A/N Set after S5E13, Chuck vs. the Goodbye. 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. In which we find that Morgan is right about many things, including the need for a scorecard!
I would like to thank a number of people who have beta-read some or all of these stories: Anti-Kryptonite, BDaddyDL, Michael66, and bty2474, for seeing all the stuff that I tried to put in here.
Sarah W. woke, in utter stillness. Something was wrong. Something had to be wrong, she couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting something that was wrong.
Nothing came to mind, which bothered her. She moved the sheet aside, and discovered that her hand was sore. Well, that's a start. Who would have tucked her up? Not an enemy, certainly, but if it was a friend where were they? No one was in the room, no sounds penetrated the door.
She opened it, and her gaze was immediately drawn to the knife wound at eye level. It looked like one of hers, but she couldn't remember throwing it. The guest bedroom door was open, and she spotted Ellie's suitcase. Ah! Bedroom tuck-up mystery solved.
So where was Ellie? Why was she here?
She went to her computer, logged on in secure mode. Nothing recorded. That alone was suspicious, but then she went back to her bedroom and found the bug Chuck had no doubt removed from his shirt. He really had to stop doing that, how cold she protect him? Nothing showed up on her scanner, either, and she frowned. Interesting.
The only thing that could hide his signal from her was Castle.
Hours later her scanner beeped. They were finally on the move! More than once she'd been tempted to call in, but that was something a handler would do, not a wife. Instead she tried out her new chair (Nice!), complained to no one about the inadequate state of the mission logs, studied the phone logs and video records, fretted about their drawn-down surveillance capabilities, and waited. She didn't make dinner. Tonight was Chuck's night, and that was something a wife would remember.
"Hey!" she looked past him, confused. "Where's Ellie?" With a quick hug, she smoothly reattached her bug to the waistband of his pants.
"Castle," Chuck said. "Emergency conference call."
All day? "Oh. Will she be home for dinner?"
"I hope so. Chicken Pepperoni good for tonight?"
Better than starving. She smiled. "Sure."
An hour later, Sarah W. knew something was up. Not by what they said, but by what they didn't say. No way those two in a confined space wouldn't talk themselves to death, but nothing came from the bug. The only way to prevent that, short of taking it off, which she knew he hadn't, was by using a frequency scrambler. Any bad guy using one would have attacked by now. That left friendly action. Why would Ellie of all people have a frequency scrambler?
In a rented car.
Sarah W. was impressed. Chuck's tradecraft was beautiful to behold. She could practically run down the checklist, but every item on it had been given a typical 'Chuck' twist that made it almost impossible to tell it was fake. Well, not 'fake' fake, just…a real, normal event co-opted for other purposes. The dinner was perfectly smooth, brother, wife, and sister all having an amiable dinner conversation about anything. No subtle messages being passed, no timetable for different events. Clearly just a waiting game underneath. The phone call from Morgan was completely untimed, the excuse plausible (well, for Chuck and Morgan it was plausible), and the shill irresistible. After all, she'd apparently called Ellie herself, how could she not want to spend some 'girl time' alone with her?
Answer time, maybe, but not girl time. Chit-chat in the kitchen, glasses of wine in the den. Give Chuck time to get established. I'll show you tradecraft.
"I'm glad to see you looking so much better, Sarah. When you collapsed this morning I didn't know what to think. Do you think we could run some tests sometime?"
Sarah W. smiled. "You think I should have my head examined?"
"Well, neurologically, not psychiatrically, but yes," said Ellie, ever serious in matters of medicine. "Anything that would drive you into the sorts of behaviors you mentioned this morning should leave traces, and definitely should be addressed right away."
Behaviors? Sarah W. shifted a bit, considering her words. "No time like the present, and you're the only one with clearance, anyway. Do you have a professional opinion about my…behavior?"
"The distress and suicidal thinking can both be traced back to the memories you recovered, of course."
Sarah W. tensed at the word 'suicidal' but Ellie didn't notice. "What concerns me is that the distress should be so great that you passed out like that. If a neurological cause can't be found then yes, a visit to a company psychiatrist is probably in order."
Company? Sarah W. drank some more of her wine, nodding thoughtfully. "Would you like some more wine?"
Ellie smiled. "A little bit, maybe."
On the way to the kitchen for the bottle Sarah W. pressed a key combination into her laptop, initiating a lockdown sequence for the house. Bottle in hand she returned to the den and topped off her guest's glass. "Ellie, there is one other question I have to ask."
"Why are you here?"
Alex answered the door.
Sarah smiled brightly, not releasing Ellie's wrist. "Hi, Alex. We're looking for Chuck. Is he around?"
Alex shifted her balance slightly. "I'm not gonna let you hurt Morgan."
Sarah assessed the marginal threat Alex represented and dismissed it automatically. "Good. I'm not here to hurt Morgan, so we're good." She was there to find Chuck. If hurting Morgan became necessary to that goal they would be less good. "Where's Chuck?"
Alex stepped back. "Morgan. Spider Woman's here to talk to you."
By the time Sarah pushed Ellie around the corner into the living room, Alex was firmly planted in front of Morgan, and he had a tranq pistol ready to go. Sarah nodded towards the gun. "That's a mistake."
Morgan caved, putting the gun on the table, next to a half-full glass of lemonade.
Sarah marched Ellie over to their side of the room and exchanged her for the pistol. And the glass. "Thanks." She took a sip. "By the way, your real mistake was not shooting Ellie. You could probably have taken me out before I got a chance to let go of her."
"Chuck's not here."
"I know that," said Sarah, dragging up a chair to sit in. "The tracker in his shoe puts him in a little town called Barstow. What's in Barstow, Morgan?"
"What do you mean, what's in Barstow? There's a motel room there with your name written all over it! Well, yours and Chuck's, but it's your handwriting."
Ellie looked at Sarah, but Sarah didn't notice. "That wasn't in any of the mission logs."
"It wouldn't be, would it? You were completely off the reservation by that point, chasing after Chuck's father and trying to make him one in the process. Fortunately Casey was there to whitewash everything and make it look like some part of your diabolical master plan."
"My plan? I don't even remember it!"
Ellie tilted her head. "Why would you? You aren't really Sarah, are you?"
Morgan and Alex stopped looking at Sarah funny, and started looking at Ellie funny. "What are you talking about? Of course that's Sarah!"
Ellie sat down. "No, Morgan, it's not. It's not all of her. It's not even a very big piece."
"A big piece of what?" asked Alex, pulling Morgan down to sit next to her.
"Sarah," said Ellie, waving at their now-silent captor. "She's always described herself as broken shards of glass. This is one of those shards, and a very protective one too. Her only purpose is to defend Chuck. That's why she's here."
"Chuck's in danger? From what?"
Ellie knew what, but doctor-patient confidentiality prevented her telling Morgan. Sarah, the bigger piece of her, was going to get herself killed. That would hurt Chuck, so it couldn't be allowed to happen. "She's been trying to heal herself since Quinn did whatever he did to erase her memories. It hasn't been working. Maybe it even made things worse."
"Ellie, what's Chuck in danger from? All the bad guys are gone, nobody even knows he has the Intersect back again, John and Gertrude are away on missions half the time. The most dangerous thing in three counties is…Sarah…"
"That certainly sounds like 'worse' to me," commented Alex.
"Sarah's gonna hurt Chuck? Are you insane?"
Ellie sighed. "No, but she is. Unstable, at the very least. This fragment of Sarah came out to deal with the issue. She won't let anything hurt Chuck, including herself." Which could be bad, a rational version would be so much better to have right now. How to get one?
Alex frowned. "Like MPD?"
"I knew we were gonna need scorecards!"
Ellie smiled. "Not MPD. These are all Sarah, different parts of her. Morgan, you know the most about their missions, tell me about Barstow."
He shrugged. "Sure, not much to tell. This evil group was holding your father there, but the CIA—"
"Not the mission part, Morgan. The motel room."
He turned bright red. "She's not gonna kill me, is she?"
Ellie raised her eyebrows. "It's not going to hurt Chuck, is it?"
"They were there, alone, in a bed together, without cameras for the first time in two years of pretending to live together when all they wanted was to live together, and I took Chuck's only condom! What do you think?"
Sarah started to breathe heavily.
Ellie noticed. That memory really does color everything about her. "She made it sound like they did the deed anyway."
"Yeah, well, she's a female long-term undercover agent on a seduction assignment. The CIA has long-term birth control for situations like that." He sighed. "He was a changed man after that, I can only imagine how intense it must have been. Like Terminator or Highlander intense! I haven't been able to watch those movies ever since."
Ellie and Alex shared a smirk while Morgan hunched over, oblivious.
He sighed. "Barstow was such a disaster for them."
Sarah sat up straighter. Ellie asked, "Why do you say that?"
"Well think about it, dude. I mean, before Barstow he was just in love with her, you know, worship-her-from-afar in love with her. After Barstow he had to go to try to earn what she'd already gladly given him."
Ellie nodded. "He wanted to be worthy of her."
"Yeah, pretty stupid, huh?"
"No, just Chuck all over." And the new Intersect just made it worse. Introducing new elements, or just concentrating what was already there? She filed the thought for future research.
"He loved me," whispered Sarah. "He left me."
"He did not, you left him!"
"Morgan, don't antagonize the homicidal ninja robot."
"Don't worry, Alex, I'm not nearly the threat to Chuck that she is. Yeah, you, robot Spider Lady! Chuck the asset goes to Prague for training to be an agent, and you know all the crap that's involved being an agent, but did you stand by him? Did you support him? No, you bailed. He wanted to be worthy of you when all along it was you who wasn't worthy of him! Couldn't take the heat, could you, Sarah?"
Tears started to stream down Sarah's face.
"Morgan, she can't answer you," said Ellie.
"I'm not worthy," whispered Sarah.
"I stand corrected. Thank you, Morgan. Not the way I would have done it but I can't argue with the results. You back with us, Sarah?" Even if she was, which one was she?
Sarah sniffed. "I'm not worthy."
"Maybe not then, or now. But you became so. He brought out the best in you, as you did in him."
Sarah wiped her eyes. "I want to be that again."
"And you will, I promise you. You just have to have some faith."
"I tried. It didn't work."
A bit of patience wouldn't hurt either. Ellie smiled. "That's not the way it works, sweetie. Faith isn't a tool, or a technique."
"Have, or have not," said Morgan in a curious guttural growl. "There is no—"
"Sorry." Morgan rubbed his throat. "Can I have that lemonade, if you're not gonna drink it? Yoda always gives me a sore throat."
Sarah leaned forward to give him the glass when they all heard the door open, heard Chuck's voice call out, "Morgan, we're back."
Sarah's face froze, her whole body, and Ellie could see the pain in her every non-movement. They all sat up, taking her grim expression for something it was not. She was trying hard to keep from screaming, or crying, or both. "We're in here, sweetie."
It's not paranoia when there really is a conspiracy, and the chief conspirators were standing right in front of her. They wanted to help her, they all did, and she should have been grateful but the only shield she could raise in time was anger. The first weapon in the handler's arsenal. Save the carrots for later.
Not that Chuck reacted at all as the book said he should, what a surprise that was. He should have played the gratitude card, he couldn't have known it wouldn't work. But no. instead the gallant fool provoked her to even greater anger.
"Do you love me so little?"
She changed her punch to a slap just in time, not wanting any more broken fingers, but a slap with all the power of Barstow behind it is still a formidable thing. It felt so good, it was horrible that it felt so good, and now she couldn't stop herself shouting a month's worth of pain into his face. When he finally offered to restore the memories she lacked, all she could see was a field of coals where now she had scattered sparks. She would burn in that, his lust for the woman she had been would destroy the woman she was!
"What are you afraid of?"
Afraid? Easy for you to say! Except that…this was Gertrude. And John. John letting Gertrude take his hand and hold it in full view of God and all! She turned her head away, but Alex was there, holding Morgan's hand herself, strength of a different kind. Before her stood Chuck and Ellie, bottomless wells. Faith and patience, side by side.
"Sarah," said Ellie, "It's not you or her. She won't overwrite you. It'll be you and her."
Her heart broke, and she cried out with pain both inner and outer as her knees impacted the floor. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" She didn't even notice when Chuck took her in his arms. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
"Shhh, it'll be all right."
"I do love you, I do, but I don't know how. I'm so sorry I'm not the woman you married—"
"Hey, don't talk like that. Of course you are. I fell in love with Sarah Walker, I married Sarah Walker. In fact, I think I'm pretty lucky. I got to meet you twice, fall in love with you twice, and get you to fall in love with me twice. What other man can say the same?"
The next day was a torture for both Chuck and Sarah, as they waited for Ellie to prepare the code for the suppressor. Now that Chuck knew what his presence did, he kept his distance. Sarah occupied her time trying to fill out a scorecard for Morgan, but when she came up with at least five different personas she decided she didn't really want to know.
Nothing to do but wait.
Sarah didn't know what to expect from the suppressor. Both Chuck and Morgan had experienced it first hand, and they gave different accounts.
She'd seen this light before, blazing across her mind, searing her very soul. Flames danced on her skin even through the black leather of her favorite suit, pulsing through her veins. It felt strangely…sluggish.
At the table everyone sat completely still, their eyes focused on—
"Where do you think you're going?"
The young girl in the Wienerlicious costume stopped, and gawked at her, before looking down at her own ridiculous figure. If they wanted her to look foolish they'd succeeded. Everyone would dismiss her out of hand.
"He didn't." Sarah knew what was coming next, and let it pass when it came. And the next. She pushed the young woman down—
Her hand pulsed, her blood cooled, the pent up heat of its single, isolated moments lost in the flow of all the moments before and after. It felt so good, it was wonderful that it felt so good. When she kicked the kneeling girl she seemed…firmer, more solid, and the kick did little more than send her sprawling.
When she rose, she stood proud in orange and white, no longer playing the fool. She looked…better. Let's see if she fights better. She swung.
"He didn't care what I looked like." The woman in the orange tank-top blocked the strike—
Her hand pulsed, her blood cooled. So good, two sides of a zipper becoming one as it slowly closed, tic…tic…tic. The next strike was slower, the block faster, Sarah's blood cooler.
Oh my, she was positively radiant, and that red gown…!
"I didn't dress up for him!"
Of course not, she thought as grabbed the fabric and swung, what man would want to see her dressed like that? Can't they see she was just doing her job?
A black-clad figure launched itself out of the darkness. "Yes, he was my responsibility! He was my job!"—
Sarah's body pulsed, the blood cooled, more puzzle pieces finding their places, completeness on both sides. The black-clad figure sped up as Sarah slowed, her strikes more powerful as Sarah's grew weaker. Her opponent was taking her job, her life…
Heart and head pulsed, the blood cooled.
"Yes, he is my life! No!"
"Yes," she said in utter relief, no longer burning. The fire had found its proper channels at last, Sarah practically glowing in her white wedding gown. She couldn't fight in that.
I don't need to.
Weakness. She was panting with it, but she would not stop.
Strength. Truth. Me. Sarah Bartowski stripped her earlier self of its last defense.
Sarah Walker smiled. I yield.
I accept. Sarah Bartowsli pulled herself in tight for a final embrace…
Sarah slammed back into her chair, gasping and choking. Ellie was already at her side and Chuck wasn't far behind. "Sarah!"
Her name, his voice, without pain. "Chuck!" She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his neck, his hair, breathing in the scent of him for the first time in…months. Her life. He kept her alive, every day, his soul held the truth of who she was. Cacophony reigned but she tuned it all out until she heard an imperious she couldn't ignore.
Not anymore. Never again. "Agent Walker-Bartowski, General."
Ellie put away her implements, still smiling. Always smiling. "Physically fit, but you have make an appointment with your obstetrician. Don't forget."
Sarah saluted. "Oui, mon capitanette." Ellie rolled her eyes. "Uh, I'm sorry. About last night."
"That's all right, Sarah. I know it has to feel like it was you but it really wasn't. And I can't fault your motives." She met Chuck's questioning gaze. "She twigged to the fact that I was CIA after dinner. Locked down the house, disabled my phone, and interrogated me about why I was there. I tried to stall her, but the second she heard about your Intersect problem she went into Chuck-Protector mode and dragged me off to Morgan's."
Chuck hugged his wife. "My little troglodyte. I bet you looked so cute in your bearskin…"
Sarah smiled up at him. "Og save. Well, Og-ette save."
Ellie turned away. Some byplay is only cute to the people involved, and she wasn't involved. "Oh, yes, one last thing. Chuck, don't look. Sarah, do you know what this is? Chuck took a look at it earlier and said it made him flash on nothing."
"Quinn forced me to flash with these. I think this one was for a memory of his own, probably something trivial. He'd flash on it and then test his memory. If he couldn't remember—"
Ellie nodded. "Out it comes. Sounds reasonable, I'll check that out. Okay, Chuck, you can look now. I've got to go…talk to the General."
Chuck moved in close as Ellie left, stared at his wife's smile. "So, how are you feeling?"
"What, since Ellie asked me, five minutes ago?"
"You're still smiling."
"It still doesn't hurt."
He lost his smile for a second. "I think I know what you're going through, when I put the Governor on for the first time."
She stopped smiling too. "You have no idea how I feel. I almost killed you, Chuck. Many times over. And Ellie. And Morgan."
"But you didn't. I have to wonder about the Intersect, all the things it can't do. Does it make you wonder about souls?"
"Not at all." She was looking at herself in his right now, trying to be the woman he had written there. "I'm kind of interested in faith, though."
He held his fingers up, pinching air. "And maybe patience, just a little bit?"
"Eh, later for that." They both smiled.
He kissed her gently. "I'm so glad we didn't fail."
"What would you have done if we had?"
"To be honest I was sorta looking forward to showing you all my favorite movies, I just would have told you they were yours. 'The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe'. 'The Librarian'. But not the prequel trilogy. Some things are just beyond the pale."
She sniffed against his shoulder. "You're such a nerd." She gripped his hand. "My nerd."
He squeezed back "My spy." He smiled. She could feel it even though she couldn't see it. "Some things never change."
A/NI never expected the story to turn out this way, or get as dark as it did. I may go back over them and use the names more uniformly. Sarah W. should be used to refer to the fragments as they appear, not to Sarah Walker.
I'll slack off on the new stories, I think. There are many Chuck stories to tell, and I have many ideas, but I have novels to finish and stuff like that, and I've been away from them too long. I do hope you'll take the time to leave me a comment now that the story is complete. Thanks!