Hey so I know that I already wrote a brief take on how I though the finale would have played out if continued but I just couldn't get this idea out of my head. The show never really touched upon what was in Chuck's P.A.N.T.S box so I thought I'd just use the ambiguous finale as an excuse to explore the idea. Don't own Chuck. Comments and criticisms are more than welcome.
Sarah glances down at the worn box that is sitting in front of her. Alone in Chuck's bedroom, though she supposes it's technically their room, Sarah sits cross-legged on the five year-old mattress that she and Chuck once shared. Two weeks. It had been two weeks since that day on the beach and Sarah was slowly becoming comfortable in her new life. Each day was a struggle, though she has a feeling that it is infinitely more difficult for Chuck to become accustomed to their new routines then it is for her.
She still couldn't remember. It hadn't worked, that kiss on the beach. The last sliver of hope that Chuck had regarding the restoration of her memories had failed and the two were now stuck in an awkward limbo. Because even though it didn't work, the kiss held so much familiarity that Sarah realized she had to, needed to, get to know the man who so openly expressed his love for her.
The memories are sporadic and fleeting. Some are caused by a familiar place or object, but most are caused by him. He's spent the past few weeks emphatically telling her stories of their life, doing everything he can think of to give her some connection to their past. He stumbles across his words, flailing his arms with energetic gestures. He's so endearing, and honest, and always hopeful. His unwavering determination stuns her, and she quickly realizes how it was she fell for him the first time. She loves him. What she doesn't understand is how it took her former self 564 days to realize it.
She can hear him now, puttering around in the kitchen, and she smiles unconsciously. It seems that all she does now is smile. He strives to make her laugh, doing everything he can to prevent himself from broaching any subjects that will upset her. She knows that he is putting up a front for her, attempting to hide his own suffering. He is often wary of his own affection for her, not wanting to startle her or disrupt their blossoming relationship. She appreciates his tentative approach to her feelings but finds herself reveling in the moments where he is completely at ease. When their camaraderie is unquestionable and the magnetism between them is undeniable.
She picks up the wooden box and marvels at its weight, laughing silently as she peers at the acronym carved into the worn wood. She traces the letters with her thumb and internally debates whether or not she should appease her curiosity and open the mysterious box. She had accidentally stumbled upon it while searching for Chuck's Buy More jacket, one that she had quickly grown accustomed to commandeering from him. She'd be lying if she said that the warm smile that graced his face when she wore his clothes didn't motivate her to lower the apartment's thermostat. The conversation she overheard between Chuck and Ellie makes her think that, even then, she utilized the cold as a means of being closer to Chuck. She knows she doesn't need an excuse to wear his clothes, yet she creates one anyways. And each time she slips into his Nerd Herd shirt she is overwhelmed with a feeling of comfort and safety, as if the baggy clothes that fall loosely over her body represent something more than physical warmth. They remind her of Chuck, and Sarah is quickly discovering that Chuck reminds her of home.
A loud clatter is heard from the kitchen and Sarah quickly removes her gaze from the box, sitting so tortuously on her lap, and becomes instantly alert. Chuck's voice carries across the apartment, assuaging any worry she had of something happening to him. She closes her eyes and takes a shuddering breath. He's fine. No evil villain was present, no fight was taking place, just Chuck- ever clumsy Chuck- was dropping the pots and pans he had vowed to use to cook her dinner. Pepperoni chicken. Supposedly it was her favorite.
She opens her eyes again and immediately takes in the box before her, memorizing every detail. The messy scrawl on the lid and the smooth surface of the wood. She was intrigued, her curiosity always managed to get the best of her, yet she couldn't help but feel that opening the box was encroaching on personal territory that did not belong to her. This is Chuck's. The "angel" inside of her attempts to make her realize the emotional ramifications that her actions could have on the man in the other room. It isn't yours to open. She understands. Understands that she has no right to view whatever is in the confines of this box… and yet… What if it helps you remember? The devil is out now, and its argument is far more compelling than its logical counterpart. Her curiosity has been piqued and she desperately wishes to know. A silent battle occurs inside of her and a decision is quickly made. The devil wins.
Personal Artifacts Never To Share
She unclasps the hinge, the only thing separating her from whatever Chuck has hidden away, and slowly lifts the lid. She is somewhat astonished to see the array of mementos and artifacts that fill the container. She sees a picture of a young Chuck and Ellie, smiling for the camera and blissfully unaware of the heartache their older selves will experience. Gingerly placing the photo on the bed, Sarah moves on, removing various polaroids and electronics. She feels that this invasion of Chuck's privacy is pointless and unnecessarily cruel, there is nothing here that will benefit her, yet she continues to sift through. She finally extracts a worn comic from the box and notices something that makes her heart stop and her breath catch in her throat.
What had been obscured by her boyfr- husband's- nerd paraphernalia was now visible. She knew. She didn't completely remember, but she knew that these special keepsakes were about her. A feeling of warmth encompasses her and she realizes the possibilities that these items may have for her. She reaches in and extracts a tiny piece of paper, yellowing in age, and reads the simple fortune that is inscribed on it. Nothing special. For a moment she is disappointed, she thinks for the second time that she was wrong about these artifacts, that the feeling in her gut had misled her and the objects have nothing to do with her. But as she moves to put the fortune in the pile of memories that don't concern her, she notices something scrawled on the back in the same messy handwriting that wrote P.A.N.T.S on the lid of the box. Turning the paper over in her hands she reads the added inscription.
Second first date with Sarah.
A watery smile blossoms across her face. He kept it. A tiny, inconsequential, piece of paper that most people would crumple on sight. He had told her of course, about their second first date. He told her about the restaurant and Casey crashing into it. He told her every detail he felt was important. But this small scrap of paper told her everything else. She knew how significant that day was to him, how much it meant to him. She knew that, to Chuck Bartowski, that seemingly inconsequential fortune represented one of his most precious memories. She sees herself, leaning across the table, grinning like a schoolgirl in love, waiting for the kiss that Chuck was ready to give. The memory is hazy, much like the ones she has experienced since that day on the beach, yet invokes a feeling so strong within her that she is certain it is real. It isn't her imagination projecting an image based on Chuck's detailed stories, it is a personal glimpse into a past that both haunts and motivates her.
She gently places the fortune away from the other objects and continues searching through Chuck's personal treasure chest. There are still many objects within the confines of the box but Sarah zeroes in on another scrap of paper, folded in half with obvious care. Her eyes scan the paper and she quickly deduces that, what she presumed was a scrap of paper, is actually a receipt. She processes the words, waiting to see if anything will trigger her shattered memory. It's a motel receipt from… Barstow? She shakes her head, confused, and quizzically gazes at the receipt. She is unsure as to why Chuck would keep this, it offers little information. One room, paid for in cash. But like the small fortune that represented their first date, she notices that Chuck had added something to the back of the receipt. Flipping it over in her hands, Sarah sees that another piece of paper is taped on. IOU one condom. Your pal Morgan. Sarah snickers to herself as she reads what Chuck wrote beneath the crumpled note. Kill Morgan next time you see him.
Smirking, she feels pity for Chuck and whatever woman Morgan had unintentionally left unsatisfied. She suddenly pictures a seedy motel, basked in sunlight and dust, far different from the lavish Maison23 that she had briefly resided in. Entwined fingers, a passionate kiss, a feeling of overwhelming giddiness. The visual is somewhat foggy but she quickly understands what the flashes and images mean. Her heart begins to beat rapidly and her cheeks flush with color as she realizes that it was she who was disrupted by Morgan's IOU.
She feels as if she intruded on a moment that does not belong to her, that was not meant for her eyes to witness. The fleeting glimpse of a passionate incident between herself and Chuck causes Sarah to panic. She quickly places the receipt next to the fortune and vigorously shakes her head, attempting to stop the growing blush on her face. Wanting to distract herself, Sarah haphazardly grabs something from the box and examines it closely.
It's a wrapper. Nothing special. She studies every inch of it, waiting for a memory to hit, but nothing happens. Her confusion is heightened but she realizes that this, "Personal Artifact," is not something that she had encountered before. It isn't something from her life with Chuck, whatever memory this invokes is his own. She is bewildered by Chuck's desire to keep it but understands that, just because she doesn't know what it is, there is a deeper meaning behind the wrapper, still slightly orange from the Cheese Balls of which it advertises.
She pushes forward, anxious to see if the box contains anything else that will aid her. The sparkle of the cheap plastic tiara catches her eye. She tentatively grasps it in her left hand and notes the contrast between the plastic shimmer of the crown and the brilliantly vibrant glitter of the ring adorning her left hand. She smiles involuntarily and focuses on the tiara to prevent her mind from straying to the weight on her left ring finger. The short time she has spent with Chuck has made her privy to the fact that he is a constant surprise, an enigma that she feels she will never truly understand. This is confirmed once again as she holds the plastic tiara in her hands. A thirty year-old man and his prized possessions include a crown that she imagines is what most prom queens are presented with. Prom Queen. Her high school reunion! Mascara streaming down her face, her lips quickly swelling from her encounter with her nemesis, Chuck smiling at her from across the room.
She stares, astonished by the memory, slightly less hazy than its predecessors. She is once more baffled. He went to her high school reunion? He knew about Jenny Burton? She realizes that, as her husband, Chuck was probably aware of many hidden details of her life, but is amazed by what she had shared with him. Not even Bryce had been informed of the life she had led before her introduction to Langston Graham. But Chuck knew. Chuck had seen her high school photo, seen her at her worst moment, and still loved her.
Sarah's heart swells at the thought. The stupid tiara that she had mocked with contempt held an entirely new meaning to her. She didn't know how it ended up in Chuck's possession because, knowing her, she had probably thrown it away the first chance she got. Yet here it was, sitting in a wooden box next to comic books and old computer parts. Rather than adding it to the growing pile of memory-invoking artifacts, Sarah places the tiara atop her head and smiles at the absurdity.
The contents within the P.A.N.T.S box has dwindled greatly and now only two objects remain to be examined. The red box catches her eye and she is surprised that she had not immediately seen it, immediately gravitated towards it. Amnesia or no, this is something that Sarah recognizes. Every agent was required to have one, it was something that was demanded of them. The exterior was the same for each one, whether it belonged to a low-level analyst or a field agent as adept as herself. She traces the white C.I.A emblem that is emblazoned on the small box. She doesn't know who it belongs to, though she assumes it's Chuck's. She wonders how something so seemingly innocuous could contain something as deeply personal as a spy's will.
The lid slides off easily, there is no jamming or sticking, and Sarah tells herself that this is a sign that she is meant to see it, that she isn't doing anything wrong by opening it. She carefully opens it and her azure eyes skim the first few lines. The realization hits her and she quickly shoves the paper back in the box, shutting it with an alarming ferocity. All air leaves her lungs and her breathing becomes ragged and uneven. The words hit her like a tank to the gut and she quickly pushes the small box out of her sight. It wasn't Chuck's. It was for Chuck. It was her spy will. She doesn't remember writing it, and she barely remembers giving it to him, but she is left shaken by the significance. Her original will, the one she knows in detail, was brief and succinct. Addressed to her father, telling him of the money she had left to him. This will was the opposite of the one her 21 year-old self had scribed. It was for Chuck, full of emotion and confessions and an overwhelming amount of love.
She feels the tears streaming down her face and clutches Chuck's jacket tightly around her body, inhaling the scent and reveling in the protection that it offered her. She doesn't believe it. Doesn't believe how much this man had changed her. She is petrified by the emotions that she herself had poured into that letter. Not wanting to think about the words she had read, and technically had written, Sarah removes the last article from the box.
A small velvet bag. She would normally think that nothing of value could be tucked away in something so innocuous, but she now knows better. With Chuck, anything was possible. Her body tenses and she braces herself as she pulls at the drawstrings of the pouch. Closing her eyes, not yet ready to face whatever memories will be triggered, she lets the object fall into her open hand.
The cool metal causes her to momentarily flinch. She has a feeling of familiarity as she blindly traces the object lying innocently in her palm. She takes a deep breath, opens her eyes, and peers at the bracelet. It is unlike anything she owns, and she knows it isn't something she herself would ever think to buy. But she knows that it's hers, that this cheesy charm bracelet belongs to her. She hooks her finger around the chain and lifts the bracelet so that it is level with her studious eyes. A rush of emotion comes coursing through her body and she suddenly feels… heart-warmed. This memory is crystal clear and she is shocked that it is something she could ever forget. Her first real Bartowski Christmas, her second since arriving in Burbank. Trapped in the Buy More with Fulcrum and the Buy-Morons and Chuck. It was his mother's. But now it's hers.
She struggles to gain control of her emotions, gingerly toying with each sterling silver charm. She glances around her at the mess she's made on Chuck's bed and quickly begins to remove any evidence of what she had spent the last few minutes doing. The tiara is removed from her head and each object is put back in its rightful place. But as Sarah moves to return the bracelet, she realizes that she can't because it's rightful place is her wrist. She struggles to decide what to do. She doesn't want to let the bracelet out of her sight, but if Chuck sees it he'll know exactly where she found it. She stands up, determined, and marches out to the kitchen.
Chuck's back is turned to her and he is humming an unfamiliar tune that stops Sarah in her tracks. His melody soothes Sarah more than any memory or oversized jacket could. For a moment, she thinks her heart may have stopped. It quickly starts again and hammers in her chest with a force that blocks out Chuck's song.
He whips around with a smile that quickly vanishes from his face. His eyes widen as he takes her in, standing in the doorway. He gives her a once over and she realizes how she must look. Dried tears stain her face, fresh tears well up in her eyes, her hair is messy from the tiara, and she is frozen in a stupor that must make her look like a frazzled lunatic. Her hand is in a fist, clenched around the bracelet, and is shaking with the force that is stirring inside of her.
He carefully walks up to her and she can see the raw emotion that is etched in his face. He tentatively places a hand on her cheek, openly conveying the concern that he has for her. He cocks his head as he peers at her, and for the first time since she's met him, he is at a loss for words. She raises her hand, placing it between their bodies, and opens her palm. He glances down and just as quickly snaps his eyes back to her own. His mouth gapes open and he shuts it closed quickly. She knows what he's doing. He's piecing together everything that the bracelet means. She sees him realize where she got it and he stumbles away from her. She quickly closes the gap that was created by him and she grasps his hand in her own.
She stares up at him and sees that, like her, tears are brimming at the edges of his eyes. She opens his hand and presses the bracelet in his palm. He breaks her penetrating gaze and stares down at his open hand. She lifts her arm, forcibly shoving the sleeve of his jacket to her elbow, and holds her exposed wrist out to him. He is quick to understand what she is asking, demanding really, and clasps the bracelet onto her wrist, finally putting it back where it belongs.
He looks down at her and she stands on her toes to cradle his face in her hands. He doesn't ask, doesn't question what she's been up to, and Sarah finds herself relishing in the emotional silence. There is an electric current that she feels when in physical contact with the man before her, and she finds that it is something that she wishes to feel as often as possible.
She is surprised when he lets out a boisterous laugh and picks her up, spinning her around in a childish way. She finds herself joining in on his laughter and as he swings her around she knows that they can make it through anything. He comes to a sudden halt and his hands glide to her waist as her own wrap around his neck. He leans down, as she tiptoes up, and their lips meet. The tenderness of the kiss leaves Sarah breathless and warm and giddy. She's happy, she realizes, and so is he.
Her nose crinkles and she watches as his forehead creases in confusion at her reaction. His cheeks redden in embarrassment and she realizes that he thinks the grimace on her face was caused by his kiss. She laughs and grasps the collar of his shirt, pulling him down so that their lips are millimeters apart, and just before she closes the gap once again, she lets out one last amused comment.
Chuck… I think the chicken's burning.