Set during S5E12, Chuck vs. Sarah. Sarah's memories of her years with Chuck may be gone (or at least temporarily misplaced), but her memories of the time before that aren't what they used to be either. This chapter is based on S2E4, Chuck vs. the Cougars.
My thanks to Anti-Kryptonite and BDaddyDL on Twitter for their comments and advice. They made this a much stronger story.
Sarah Walker pulled into the parking lot, stopped in one of those slant-wise spaces that so annoyed her. Not that she cared much about parking spaces, but when you're chasing a target and the cars are all parked slant-wise and you have to either dodge around the damned things or walk over them—they had an operational impact and that annoyed her. She liked her missions clean. In, kill, out again. No fuss.
Climbing over cars at top speed got you noticed. She was already noticed too much as it was, a useful distraction most of the time. As long as it didn't get you remembered, and dead men don't remember much. They ignored the knife in the hand in favor of the pretty face and that was operationally useful so it didn't annoy her.
She sat in her car, staring at the green-and-gold face of the dinky little retail store in a dinky little mall in a dinky little town. A waste of space. A good cover. Access to electronics, random, easily-explained absences. A good spy could do a lot with a cover like that, or a bad one, and this Bartowski guy was one of the worst, according to her new handler. Not that this guy Quinn had actually said 'worst.' No, he'd said something far worse than 'worst.'
"Graham's dead, Sarah."
This guy Bartowski was good at being bad. He'd betrayed Bryce, stolen government secrets, compromised her, and through her had killed the closest thing she had to a father since her real father went to prison. Through her. And she couldn't even remember how the bastard had done it! Her loss of memory annoyed her. She could remember Graham well enough!
"Nice toss." That was the first thing the Director had ever said to her, after she'd come close to skewering him. His reflexes were terrible; no field agent would have been so slow. No living field agent, that is. The dead ones were that slow at least once. On the other hand, he may have been slow but she'd been too fast, missed her target, and disarmed herself, all in one motion. She hadn't even been ready to run. She felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment.
No, not embarrassment. She'd never cared before and she didn't care now. The car was heating up in the California sun, that was all. Not operationally significant but why sweat. She rolled down the window, stared at her face in the mirror, cuts and bruises purpling nicely. Men would feel protective of an injured woman, even Bartowski, for a moment, and she only needed one.
She still carried that knife. She pulled it from her bag and unfolded it, inspected the tip, contemplated how it would feel as it went into one of this Bartowski guy's eyes. His big, brown, puppy-dog eyes. Con-man eyes, tools of a trade she'd long forsaken. She'd even leave it behind, a personal memento in every way. He'd known her, according to Quinn's briefing. That meant his team would know her, know her knife, know what she'd done and that Sarah Walker was coming for them next.
The thought didn't fill her with pride, the way it used to.
A puff of air blew into the car, redolent with the scent of…fried sausage? She stuck her head out the window and looked behind her car, squinting. Crap, she'd parked downwind from some disgusting fast food place. Sarah nearly threw up, sat back in the car, and closed her window. Heat wasn't operationally significant but a vomiting agent drew unwanted attention. The heat was simply incentive to do the job quickly and get away.
She looked down at her knife, eyes dazzled. The handle looked like blood, blood all over her knife. Blood all over her name, the name her father had kept safe, kept pure. So many others she'd used instead, Jenny Burton, Katie O'Connell. None of them were innocent but none of them were her. Graham had known them all, even the first one.
Graham had taken her knife, she'd gotten her money. Not a fair trade. Can't kill people with money, not people who knew as much about you as he did. Whatever her father had done, he'd done it to the wrong people, and even the CIA had sat up and taken notice of them both. Saved his life by putting a travelling con artist into a cell. A small cell. Some life.
He'd offered her a different choice, saved her life a different way. Offered her a last chance to start over, using the name Sarah Walker. Even knowing what it meant. If he hadn't already folded the knife she'd have stuck it in his arm just for that. He had no right! Only her father had the right, but her father was in the back of a police car driving away. Even with his hands empty Graham had held all the cards, so she accepted the use of the name she was never supposed to use, and changed everything else. She should have felt grateful. She used to. She liked the life, and the work gave her purpose beyond cheating and scheming.
She felt sick. The car was hot.
Graham was not her father, had not acted like him, protected her and her name like her father should have, and had. The knife was warm as blood, but not yet covered with it, not like the name of Sarah Walker, and her father had given her both. 'In case of Emergency. Love Daddy.' Love. Then Graham had offered her a chance to use her name at last, no more hiding. She'd made 'Sarah Walker'–her name, hidden in plain sight–synonymous with 'Fear' outside the CIA and 'Respect' within it. But not love.
Suddenly she found herself wanting a different name, yet another 'last chance', but there was no one to give her that. Suddenly she flashed on her target's face, those wide eyes, that goofy grin, like a big…baby. She hated second-guessing herself, hated the way Quinn—that is, Chuck, was twisting even these thoughts around. She stared at the big store in front of her, annoyed that she didn't want to go in. Couldn't bring herself to go out. The knife went away, refolded, into her bag. She'd have to find another place; Quinn had given her until tonight.
She couldn't do this here.