As of 04 Jul 2012, I don't own Chuck, et al.

And a happy Independence Day to those of you from the US of A.

AN: I wrote a chapter in this story about Chuck in hospital being hooked up to machines going Ping! And then I ended up in hospital hooked up to several machines that pinged. Quistie64 wrote a chapter about Chuck and a bushfire, and lo! It came to pass that chunks of Colorado go up in flames.

Nick, I cannot stress how strongly I recommend that you add a new chapter to Chuck vs The Jackpot….

-o0o-

Chuck Gets His Old Life Back

Chapter Three

-o0o-

She sat there numb, completely unable to move, not feeling anything and unable to even think. She'd known how he felt. She'd known for some time. In some way, she'd always known. She just never expected it to end like this.

But then he had to go and actually say the words.

A hand was shaking her shoulder, "Walker, what the hell are you still doing h…. Oh, Christ. What did he do?"

She sat there, tears now streaming down her face. She spoke, but no words came out.

Casey crouched down, his face level with hers, and asked again, more gently this time, "What did he do? What happened, Sarah?"

"He…. He loves me. He t….. he told me…." Her voice kept drifting off into the upper registers, but there was nothing she could do about that.

Bizarrely after a moment, a smile spread across his face. "Maybe," Casey said as gently as he could, "you should go over to him, instead of sitting on my couch."

The thought clearly terrified her, "But…"

He took her hands, and dragged her up, "Come on. I can't promise you it'll be okay, but I can promise you, that if you stay here, you'll regret it for a long, long time."

Somewhat it shock, she followed him meekly across the courtyard over to Chuck's. She was operating on autopilot and didn't know it. Casey let himself into the apartment. All the lights were off. Casey knocked at Chuck's bedroom door, "Chuck, I'm opening the door. She needs to see you."

At that, Sarah realized where she was, and tried to get away. Casey opened the bedroom door, thrust her inside the room, and closed the door. Holding it closed against the rattling of the knob, "Talk, the cameras are off, so talk!" Casey yelled at the door, "or something," he muttered to himself as he headed back to his own place once the rattling of the door slowed.

-o0o-

He'd told her.

He'd told her how he felt, and she just sat there, not moving. That was probably the worst part.

He'd told her and nothing happened.

This was worse than that dream, the one where you tell her and she and everyone else just laughs…. At least in that nightmare, she reacted. He'd just told the woman he was in love with how he felt, and all she did was sit there, staring at the blank TV.

After a bit, he got up and went home. He'd never remember how he ended curled up in bed.

He was aware of a noise, and Chuck rolled over from his wallow in the bed to look at who was intruding on his grief. She was at the door, shaking the knob, trying to get back out.

He said her name, "Sarah?" and she whipped around, pinned to the door in horror, almost like that scene in that Brit clay-mation film when the ex-NASA techno trousers hiss-stomped into view.

The image of her scared was the impetus he had no idea he needed, and without conscious thought, he was on his feet, and her name on his lips again, "Sarah?" She looked worse than he felt. "What happen….."

And then she was holding him so tightly, he almost couldn't breath. Her face was buried into his neck, her wracking sobs, shaking his whole body.

He did the only thing he could. He held her tight, and rocked her slowly as he would a small child.

After a while, she was able to say, "I'm sorry Chuck. I'm so sorry."

She wouldn't let him go. And she repeated her mantra.

That as much as anything told him what he needed to know.

"Sarah? It's not your fault. Not your fault. This is part of why spies don't fall in love, isn't it?" he held her out a bit, to look at her.

She nodded, her mouth opened as if she was about to speak, but instead silence reigned and she nodded again.

"Well…. I…. We…. At least we have these few days, right? We can be real with each other for the next few day…."

She held him tightly again, and her voice worked at her third attempt, "….not fair…."

He smiled to himself, "Life is pain princess. Anyone who tells you…."

She silenced him by pressing her slim, oh so kissable, index finger to his lips and saying, "You watch way too many movies, Chuck…."

He bypassed a kissable index finger and shot for gold by cupping her face and kissed her gently. "I was pretty sure you knew that already, agent Walker," he told here once her eyes opened again.

They sat on his bed, neither of them caring or even aware that it was dark out by now.

"Chuck? You offer… did you mean what you said earlier? That I could come… home?" she whispered that last word.

He nodded, not daring to breath.

She lay her head onto his shoulder, she was about to tell him that she'd never had a home, but he beat her to it.

"Home is where, when you turn up, they have to take you in. Pretty sure that applies to you….."

She turned to face him, and he realized she'd never looked so vulnerable. She was so close to him, there was something that looked like hope in her eyes…..

Ellie and Devon came home before anything irrevocable happened, although in a real sense, they'd burned that bridge about ten minutes ago.

-o0o-

As Sarah had noted before, Ellie was dangerously observant. Mind you, coming home to a dark house, and having your little brother and his girlfriend emerge sheepishly, both of them looking a just a scooch blurry around the edges, blinking into the light was a bit of a clue something was different.

As soon as Sarah left the room, and she was able to, she collared her brother and demanded, "Chuck! What's going on?"

"Um…"

"Did you propose to her? Wait, ring! Do you have a ring for her? Ohmygod, ohmygod thisissoexciting…." As the words got closer together, they also went higher in pitch.

"Ellie? Breath. No, I haven't proposed to Sarah. I'm not exactly sure how I can describe what happened. Both a good thing, and a bad one, I guess…."

"…..Chuck?"

"Ell, Sarah has to go back east for a bit. Something came up. We don't know how long for…"

"What happened? When?"

"Um…."

"It's my father," announced Sarah quietly as she returned to the room, and saw her Chuck squirm on Ellie's questioning, "he went into hospital today."

Ellie asked the natural question, "Hospital, what is it?"

His eyes lit up. As soon as Chuck opened his mouth, both women turned on him at the same time, saying, "Don't!" in a threatening sort of way.

He muttered, "Surely, you can't be serious," under his breath.

Sarah sat next to Chuck, her hand resting naturally on his thigh. "Short of breath was what he said. The next thing he's hooked up to all sorts of things and they're talking ang…. Angio….?"

"Angiogram," confirmed the medically trained Bartowski. "Sounds like they think it's his heart. Devon!" she called out to the cardiologist in the family. Luckily, they had one handy.

Devon came into view, his bare chest glistening from his work out on the bike. He and Ellie were able to help Sarah.

It wasn't until two days later that Ellie realized that Sarah had distracted her. But it was too late by then, and Sarah had gone. But something between her and her brother had definitely changed.

-o0o-

Chuck and Sarah spent all the time they could together. Casey and Barker had departed that first night, and a clean-up crew emptied Casey's apartment as unobtrusively as they could.

The time came for Sarah to leave. Chuck drove her to LAX in his Nerdherder. She almost missed her flight to Tahiti because of their farewell. Chuck stayed, and watched the Jumbo get pushed back from the skywalk. By the time she took off, he was guessing which plane was hers. There was a last glimpse of the artwork on the tail that was her plane.

And that was that.

Chuck stayed at the glass wall for some time. Planes took off, some of them to other exotic climes, and different planes, some of them from Cleveland, came in and landed, Chuck wasn't really paying attention.

After a while, he went home.

-o0o-

The next day he went to work. Work sucked way more than he remembered it ever sucking before.

He even missed Casey.

But it was worse for how much he missed her. It hurt. It hurt like some stupid teen fan fiction story, or a 'the dog just up and died, and my wife just ran off taking my best friend and last cigarette with her' type of country music song, missing Sarah hurt.

Day two was worse.

That was also the night Tahiti featured in the evening news. An explosion at a resort, four dead and dozens injured, some critical. It was hard to tell, but one of the injured looked like it was Cole Barker.

Sarah's phone number kept telling him it was disconnected. She was supposed to have contacted him once she was on site with a suitable burner cell.

There was nothing he could do, no one he could talk to or call. While the news was on, Ellie decided that an explosion in Tahiti, sad as it was, didn't rate over discussing with Chuck what was happening with Sarah.

He had to tell her the partial truth, that he'd had no contact, and he was worried.

Ellie told him Sarah was probably caught up with her father and not to worry, she'd call when she could. He didn't know what to do. He didn't even have a fake hospital to ring up. Or even a fake city Sarah had gone to. Neither of them had planned that far ahead. She was supposed to call him.

He stayed up, and watched the repeat news later that night, but there was nothing conclusive. He didn't even know what cover names Cole and Sarah had been traveling under.

So that meant he couldn't call the information hot line to find out if a friend or relative had been killed or injured. I'm sorry, Cole and Sarah Who? And your name is? What relationship did you say you had with Mister and Mrs. Whatever their names were?

Would the CIA or NSA help him? Doubtful.

How much was a flight to Tahiti? It didn't matter, Beckman's check hadn't cleared yet, so even if cost a dollar to get to Bora Bora, Chuck'd have trouble flying as far as the corner.

Chuck looked up the explosion on a news website, and found a link for the dead and injured. No names stood out as being likely.

But that was kinda the point with cover names. Carmichael was probably as exotic as the CIA ever got with fake names.

He weakened, and rang the CIA. Have you ever had the run-around ringing up a government department, or at least a bank or cell phone provider (essentially the same experience)? Try asking the CIA about an undercover agent currently on a mission, undercover in Tahiti. Especially when you, yourself, used to be so secret that the entire project based around you didn't even used your name or cover name.

About the only good thing that came from that, was that the unmarked black helicopters didn't land in the street outside. No tactical teams knocked gently on the front door, and no predator drones strafed the house. All of which they had plenty of time to do, since ringing the CIA and asking about an undercover agent currently on a mission, undercover in Tahiti took a surprising amount of time, even when you took into consideration the fact you were actually calling the CIA regarding an undercover agent currently on a mission, undercover in Tahiti.

Which meant that, either the name Bartowski was so sacrosanct, he couldn't get arrested, or they thought he was a complete and total waste of time. Chuck rather suspected the latter.

It was just after four in the morning when he went to bed.

If work sucked previously, then with about two hours sleep under his belt, and sick with worry about Sarah, work sucked to a level that would normally necessitate a belt driven crawdad pump.

So, when Chuck went home shortly after eleven in the morning, Emmett's threatening to have him fired for abandonment of his position lead Chuck to just stare fixedly at Emmett and say one word, "Please."

Then he went home.

-o0o-

When he got home, Chuck didn't know what to do. He was exhausted, and knew he needed sleep. But there was no way he could sleep, not while she might be hurt.

Having been a part of a covert, joint CIA/NSA black ops team for a year and a half had had its advantages. One of which was, both secretive government agencies had somewhat foolishly let him have access to their computer networks.

Never before in the course of human affairs, had a Nerd Herdling had so much computer power. All he needed now was a secret island base in the South Pacific. Being a good computer nerd, one of his first actions back then had been to ensure he had a back-door into the system(s). That was just Nerd Herding 101.

So he was able to access the video of the airport arrivals in Tahiti. He watched the love of his life, still in the same clothes he'd last seen her in, move through the airport, to be met by Barker.

The way she smiled at Barker left a hollow feeling in his guts.

He stopped that playback, and then hunted for the explosion.

It was obvious they knew they'd been made. The ATM camera from across the road showed Sarah and Barker enter the restaurant, both watching further down the street. Witnesses reported that a man fitting Barker's description tried to get the patrons to safety before the explosion. It was curious to note that the source of the explosion was near the entrance, rather than the kitchens. An odd place for a gas leak.

Winding the video further back, he picked a couple of likely suspects who went into the restaurant with a bag, but left soon after without one. It took over thirty minutes for Chuck to locate clearer images of their faces, taken from the lobby of the same resort hotel Sarah was staying in.

Then he realized he'd been going ass-backwards. What was the point of having access to the CIA and NSA's servers and only using them to look at America's Funniest Home Injuries videos. Surely there were secret reports he could look up.

Indeed, there were. And Chuck had found clearer images of the suspects than anyone else had. Chuck made sure hard copies of the counter agent's photos landed on the desks of all listed in the distribution field of the report into the operation.

But at that stage, the trail ran cold. It had been Barker on the gurney he'd seen being fed into the back of an ambulance.

There was no report of a female casualty fitting Sarah's description. And Barker had discharged himself against medical advise.

And with that, he disappeared. Of Sarah Walker, there was no sign. How does a beautiful blonde haired blue eyed, almost six foot tall woman disappear on an island?

-o0o-

It took a week. Chuck was able to instigate a joint Tahitian and Kiwi customs operation that was able to capture the two counter agents on a charge of possession of explosives. Once in New Zealand custody, Chuck was able to make sure that an outstanding US warrant was waiting so that extradition could begin. An NSA agent matching and using the identification of Deputy US Marshal Raylan Givens (imagine Michael Biehn from the Aliens or Abyss films in a cowboy hat) took the two counter agents back to the states.

During that week, Chuck gave up on the Buy More and pretty much all life beyond his bedroom as he used his computer to finesse world events.

He told Ellie he was spending his time trying to find Sarah. When Ellie suggested going to the police to file a missing persons report, Chuck explained to his sister about Sarah's father, his life style choice and habit of changing names like, and roughly the same frequency as, his shirts.

-o0o-

He didn't find her. He did find out what happened to her on Tuesday.

There was a man in courtyard. Dark suit, sunglasses, that stance that told you he was watching everything. The bulge in the jacket that said 'concealed weapon.'

Seriously, all he needed was a hearing aid and a sign that said CIA.

Then someone knocked at the door. A little reluctantly, Chuck opened the door. There was an older man that Chuck recognized from his CIA file.

Mavin, the new deputy director of the CIA. He'd been in place since Grahame's death, but the Intersect Team had only dealt with Beckman since the explosion.

Technically he was Sarah's boss. And Chuck had been sort of hacking around in his computer.

"Mister Bartowski." Mavin held out his hand for a handshake. The way he said Chuck's name, it wasn't a question.

"Director Mavin. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"May I come in? Thank you. While we have never met, I know a bit about you, mister Bartowski."

"Well, I guess the project landed on you desk, once in a….."

"You are in love with Sarah Walker, correct?" asked D.D. Mavin, cutting Chuck off.

Chuck stood there in the living room, "I….. I….. Yes." Chuck admitted, "I fell in love with Sarah some time back."

"It shows. It showed back when the project was still live."

There didn't seem to be much to say to that, so Chuck just kept quiet.

"Mister Bartowski, let me come to the point. In an effort to find Agent Walker, you accessed our computer system. The NSA's too, but I don't give a shit about them. You were able to locate and facilitate the arrest and subsequent interrogation of two counter agents, enemies of the republic."

Chuck stood there. This wasn't quite what he expected. If they were going to arrest him, bunkerize him, then why the 'evil overlord monologue?'

"That was good work. How would you like to do stuff like that for a job?"

"Huh?"

"I'm offering you a job, Chuck. One you're good at. Very good, as it turns out. Might not be what a Stanford grad could earn, but it's got to pay better than the Buy More."

"Uh…."

"Think about it. You would get some semblance of your life back. In the mean time, I think you should talk this over with someone else, first."

Deputy Director Mavin walked out the door, saying, "Enjoy the rest of your life, Chuck. Whatever you decide."

And then she was at the door.

She asked his name, almost hesitantly.

Chuck Bartowski proved that Sarah Walker was 'home.' He took her in.

Questions could wait until later. Simply holding each other was far more important right now.

-o0o-