off all the pictures she had shown Chuck, this were the ones that could rekindle the worst memories for both of them. But he needed to see the pictures, so she pressed on. The next picture is of a beautiful brunette woman.
"Hannah's living in Paris. She's working for a multinational company and living with a French national. I think she's happy."
Chuck looked at Sarah. She was clearly distressed for reliving those dark days of their relationship. He took her hand and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
"Chuck, I know that you don't like to think of that time. We both did some pretty stupid things back then and we both have regrets about that time. But you saved her life at the museum, and I know that a part of you still cares about her."
"I cared about her, Sarah," Chuck gently stated. "But I never loved her, not like I love you."
Sarah looked at him, her eyes shinning. She rested her head against his shoulder. Pressing the space bar again, the final picture appeared. It showed a brunette woman in the streets of Rio de Janeiro
"Jill's in Brazil, working with a company that's developing cheap drugs to fight AIDS. Without you, she'd be rotting in a cell. Instead, her work could save millions of lives. Don't worry, with Fulcrum gone, the CIA's no longer looking for her."
Chuck took both of Sarah's hands into his and gave her a soft kiss. "Thank you," he said a moment later. "Thank you for making me feel better."
"Well, that's not all, Chuck," Sarah said with truth in her words. "I want you to understand how important you are, not just to me, but to the world. Come on. We're going for a ride."
They drove in silence to the hills outside the city. Once there, they alighted and looked at the lights, holding hands. Without looking at him, Sarah began, "A few years ago, the military were getting ready to take down a satellite. If it falls here, thousands could have died. But then, the world's top player of Missile Commander rose up to the challenge. Thousands of people were saved that day, and they will never know that they owed their lives to you. Not to Casey, not to me. Not to the Intersect, but to you, Chuck Bartowski. I know that Beckman, Casey, and even me, we didn't acknowledge your achievements as much as we should, and for my part, I'm sorry.
"You are a hero, Chuck," Sarah added with conviction. "You are my hero. Now, there is one more thing I want to show you."
They drove back to the apartment complex in comfortable silence. Chuck was lost in his thoughts but he appeared far more calm. When they arrived and entered the courtyard, Sarah went to the window of Ellie and Awesome's apartment. She gestured for Chuck to silently join her and they both looked through the lacy window.
Inside, Ellie was cooking Christmas dinner with Devon's help. At the large table, Morgan was sitting, apparently telling some amusing story. Alex looked at him and listened adoringly, a full blown grin in her lips. Casey was sitting at the other side of the table, using a glass to hide the smile that Morgan's story had provoked. Without taking her eyes from the inviting scene, Sarah said, "Everyone in there owes you their lives in some way or another; with the possible exception of Alex, but you did save her mom. You saved Ellie when she was poisoned, and Devon when he was taken by the Ring. Because of your fidelity towards your best friend, he didn't blow up in a car.
"But it's more than that, Chuck. We're a family, the first one where I felt as if I really do belong, and you are what keeps us all together."
Sarah took Chuck's hand and dragged him away from the window. She looked at him and she saw his eyes were bright with unshed tears. With a soft, almost tiny voice she said, "There is something else I need to tell you. There is someone else you saved." She took a few moments to gather herself before continuing. "That person is me. You saved me, Chuck, not just physically. Although, you did that on several occasions." She gave him a shy grin. "You saved me from the worst destiny I can possibly imagine: a life without you," she added with a tremulous smile.
Chuck took Sarah in his arms and hugged her tight. She relaxed in his embrace, in his touch and his smell for the first time in weeks. After a few seconds, they broke apart and she looked at him, her voice full of emotion. "Chuck, I-I don't believe there is a god. I don't believe in a higher power of any kind. Before I came to Burbank, I only believed in following orders and some obscure concept of the greater good. But now, I believe in something. I believe in you."
Chuck looked at Sarah, at this incredible woman who had – once again – done anything in her power to protect him and to fight for them. He took her in his arms again and gave her a long, tender, and well-deserved kiss.
"Well, Sarah, in that case, Happy Chuckmas," Chuck said, a wide grin in his face and his eyes sparkling with amusement.
Sarah laughed with delight and hugged Chuck as tightly as she could. Her Chuck was back.