Disclaimer: Dialogue and plot points taken from Chuck vs. the Wookie, written by Allison Adler. No copyright infringement is intended.
The green door—as green as an Irish clover—taunts me with its ordinary appearance. The gold knocker placed in the center of the wooden surface begs me to lift it and let it tap out a request for entrance. Yet I make no move. The pizza's heat bleeds through the cardboard box to warm my hands, and still I cannot lift them to knock on her door.
Inside, she's probably waiting to yell at me, and justly so. I did hand over a diamond to a woman who didn't have our best interests in mind and was perfectly willing to leave Sarah behind to pay with her life for our theft. And, to top it off, I had made some pretty inappropriate comments, some harsh accusations, some jealous asides.
But despite all that, what weighs the most on my mind, what makes my knees weak and my stomach empty and my hands still, is the hopeful trepidation that skitters through me like arcing lightning bolts.
I so want this night to go well. I want, desperately, some proof that the spy bodyguard assigned me by the CIA thinks about me as more than a bungling asset who just happened to get a computer stuck in his head. Maybe that is all I am, essentially…but I want her to think more of me.
I want…I want something real.
So here I stand, wanting to go in, afraid of what will happen when I do. Desperate to connect with her on a deeper level than just the professional one she's thus far insisted on. Terrified that I'll once more lose all sense of proportion when I look into Sarah's eyes and that I will again start hoping for impossible dreams and improbable futures.
In the end, I am only able to lift my hand and tap the knocker by reminding myself of the assurance Carina—who presumably knows Sarah much better than I do, certainly knew about Bryce way before I did—gave me. The assurance that Sarah does, deep down, feel something for me.
The door opens almost immediately, and Sarah leans quietly against it. Instead of the stern expression I've halfway been expecting, she is smiling softly at me, and I find myself once again taken aback by how beautiful she is.
"Hey," I manage to say softly, setting down the bag of napkins and drinks on a side table in order to open the box of pizza. "Vegetarian, no olives." I'm surprised by how intently she looks down at the pizza, as if scrutinizing it for any trace of a hidden olive. As if suspecting betrayal even in something as simple as a meal.
And why shouldn't she?
Hasn't she herself poisoned others at a meal?
But this isn't a meal like that. This is a meal with me, and I wish I could somehow convince her that I'm not trying to get to know her just so I can poison her.
"It's the only thing I know about you that's true—you don't like olives."
She leans her head against the door, and a small, private smile curves her lips, and she looks, suddenly, very young, very vulnerable, very tentative. It's a Sarah I haven't seen before, but already I like it.
"Thank you," she says so softly it's almost inaudible. "Come in."
It's not exactly the effusive gratitude Morgan would have offered, or the homey solicitousness Ellie would have demonstrated, but the quiet, shy demeanor draws me in just as surely.
"Thank you," I murmur, knowing well how much that invitation means coming from her. I follow her in and then stand there uncertainly with the pizza in hand as she closes the door behind us.
If there's one thing I've learned about Sarah in the past month, it's that she is perfectly content with silence. I, on the other hand, am not so comfortable with the absence of all words, the quiet that makes me think of all the worst things anyone else could possibly be thinking about me. So I rush to fill the silence even before it can begin. Rush to speak before Sarah remembers that she is angry with me and loses her smile.
"Look, I'm…I'm sorry about the beach. You're absolutely right—I shouldn't let my feelings affect the mission." It's a true statement, but I'm also pretty sure it's impossible. I don't know how to be a spy—don't really care to know how to be one—and it would be pretty miraculous if I suddenly stopped caring so much in the next few days. But it's what Sarah wants to hear, so it's what I say. And I am sorry…just not necessarily about the diamond.
Sarah walks to the bed where her computer and some random papers lie, and sits on the edge. I follow her, unwilling to put even literal distance between us lest it translate into emotional separation as well. I scarcely spare a glance to where I set the pizza behind me, locking my eyes on Sarah as I sit on the coffee table before her and look up at her, willing her to realize just how sincere I am.
"And, um…if you and Bryce…" Despite how painful it is, despite the memories of Jill and planted tests and the pain that consumed me to hear Sarah was his too, I force myself to finish. "If you had a…thing…well, that makes sense. He always got the great girls."
Amazingly, she smiles at the compliment, though I'm sure she must have received much more eloquent praise from a hundred other more successful men. Received that and more from Bryce. Yet she smiles at my clumsy compliment as if it means something to her, and she looks down with what almost looks like the hint of a blush on her cheeks. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking. Whether it's real or not, I press on, actually encouraged rather than intimidated by her silence. After all, she hasn't stopped me with some lecture or warning yet—that's got to be a good sign.
"I just wish I knew something real about you," I tell her honestly. Looking up at her, I feel as if I'm begging her for this tiny sign. And maybe I am. "Can't you just tell me—just one true thing? Just…just one—like, like where'd you grow up?" Wincing at the audacity of that question, I hastily add, "Or—or if that's too much—and I-I get it, I get it if that's too much—w-what's…what's your name? What's your real name?"
But of course, she says nothing. Disappointment is starting to worm its way inside me, its sting undiminished though I knew this would be the most likely outcome of my request.
Because as much as I wish things are different, much as I conveniently forgot the other words of warning Carina had conveyed, I know that Sarah doesn't really belong here. She's a spy, forbidden to let any personal details slip lest they later be used against her. She's an agent, tasked to keep herself strong and unaffected.
I ask her real name, but I know she won't give it, know that I ask the impossible. She's Sarah Walker here—Sarah Walker to me—but the Intersect had flashed images of a different her through my mind, the her that she had been while in France.
Alana Trefaux had gone to dinner with several French diplomats and been the only person to walk away from the table alive. But Alana Trefaux had disappeared from off the face of the planet so Sarah Walker could appear.
And I'm terrified—sickly, wake-up-in-the-night-with-chills terrified—that one day Sarah Walker will disappear just as quickly and as permanently as Alana Trefaux did. That one day I will go to work at the Buy More and find out that the woman I want so desperately to know has vanished forever so that another beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with an unspecified name can take her place in some other more exotic locale. That I will lose Sarah Walker and any glimmer of a chance I might have with her.
It's a fear I can't shake, a nightmare I can't wake from, the reason I try so hard to hold onto something of her. Because she deserves better than having to constantly reinvent herself without even the slightest anchor to keep her grounded to who she really is inside. And I'm just foolish enough—or deluded enough—to think that I can, possibly, be that anchor for her. For Sarah Walker. Or for Alana Trefaux. Or for whoever she chooses to be just so long as she's real.
So I ask even though I know she won't answer me. I beg even though I know she can't give it to me. Because I want her to know I'm here. I want her to know that I'm real so that she can be too.
"Middle name?" I ask when the silence goes on too long, when she shifts as if she's uncomfortable. "What's your middle name? Can't you just tell me your middle name?"
But she's regarding me with a steady gaze, and her eyes—grayer than I've ever seen them before—hold something that looks a lot like fear. Fear of giving in. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of me. And more than anything, I don't ever want her to be afraid of me, don't want her to lump me in with all the others she deems a threat, don't want to be responsible for hurting her.
So I look away to hide my own hurt and hope and fear, and I let it go. "I'm gonna…go and go get the napkins."
And I stand and walk away, putting the distance between us because I know she needs me to. Because if anyone knows what it is to be afraid of being hurt, it's me.
Abandoned by my parents, ridiculed in school for a variety of reasons, betrayed in college by my best friend and my girlfriend—those things taught me to protect myself, to hide behind what Morgan calls my camouflage, my tendency to tell jokes and put myself down and laugh nervously, all part of my means of protecting myself from being hurt by others. And Sarah…well, she has so much more reason to hide herself away than I do, so much more to protect herself from.
And no matter that I want her to be real with me, I can't strip her of her means of protection, can't make her set aside her own form of camouflage, can't put her in danger. So I let her keep her distance and her façade, and I walk away and pretend it doesn't hurt, pretend it doesn't matter, pretend it's all okay even though it isn't, even though I don't even know how to breathe properly anymore, I'm so scared all the time.
I reach the table where I'd set the napkins…and I hear it. Or I think I do. A tiny voice, a soft tone, a vulnerable truth.
"It's Lisa. My middle name is Lisa."
My hands, on their own, automatically finish their movement to the bag, and I open it on auto-pilot. Inwardly, I am stunned, the disappointment that had been lodged within me scattered like sand in the wind.
It's real. Her confession is real, I know it instinctively, intrinsically, irrevocably.
She told me—not to my face—but in response to my plea.
The concession is so enormous, so startling, that I can do nothing other than continue to move as I try to process her answer.
The name itself, though now indescribably precious to me, doesn't matter. What matters is that she does know I'm different, knows that I won't try to poison her, won't hurt her. She's still hiding, still pretending, still not ready to give up everything, but then, I'm the same. Both of us afraid, both of us unsure, both of us reaching out nonetheless.
I had thought I alone felt it, had been ready to give up, but this…this changes everything.
I've been given what I wanted, established a connection between us, and oddly, I feel within me the same fear I saw in her eyes. I had wished so longingly that she would give me this truth, yet conversely, I now feel myself daunted by the responsibility of it. And suddenly, strangely sure that I might just need more protection now than I ever have before in my life.
Strange how dangerous a pair of gray eyes and a soft voice and a tiny, momentous truth can be. Strange…but undeniable.
And I wonder if I will ever get to tell her that, ever get to reveal that I heard her quiet confession, ever get to let her know just how much I want to be there for her always.
For the first time, I think that maybe I will. Because for the first time, she's trusting me just as I trust her.
And that…that is a truth as amazing as Sarah Walker.
A/N: I'd love to hear what you think about this story-but please remember, I love this show and critical comments about the episodes themselves just depress me and keep me from writing. Thanks!