A/N: I haven't written fic in quite a long time (it's probably evident, I know- if anything jumps out at you, let me know in a review), but I write to figure out conundrums. The latest of these conundrums was what exactly happened after the kiss. I formulated my own interpretation, which turned into a brief drabble just for my sake, which in turn became this. It's quite experimental, so do leave me constructive criticism if you'd like, and I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck. I know, I can't believe it either. I also don't own "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver, which I'm sure you all recognized as the origin of the title.
She starts keeping a diary.
It takes a while for the memories to come back, but bit-by-bit they do and Sarah writes them all down inside a tiny, leather bound book.
Sometimes, they return to her in dreams, whole scenes playing out in front of her like something out of a movie. Other times, they're just flashes of emotion that she recalls, pulled back to the surface by the strangest things, like a turkey-and-muenster sandwich (jealousy) or the opening notes of a Nina Simone song (bliss).
She keeps track of them in diaries because they almost never seem to be in order and they've got a nasty habit of scaring her. One day, she remembers trying on wedding dresses and the next memory to resurface is of her dancing with a very not dead Bryce. She finds herself shaken enough by the image to mention it to Chuck, who patiently recounts to her that portion of their story.
Patient: it is Chuck's default setting these days, buzzing away under the other two constants of supportive and loving. It drives Sarah crazy sometimes, because patient means that he's waiting for something and she's not certain that that 'something' will ever happen. Even so, it's because of Chuck that she's still here. Running has been programmed into Sarah's instincts since her days of running cons with her father, but that day on the beach, she really did feel something. Morgan's theory of a magical, memory-restoring kiss hadn't quite been validated, but kissing Chuck still sent waves of emotion through Sarah that were undeniably real.
That's why she's chosen to stick around. Because somewhere, somewhere deep inside of her, she once felt all of those emotions. They're the sort of emotions that get spies killed or burned, and they're completely terrifying, but it's a familiar kind of fear. She's felt it before and she knows in the back of her mind that she's faced it before and won. How could she run from that?
Chuck makes it his mission to help Sarah find herself. Even as her memories slowly return, he's very aware of the possibility that they might never all be back. He deals with this by helping her create new ones, trying to make up for the five years that she's lost. She spends her time re-learning this place where she spent half a decade and regaining her footing, and Chuck is by her side through it all. He fields all of her questions and is there to help her whenever she needs it, like there's nothing he'd rather do than help Sarah pick up the pieces.
It's not always enough, though. Sometimes, Sarah will catch him staring wistfully at something in the apartment that she- the old Sarah- must have picked out. Or other times, he'll casually reference something from their pasts that Sarah hasn't remembered yet, and in the split second before he slaps on a smile, his face will fall into such a heartbroken expression that Sarah hates herself for forgetting even a moment of her life with this man.
He never pressures her into anything, even though he loves her with everything he's got and she can still be the cold spy who doesn't open up to anyone. Her brain tells her that her hodgepodge identity, pieced together from vague memories of their story and a few leaps of faith, will never let her become a whole person, but Chuck doesn't ever let her feel like she isn't enough.
She can't help but love him for it.
Almost a year after that day on the beach, Sarah has come to terms with the fact that she is, once more, in love with Chuck Bartowski. She doesn't know whether to call it fate or divine providence or the Force, but it takes that much time for most of her memories to come back to her, too. At first, she thinks that her newfound sense of belonging must be because of the year she's spent here figuring out who she is, but then one day at the bank she instinctively signs her name 'Sarah Bartowski' and it's then that she realizes what is happening.
Five minutes later, as she sits in her car and flips through the journal filled with memories, the time order doesn't confuse her any more. Her recollections extend beyond what the pages have to offer. She can connect stories and fill in the holes in narratives and feel like she is looking back at her own life, not just reading the story of someone else's.
Relief and joy are the first of a veritable deluge of emotions that hit her, but all of them are abandoned when she pauses to imagine what this year must have been like for Chuck. She pictures him over the past twelve months- hoping against hope for a miracle to happen and putting on a brave face in case it doesn't- and is caught between an overwhelming rush of love and an oncoming flood of tears. Either way, there is only one thought running through her mind as she drives back home: Chuck needs to know, and he needs to know as soon as humanly possible.
Sarah runs from her car to the Echo Park courtyard like her very existence depends on how soon she tells Chuck. Slowing down by the fountain, she collects herself before casually knocking on their door, as if she hasn't broken three traffic laws and possibly the sound barrier just to get here.
A smiling Chuck opens the door clad in a Star Wars t-shirt and jeans and Sarah freezes at the sight like she hasn't seen her husband in a year (and she really hasn't, not as herself, anyway.) And even though she was desperate to tell him not thirty seconds ago, she is suddenly overcome by emotions that render her completely speechless. All she can do is stand there and take in her Chuck, the one who is her home, the one who saved her from the spy life and herself.
Chuck, for his part, looks confused until he scrutinizes the silent Sarah and notices something different about her demeanor. She's carrying herself differently, looking more relaxed than she did when she left. Honestly, he hasn't seen her looking like this since-
Then it hits him and silently, almost cautiously, he searches her face and sees his Sarah, the one he thought he'd never see again. There is a spark of awed recognition in his eyes as he says her name and that is all she waits to hear. Sarah launches herself at him and he wraps his arms around her and they're both in tears but neither one of them can recall a happier moment because twelve months have felt like an eternity and this day was a long time coming.
The last thought that Chuck registers, as he kicks the door shut and his whole universe surrenders itself to Sarah, is that his wife has finally come home.