~ Lost ~
A/N: Since the story is now finished, the author's notes have been reduced and adjusted accordingly. Acknowledgments, thank yous, comments, and disclaimers will go here and at the end of the story, rather than cluttering each chapter with lots of repetitive stuff.
My thanks to atcDave for his encouragement throughout. He kept me on track and pre-reviewed each chapter. And to the readers who reviewed: you encouraged me greatly and also helped me persevere. I can't thank you enough for your kind words and generous reviews. I know that all authors must appreciate reviews, but as a first time author, they were/are especially meaningful to me.
Sarah vs Finding Herself picks up during the finale at the end of the mission at the Pacific Concert Hall. The first two chapters accompany the finale, adding extra scenes, Sarah's thoughts, Chuck's telling of their story, and what happens after the kiss. The last chapter takes place two years later.
My timeline doesn't align with air dates, but it is canon compatible and internally cohesive. (Santa Suit and Baby are anchored to Christmas 2011. After that, the timeline can be a little squishy, since there are no definitive dates on screen.) This story places the beginning of Chuck vs Sarah at Feb 20th.
For clarity, Sarah's dreams and memories will be ...
sandwiched between squiggles italicized.
Oh, and I don't own Chuck or Sarah or NBC. If I did Chuck would be airing its back nine and be renewed long into my geriatric years. :)
I loved writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Pacific Concert Hall
Sunday Evening, March 11, 2012
They did it. Apparently she helped. The Chinese general is safe. General Beckman is in one piece, instead of several million. The crowd goes wild over Jeffster, blissfully unaware that they have Chuck Bartowski to thank for the luxury of walking out of the concert hall and going back to their lives. I wish I could go back to mine. The mission was a success. She should feel happier. As glad as she is that Quinn is dead, and everyone else is not, her heart just doesn't feel the celebration. Along with the the adrenaline let down, Sarah feels … lost.
Monday Morning, March 12
After debriefing them, General Beckman leaves them with her thanks and an open invitation to save the world anytime they want. Wow, we must have been good. For the umpteenth time she wishes she could remember her life.
Colonel Casey hugs (?!) Chuck goodbye. Sarah looks down, feeling awkward about intruding on the personal moment. She doesn't have to be a spy to see how hard this is for Chuck. His heart is in his eyes, as she's observed it so often is. A part of her doesn't want to leave him. The rest of her desperately needs to sort things out, so with her heart in her eyes, she tells him, "I need some time to think, to be alone. ... I'm sorry." She turns and starts up the steps.
"You know Morgan has this idea," his voice calls her back. "It's nutty really, that if we ..." Talk to me, Chuck. Give me a reason to stay. "You have to go. I understand." His eyes brimming with tears, he lets her go.
She turns and forces her feet up the stairs, not trusting herself to look back.
Sarah gets in her car. At least she assumes it's her car. The keys Chuck handed her the morning of the DARPA mission unlocked this car. It's registered in her name. Ergo, it's her car. While she drives, she reviews the last three weeks of her life, a nightmare worthy of the Twilight Zone.
Three weeks ago, she woke up completely incognizant of the last 5 years of her life. As far as she knew, she was the same Agent Walker she had been five years ago - Director Graham's wild card enforcer. She was briefed by a handler she didn't remember about a mark she didn't recognize and went to her assignment, unaware that Sarah Bartowski ever existed ... or that her target was, in fact, her own husband.
24 hrs later, through her own video logs, she had learned of the unlikely love that had captured her heart, the happy person she had become, and the cruel loss of all of it. She believed that her happy life was irretrievably lost, stolen along with her memories, and that she had been irreversibly reset to Agent Walker ... Spy.
Now, after the events of the last 5 days, she is sure of exactly one thing: Agent Walker no longer exists. She is not the woman she thought she was when she woke up three weeks ago, and she doesn't know the woman who took her place ... the woman she became, because of Chuck Bartowski.
Chuck. She lets out a long breath. Though she still doesn't remember him, he's no longer the total stranger he was when he offered her a massage—she smiles—or when he pleaded with her to remember him, refused to lift a finger against her, and then dove in front of Quinn's bullet ... the bullet aimed at her. The memory still tugs at her heart.
She learned a lot about him in a short period of time. He's charming, sweet, caring ... and he loves her. He's different from other spies—or other men, for that matter—and she's different when she's with him. It's like he connects with her on some ... other level. He elicits responses from a part of her she didn't know existed. How does he do that? On top of all of that, he's a gentle hero with a courageous heart, willing to take the weight of the world on his shoulders and do the right thing.
Like her video self, she has never known anyone quite like this man. She's beginning to understand why she fell for him, why she loved Chuck Bartowski. Somewhere inside her, a voice whispers that she still does. That's not possible. ... Is it?
Sarah pulls her car to the curb at her hotel, gets out, and tosses the keys to the valet. He lets out a low whistle. She tenses, ready to flatten him, until she notices that he's not even looking at her. His eyes sweep the Lotus from front to back to front again. He smiles at her. "Sweet ride, Mrs. B."
What? "Um, Thanks."
"Never thought you'd give up the Porsche, though. What happened to it?"
Good question. I wish I knew. With an innocent smile, she shrugs, adjusts her sun glasses, and walks to the door. I don't have to explain my choice of vehicle to the valet. ... Do I?
The doorman smiles as he opens the door for her, "Well, look who's back. It's always nice to see you and"—he glances past her, his smile fading, when he sees she is alone—"ah ... how are you today?"
She smiles back. "Fine, thank you." Not really.
She turns to make a b-line for the elevator, hoping to avoid the cheeriness of all the people who remember her and her car and other minutia, like where they spent the last five years, doing what, and with whom. She stops in her tracks and cringes, remembering that she owes money on her room ... and the broken window.
Maybe the person at the desk won't know me.
She steps to the counter and rings the bell. From the inner office emerges a pleasant looking older man with a rumpled shirt and crooked glasses. Seeing her, his face brightens with a warm smile. No such luck. "Mrs Bartowski." He removes his glasses, and Sarah notices the way his crows feet frame his kind eyes. He studies her face. "You look better today—lovely as always, of course—but more like your old self."
As annoying as it is that the concierge knows her old self better than she does, she can't suppress a small smile at his genuine interest in her well being. "Thank you"—she sneeks a peek at his name tag—"Mr. Ford."
"Aah, don't be so formal. It's just Hank, remember?"
Actually I don't. "Okay, Hank." she smiles. "I'd like to settle my accounts."
He crinkles his brow. "But, you don't owe anything."
"Yes. I owe you for my room, and the ah, you know, the broken window."
"Nope. That's all taken care of. Just a day or so after the"—he leans closer and lowers his voice—"window incident, a man came by with a check from Carmichael Industries to cover all the damages. Then he gave me his personal credit card and told me to put your room on his tab for as long as you needed it. I told him I thought you were leaving, but he said you'd be back, and that I was to keep your room ready for you." Hank furrows his brow, staring down at the counter.
"Oh. Okay." Sarah smiles. Must have been Chuck.
"John. That was his name." Sarah's eyes widen in shock, but she manages to keep her mouth closed. "I asked him where Chuck was, but he just grunted. Then I said sorry, that I just hoped you two were okay. He glared at me and sort of ... growled, 'they will be.' I was afraid to ask him anything else."
Wow, Casey really had become a friend. "Don't let it bother you, Hank. John's just ..." John. Weird. "well, he can be kind of ... protective sometimes." I guess.
"I noticed," Hank deadpans.
Sarah takes a step back. "Well, I ..."
Hank isn't finished. "Sooo, how's Chuck?" His eyes sparkle with mirth.
"Oh, he's fine." Liar.
"Good. That's good. Well, as always, everybody around here wishes you the best."
Sarah pulls out her key. "Thank you, Hank," she says, meaning it.
Hank just can't stop himself. "You know you two were the longest running pool we ever had around here." Sarah raises an eyebrow. "Yup, the winner took his family to Disneyland ... We never could figure how two people so much in love with each other could take so long to do something about it." Hank beams. Sarah swallows, her gaze sliding to the window, then the clock behind Hank, finally fixing on the bell on the counter. Hank notices her unease and lets her go. "Well, you've got things to do. Have yourself a nice day, Mrs. Bartowski."
She walks into room 832, her eyes roaming everywhere, hoping for a spark of recognition, anything familiar. I lived here for three years? It's so ... green.
The thing is, though, she hasn't lived here for the last two years. Three weeks ago, this room was just the stage for an elaborate deception—the machinations of a megalomaniacal, memory-stealing monster. She shudders. Who would do such a thing? Who could be so evil? She's overcome with the urge to punch something or throw something ... or shoot Quinn. Again. She had a good life, and he stole it from her. She paces, but there's not enough room. Because of Quinn, she could have killed an innocent man, a genuinely good man. And not just any good man, but her own husband.
She still can't wrap her brain around that one.
She sits on the edge of the bed, her hands clenching the bedspread and her body thrumming with frustration. A good workout. That's what she needs. Instinctively she looks to the empty space where her heavy bag should be ...
She pommels the heavy bag with the same fury she feels now. Punch. Punch. Punch. Kick. ... ughn ... punch-punch-punch-punch-punch.
Knock, knock, knock. She looks toward the door ... Chuck?
Chuck hands her a red box and ambles into the room. "Brought you a present."
She takes the box. "Well, it's not my birthday."
"Ohh, one down, 364 and a quarter possibilities to go."
She closes her eyes and smiles at the—her eyes pop open—memory! That was a memory. Of what she has no idea, but some of her anger drains away.
The persistent knocking drags her from her reverie. The door. Right. She answers it, oddly disappointed when it turns out to be a bellhop and not Chuck. Of course, it's not Chuck. You told him you needed space. "Hank, asked me to bring this receipt to a Mrs. Sarah Bartowski, in room 832."
According to my driver's license, that's me. "Thank you." She takes the receipt and smiles, shutting the door.
Staying here in this green cage is not helping. After throwing on a pair of jeans, a sweater, and boots, she heads out the door.
I have to go find myself.
Sarah misses her Porsche, how she could put the top down and let the wind blow away the fog of work and daily tedium ... and think. But not in this claustrophobic Lotus. I want my Porsche back ... I want my life back. What did happen to my Porsche? She heads west, not thinking about anything in particular, except for the ocasional random thought. Emphasis on random—really, really random. Like when her stomach growls, and all of a sudden she's thinking about chicken pepperoni. Have I ever even eaten chicken pepperoni? Or when she passes a mansion situated on a huge property, and a vision of a tiger napping on a king size bed floats through her mind. Finally when she reaches the coastal highway, the image of a big, blue marlin invades her thoughts. That's it. I've lost my memories *and* my marbles. She drives faster. By now her stomoch growls with an insistence she can't ignore. Time for lunch. She pulls into a diner to grab some lunch to go. The burgers look great, so she orders a cheese burger, fries, and—she glances at the drink selection—Hi-C fruit punch. What! Where did that come from? What am I nine? She places her order, "Yes, I'd like a double cheeseburger, medium rare with extra pickles, fries, and three bottles of water, please."
An Unknown Beach
She didn't map out a destination. She just drove here, wherever here is, and parked. Her cheeseburger consumed and one bottle of water drained, she gets out of the car and saunters to the shore. Sarah closes her eyes and lifts her face to the sky. She fills her lungs with cool sea air and lets out a cleansing breath.
She looks out at the ocean, absorbed in the moment, the sun and the breeze lifting her mood and clearing her head. Tension and frustration ebb away with the tide. She walks along the shore with no plan and no urge to run. She is simply Sarah—stripped to her core—alone with the sand and the sea and her thoughts.
She watches a piece of drift wood as it rises and falls, carried by the caprice of the currents. She feels adrift. She can't go back, and she doesn't know how to go forward.
Unbidden, Graham's words come back to her on every wave. The question is who are you? Now as then, she has no answer.
She can't go back to being the spy she was before Chuck. She's not that person any more.
A man became the dividing line of her life. He changed her. He changed her entire existence. The life she had before Chuck ... is no more. All this time she thought her life with Chuck was erased along with her memories, but the truth is that it's her life before Chuck that no longer exists.
Cruel twist. The life she remembers doesn't exist, and the life she now knows is real she doesn't remember.
The only life to go back to is her life with Chuck. But how can she go back to a life she doesn't remember?
That only leaves forward. Right. How can she go forward, if she doesn't know who she is?
That's her life story. New town, new con, new name, new mission, new cover. There was always someone to define her world and tell her who to be: first her dad, then Director Graham. Not any more. Chuck could tell her, but it's pretty clear by now that he won't just tell her who to be.
Chuck. He knows me better than I know myself. Okay, right now, even Hotel Hank knows me better than I know myself, but that's beside the point. … Sigh.
No matter which direction she looks, there's Chuck. He is her past and probably her only hope to find herself and move forward. But is it fair to him, a wife who doesn't remember him or them ... their wedding, their dreams, or even who she is or was? If she's totally honest, she'll admit that the inner voice is right. On some level, she still loves him. Is that enough? She wants her life back, the one that was taken from her. She just doesn't know if it's possible. Or how …
Finding herself back where she started, she sits down to enjoy the afternoon sun and loses track of time. Her thoughts ebb and flow with the tide, until they dissolve into the rhythm and sounds of the sea.
Chuck sits down beside her. "I was hoping you'd be here."
He found her. How does he do that? It's … oddly comforting. "This place is important, isn't it?"
"Yeah, yeah, very much. This is actually where you told me I was going to be OK, that I could trust you. And that's exactly what I'm doing now. I'm asking you to trust me."
Does she trust him? Yes. But she's so unsure of everything else. Will she ever be the woman he remembers? How can she not disappoint him? What if she never remembers? What if she fails?
"Sarah, I don't want anything from you. I just need you to know that wherever you go I will always be there to help you."
She nods. Wait ... he doesn't want anything from me?
"Someone you can call, whenever."
She looks at him through her tears. He loves me.
"Trust me, Sarah."
He'll help me.
"I'm here for you always."
Desire wars with doubt, and she lets out a heavy sigh. She looks out at the ocean again and finds an answer that wasn't there before. ... She is not alone.
Memory or no, this man is her husband ... her life.
And she wants to be part of her own life again. "Chuck, tell me our story."
He smiles, his heart in his eyes. She returns a small smile of her own, and in that timid smile, she gives him her trust.
For the first time in three weeks, she feels like she is going to be okay.