Something way different than I've ever tried before-hope it works! Love to hear what you think!

Disclaimer: Dialogue is taken straight from Chuck vs. the Crown Vic, written by Zev Borrow. No copyright infringement is intended.


December, 2007

"Just let me ask you one thing first. Did you kiss me that night because you thought you were going to die and mine were the closest lips available…or was it actually about me?"

Burning. Burning and twisting and searing its way through her every time he said the word, every time he mentioned that night, every time he brought up that moment when nothing that mattered the most had mattered at all to her. An ache wound its way through her heart and stomach and mind and soul at the mere sound of his voice and the look of forced bravery in his eyes as he confronted her before the Christmas tree, his very presence burning to ash all that her conman father and the CIA had built in her. Hearing him mention that night—the incident, as she insisted on calling it, or the kiss, as he stubbornly kept using—hurt, an actual physical pain that struck deeper even than that inflicted when she had finally listened to the torturously sweet messages he had left on her phone while she witnessed Bryce's resurrection. Hurt so much that she feared she might actually stop breathing right there in his living room, might actually drop dead to the floor as her heart and lungs mutually decided to give up the fight and quit on her.

Couldn't he see what it was doing to her to hear him continually refer to that moment she had convinced herself existed outside of time? Hadn't he heard the desperation leaking from every pore in her body when she begged him to stop using that lethal word?


A weapon all on its own for all it made her think and imagine and feel and want.

No. He just didn't—couldn't, or he'd have dropped the subject—understand how much it hurt to be reminded of that incident, to once more feel the debilitating fear that he would die and the simultaneous, all-consuming relief that she could let go of everything as the timer counted down the seconds of her contrived life. The relief that she could finally, in what snippet of time remained to her, throw off all that the mission demanded of her and just be herself, whatever or whoever that might be. That little ember of herself—the real her she had never before known—that had been birthed the instant he whispered kind words to a young ballerina, the instant he brought her flowers and smiled that heart-stopping, oblivious smile at her door, the instant he ran from the fast-approaching vehicle in fear and fallen to the ground and faced his death and called out his concern for her.

She had given into that ember he had been slowly, steadily fanning into tiny, frightened flames, keeping it alive by way of his smiles and jokes and questions. She had, in what she had thought to be her last moment, embraced that bit of herself he had ignited, and she had pulled him close to her, begging him without words to face death with her by showing—or rather, continuing to show—her what it felt like to be loved by Chuck Bartowski.

And now every time he mentioned that night—which was far too often; even once was too often—she could still feel him stepping forward beneath her desperate grip on his shirt, could remember the feel of his hands on her back as he pulled her close in return, could taste his surprise morph into eager earnestness and delight and disbelief and maybe a hint of fear and over it all that overriding, incomprehensible devotion he directed to her and her alone.

But there wasn't a timer ticking life away anymore. There was a new mission now and no excuses and an abundance of surveillance cameras and…and she couldn't. She just couldn't. She couldn't remember that night, couldn't let it into her mind, couldn't allow that breach in her defenses.

Yet there he stood, asking her to consciously recall all of that, and she couldn't, not when it hurt so much. Not when there were cameras and Casey and Graham and Beckman and protocols and expectations and punishments for disappointing those expectations…the accompanying plane ticket to a life—bleak, barren, unlivable—absent of all things Chuck.

So she couldn't tell him how much boiled within her. Couldn't tell him that she was afraid and happy and desperate and terrified and awed and frightened and so, so confused because it wasn't supposed to be like this. This wasn't the mission, it wasn't allowed, and she didn't know how she was supposed to feel right now. Because, after all, Bryce was back. He was alive, he wasn't dead, and he had been here just a few short days ago. She had touched him, and yes, she had kissed him but only because she had finally listened to Chuck's messages and had wanted so badly to rid herself of temptation. And she had hoped—irrationally, illogically, yes, but wasn't all hope irrational?—hoped that Bryce could erase the memory of Chuck.

But it hadn't worked. All it had done was underscore everything she had thought and felt when she first kissed—no! that lethal word again—Chuck.

But Bryce had been dead, and that had hurt too, and she had thought she was in love with him, which must have been a flawed assumption because all she felt for him was so faint and indiscernible and inconsequential next to the rioting, swirling emotions that threatened to overcome her and drown her beneath their indecipherable depths whenever she thought of Chuck. Yet…how could she not love Bryce when they had been partners and he had saved her life and made her feel something after so many years of not feeling anything and given her something warm and alive to hold onto when it seemed only cold and death surrounded her? How could she move on so quickly even after his death had made her revert to that numbed state of existence?

She didn't understand it—it was wholly outside her ken—but she had moved on. She didn't love Bryce anymore…or at least, she didn't think she did…but what if she was wrong? What if Chuck was the flawed assumption, the mirage? After all, he was the more dreamlike of the two, so perfect and innocent and unblemished and clean; even his faults only made him more attractive—the nerdiness that stamped him as 'normal,' and the fear during missions that he so unknowingly overcame whenever he saw her in danger, and the way he trusted her even while wanting so badly to know her. Sometimes, in fact, he was so perfect, so achingly sweet that it hurt with a laser-sharp intensity, enough to send her scrambling back behind her mask in order to conceal the pleasant dagger twisting and turning in her heart.

Sometimes…like now. Waiting for her answer to his daring, foolish question with fear in his eyes and hope in his heart and blatant temptation in the very sight of him.

But Casey was watching, was listening, and Graham was depending on her, and Chuck himself—his safety was her responsibility. And to protect him she needed to be with him, but he wasn't taking his question back, wasn't dulling it with his customary rambling. So it stayed there, hanging like ice in the crystalline air between them…and the memory of Bryce, serrated as a blade, and the agony inflicted by Lou, too, and…and this was so confusing! She didn't know how to do this, didn't know how to handle this influx of…of…emotion! It hadn't been part of her training, and it was far, far outside the parameters of the mission, and her dad had never taught her to handle this thing called love!

Sensory overload—she had endured that before, thanks to Carina's improvised blundering and the resulting short-tempered suspicion in the terrorist leader who had caught Sarah sneaking through the hallway Carina was supposed to have cleared. That was torture, obviously—both working with Carina and the sensory overload piled atop the customary interrogation beatings—but this…this was so much worse than that. An emotional overload, each emotion like a tiny blister that burst when she least expected it, distracting her with a new pain before she could fully conquer or recover from the preceding one, each coming so fast she didn't have time to catch her breath.

Was this what Chuck felt like all the time? She felt a growing sense of horrified comprehension. No wonder emotions spilled from his every gesture and blink and word and joke and movement, not if there were so many of them always assaulting him. How could he stand it? How could he bear it without going stark, raving mad? He had claimed his pain threshold was low, but he had lied, must have because this was the most painful thing she had ever experienced. How could he juggle all of these conflicting feelings? How could he function when every which way you turned there was some other new feeling that took you in its teeth and shook you till your vision blurred and your mind melted and vertigo enveloped you in its dizzying embrace?

She couldn't do it. He was stronger than her and so much braver, constantly daring these awful, terrible blisters of compressed torture. She couldn't stand it. She had only the mission and protocol and the lessons given her by the CIA when she had desperately needed something to cling to. So she retreated, ran away, hid behind the shields her teachers had given her—the expressionless face, the correct response, the emotional distance. Isolation, that was the answer. If she were alone, alone behind her barricaded walls, then he couldn't find her, couldn't tempt her, couldn't hurt her by bringing up dreams dreamed in the light of death, couldn't pierce her with those soft brown-green eyes so full of longing and desire and forgiveness, couldn't beguile her with that adorably-shy-to-brilliantly-explosive-in-three-seconds-flat smile.

And once she was sufficiently protected, she pulled out her final defense. It was her only weapon—her gun was useless, her knives pointless, her back-up crumbling beneath his assault. So she used the mask and the words, and she raised her remaining weapon, aimed, and fired.

"It was a mistake," she said clearly. "One I will not make again."

Only…her weapon must have misfired because it didn't help her, didn't eliminate the threat or kill the searing agony writhing within her. Instead, it made it worse, the damage it did enhanced by the bleak hurt overtaking Chuck's entire face from her first hurled word, and she knew it had affected him as surely as it had her.

And she couldn't make it better—she had already made it worse trying to correct the situation. Now his anguished eyes were mute reproach, made all the worse because there was no blame when he looked at her. Instead, there was, horribly, the beginning of the same emotional distance she was employing.

He had taken her weapon! And his aim must have been truer than hers because the sight of him withdrawing from her was a thousand times more terrible than anything that had come before. He was giving up on her. And, oh, how she wished so contradictorily that she could step forward and admit how lost she felt, how he was the only light she could see, how she wanted to see if that kiss had been unique or if those same feelings could be brought back to life within her should they kiss again. She wanted him to step toward her and smile at her and say something that would momentarily banish her emotional demons and make her laugh. Wanted his sister or Devon to be there so that it would be acceptable for him to reach out and touch her, so that she could ignore her weapons and shields and fear and touch him without fear of reprisal.

But no, that wouldn't work, would it? Not for him. Because then it would only be a cover, and as a result, there would be that tiny hint of sadness lurking in his eyes, and he would be so tentative, so unsure—not at all like he had been when it had been real and he had kissed her on that threshold between life and death.

It always made him so sad when it was fake even though that was all she had. He wanted real, and he didn't seem to realize that she wasn't real, that she had never been real, that she had never had a chance to find out what parts of her were real before she had been forced to slide into the fake and the unreal to earn her dad's approval in the form of that bowl of Rocky Road ice cream. He didn't know that the real her was a shadow only given substance and form by him, that she was only real when he made her that way, that she only became the true her—the her she was beginning to think to herself might actually be Sarah Walker—when his words and his laugh and his faith and belief and trust and obvious admiration made her real.

But he didn't know any of that. He thought the mask was the real her, thought the false identity and the fake cover and the simulated emotions were true.

And if she told him differently? She'd never get to see him again. She'd never get to hear him tease her or make oblique references she didn't understand but laughed at anyway because his expressions were so funny or see him smile and laugh even when he was afraid and sad and unhappy. She'd never get to be real again. All that would be left were the falsehoods and the lies and the masks and the fragile shadow that only appeared when his light silhouetted it.

She couldn't allow that to happen. So she walked away even before her words were done resounding through the room. And she knew it was wrong—knew it because he was unhappy. Knew it because the storm of emotions tearing her into tiny little shredded pieces grew almost unbearably painful and now she could point straight to her heart and say with surety how many times it was beating per minute because each agonizing thump bit through her and obliterated a little bit more of her view of that perfect world she had glimpsed for just over three seconds.

She walked away because he had to be safe. Because even if he hated her, he had to be alive, had to be protected, had to be innocent. Because she needed him in her life and that tiny ember of realness within her wanted him to need her too. Because that flickering shadow of truth silhouetted within her had become just substantial enough to form itself around its own more personal mission—the most important of all.

Protect Chuck Bartowski at any and all costs.

And in that moment, when she walked away not for the greater good but for his good, Sarah Walker—the real, true Sarah Walker, the real her—was born.