He kisses her on a Friday.
It's magic, not the kind of magic Morgan was hoping for, but the look Sarah gives him more than makes up for the failed flood of memories. There's hope in her eyes mixed with desire and affection. Even if her memories are gone, he knows with full certainty that the love she felt for him is still in there, buried beneath the wall she built back up. God, he hates that wall.
She asks him what they do now and he says it's really up to her. If she still wants to leave he'll let her go, but she's more than welcome to come back to the apartment to try and work things out.
Sarah doesn't think about it long. She agrees to go home with him out of instinct. The kiss stirred something within her and she owed it to both of them to try and make it work. It's absurd. Nothing about this situation makes sense, but the story Chuck told, their story, made her long for that life. A life with roots and love and happiness.
The first night is the hardest. She takes the guest room and he doesn't protest. He's trying not to pressure her or scare her off, but something about the way he acquiesces to easily breaks her heart. Instead he gives her space to move her things while he goes next door to see his sister. She grabs a few clothes from the closest, knives from under the bed and her watch from the nightstand. She pauses by the door at the sight of a photo on the desk. Chuck's in his nerd herd uniform and she's in some strange gold bikini. It was . . . Halloween. She took this photo of them so he'd have something real.
She takes the photo too.
/ / /
He asks her to trust him, so she does.
It's hard for her and there are times when her body screams at her to run, but she stays, feet firmly planted in the one place that's ever felt like home. Sarah's only been here a week and everything is so damn familiar, but the memories are stuck just under the fog that clouds her brain. She desperately tries to reach for them, but like Tantalus and his grapes, they always elude her.
Chuck doesn't push or pressure her. He's just there offering support from a distance. In the mornings they eat breakfast together, then she'll go for a run and he'll meet up with Morgan to work on their computer security business. Sarah's pretty sure they end up playing Call of Duty most of the time, but she doesn't question it. In the evenings they make dinner together then sit on the couch and read or watch TV. It's all very domestic, but not intimate. They barely touch or talk about that day on the beach. He bumps into her one day after they both round the corner too quickly. She's in his arms after he stopped her from falling and she's this close to kissing him again. Sarah longs to feel that passion from him, he must sense it because his eyes go dark and the corners of his mouth pull down. He walks past her into his room while she continues into the kitchen.
Every day breaks his heart. Seeing her everyday and not being with her is killing him. It's like those first days of Operation Bartowski when she'd come over for their cover and act like a real girlfriend. She told him once that she relished those days. It made her feel normal because she never thought they'd ever get to be together, but then she'd go home when the ruse was over and hate herself for indulging. He knew it broke her heart too.
She stands in his doorway, her face sad in a silent question. Why does he stick with it when things between them are always so hard?
"I made a vow, Sarah," he answers. "One I don't intend to break." She smiles softly and turns back toward the kitchen.
"Dinner is in fifteen," she calls as her form retreats from view.
/ / /
He made a vow and she did too.
In sickness and in health. Till death do us part. She may not remember making them, but knows she did. The day she watches their wedding video she makes another vow: to make herself remember. Up until that point she had taken a "let's see what happens" approach, but was done waiting. She was tired of the sad look in Chuck's eyes and the way she didn't quite feel whole.
When he wasn't around she studied photo albums and mission logs and listened to his iPod. He catches her once, in his room. The contents of his closet are strewn about the floor, boxes of mementos and photos scattered around her. He smiles, the first completely genuine one she's seen in a long time.
"I could help you, you know."
He moves a pile of boxes and sits next to her, their knees touching. He explains the significance of each movie ticket and napkin doodle. If the beach was an overview then these were the real details of their life together. She hung on every word, mesmerized by the sound of his voice and the way his hands would glide over the objects like they were the most precious things he owned.
They sat there until the sun went down. He looked at her then, moonlight dancing across his face, and kissed her.
"I want to move forward," she says when they pull away. "I don't want to waste anymore time. Whether I get my memories back or not, I want to be with you."
/ / /
It's the little things she remembers.
She knows how he likes his coffee and that he prefers Coke over Pepsi. She knows she has to pound the top of the washing machine for it to start and that Tuesday is ice cream night. These little things give them both hope and they don't dwell on the things she doesn't remember.
Chuck takes her on dates to the movies and out dancing. They go bowling with Morgan and Alex and watch YouTube videos of Jeffster performing in Germany. She's happy for the first time in a really long time and the light in his eyes returned.
She falls in love with him a little more each day. He falls in love with her all over again.
He didn't think it was possible for them to get here again, but they did. He guesses it's a testament to their love that they can make it work even when she doesn't remember. He starts taking her reclaimed memories in stride. They are achievements, but their future no longer hinges on their return. Chuck's happy with the progress of their relationship. She curls up next to him on the couch as he turns on the TV. It's the quite moments like this that he says a silent prayer thanking God or the Universe or whatever entity is responsible for keeping them together.
/ / /
It's not until she fully opens herself up to love, to loving him, that she remembers how much she truly does.
They're eating dinner after the weekly phone call from Ellie and Devon. The doctors have settled into their new life and are moving forward in spectacular fashion. Morgan and Alex left the day before for a two week adventure in the Caribbean. Even Casey and Gertrude were enjoying a lovers retreat in Madrid. Sarah knew he felt bad that everyone was happily moving on while they were, despite their progress, still figuring things out. She placed a comforting hand on his arm and he gave her a look filled with poorly concealed guilt and despair.
It took him one small moment, one simple look, to break down the last of the wall around her heart; the part that started to crumble after he kissed her on the beach. She wonders how long it took him the first time, but she doesn't have to wonder because she knows. She fell in love with him after he fixed her phone and before he started diffusing bombs with computer viruses. It took more than a month for him to fully break down the last one though. It took a promise to save him later, a dirty motel room kiss, a courtyard dance, and a hundred other moments before she let herself openly love him and let him love her in return.
"Is something wrong?" he asks.
She shakes her head because she can't seem to form words. She closes her eyes as thousands of images fill her mind. Vicki Vale. I think I could suffer through it. Someday when the intersect is out of your head and you have the life that you've always wanted you'll forget all about me. I appreciated the tank. You're my home.
Sarah grabs his face and crashes her lips against his. Chuck senses something in the kiss and breaks away to look at her.
"My middle name is Lisa," she says at last.
His eyes fill with tears to match the ones that are already falling from her own. He kisses her again and before she knows it they're headed to their bedroom; laughing and crying and making up for lost time.
/ / /
They renew their vows three months later.
It's a small ceremony by their spot at the beach. Ellie, Devon, Casey and both of their mothers make the trip to be there. Morgan officiates. Even General Beckman is there to celebrate. They are both reminded of how lucky they are to be surrounded by such amazing people.
Beckman surprises them with a rather large check. She calls it back pay, but they're pretty sure she pulled some major strings or dipped into her own funds for them. Chuck gives her a long hug until she threatens to take the money back. She's smiling as he pulls away. The group heads back to the apartment to celebrate. There's a lot of reminiscing. Every sentence seems to start with "remember when?" or "this one time in . . .." Sarah doesn't mind because she does remember when and tells stories of her own.
That night they add the General's check to their growing fund, but are still short of their dream house. Chuck squeezes her hand and promises they'll get there. A few weeks later another check arrives in the mail. It's from her father. The note attached explains how sorry he was to miss their wedding again and he hopes the gift will help them build their future together. Sarah runs across the courtyard to tell Chuck. He's at Morgan's and she knows she must look like a mad woman dancing around holding the check in the air.
The house is theirs shortly after that. He carries her over the threshold and they spend the first night sipping wine and dancing by candlelight.
/ / /
The baby comes six months after that.
They name her Dawn as a reminder that the sun will always rise. Even when it seemed like there was no hope they made it through and came out stronger for it. They settle into parenthood easily; the days of spying and adventure long forgotten.
Well, not forgotten exactly. There are still times where she sees panic in his eyes when she forgets to buy milk or if she doesn't pick up on the pop culture reference he thinks she should know. He's terrified that it could happen again, that her memories aren't as permanent as they should be, but she's not. Even if it were to happen again she knows they would get through it.
It's moments like this, watching Chuck make breakfast with their daughter on her hip, that she knows all roads would have eventually led here. Had she not lost her memories, had she not gotten them back, had she not made a hundred other choices, it all would have happened eventually.
Sarah's not normally one to give in to overly mushy notions on love, but she knows that there is nothing their love cannot withstand. Their lives have been inexplicably linked from the start.
He smiles as he sets their plates on the table and reaches over to place their daughter in her high chair. He kisses them both and Sarah beams at him.
This is what dreams should always be.